Short Story: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

The mama spider, Esmeralda, watched the writer as she switched off the light. Her many beady eyes saw only the writer’s giant feet pressing into the carpet and slapping onto the tile as the writer left the room.

“Hey!” Esmeralda called her babies.

Thirty baby spiders scurried from the dark corners of the room. Esmeralda looked at them proudly. All of them resembled their deceased father. Sure, she ate him, but he understood that when they married. The moonlight from the window created shadows on the walls.

“Is it time?” The youngest, Amy, asked.

Esmeralda nodded. “Let’s get those papers filed. We have eight hours.”

Papers on the desk looked like towers, leaning left and right, like how her mama described the Tower of Pisa long ago. Her mother became trapped in someone’s suitcase in Italy and made it to America a couple of years ago. She always talked nostalgically of Italy, but she didn’t live long enough to hitchhike back to her home country. Instead she met Esmeralda’s father, and in the fine tradition of Black Widows, ate dad after Esmeralda’s twenty sisters were born.

Esmeralda crawled towards a basket on the floor. Ten of her children helped to push it out from beneath the futon.

“Do you think if we file her paperwork and organize her office that the writer won’t punish us anymore?” Sissy whispered.

Esmeralda gave a long sigh. “She’s so squeamish of spiders. I doubt it.”

“Then, why are we doing all this work?” Sissy crawled up the side of the basket and jumped onto a receipt marked, keep.

Esmeralda sighed. “Because the writer and her husband work very hard in keeping us fed. They open their doors and let in flies and insects. Then, they drop crumbs on the floor and forget about them so we can eat.”

Carlos created a web in the corner of the ceiling, tied a good knot with his spindly black legs, and dropped a line down to Suni who weaved a web to cover the papers. They lowered the first tower of papers to the floor where Esmeralda and some of her children began to separate the papers into their respective folders. Eight hours seemed to pass quicker than field dressing a fly. The faint traces of dawn brightened the wall to Esmeralda’s right. Somewhere in the house, an alarm went off. She tossed the last receipt into a file and hurried her children beneath the futon again.

Esmeralda watched from the darkness of the couch as the big feet shuffled into the office. She heard a gasp from the writer and smiled. It was nice doing a good deed and the human not knowing who did it. Esmeralda quietly sang her children to sleep as they nestled in the far corner, protected by an empty basket from the cat who liked to sleep down there, too.

A week later, more towers appeared on the desk and the empty baskets began to fill again. More reciepts, more paper, and more headache. The writer and her husband were arguing about how to keep the office neat. Esmeralda gathered her 29 children together in the corner.

“I miss Carlos.” Sissy cried.

“He was always so good at the nets to lift those towers.” Amy sniffed.

Esmeralda dabbed at all of her eyes with a bit of fabric from the futon. “I know. He got married and his new wife is expecting. But now we’ve got to get busy tonight.”

Esmeralda sat in the dark and thought again of Italy. What would it be like to have a new home in the warm, moist darkness of those underground catacombs? Or perhaps spin a small web near the base of the Tower of Pisa? She would die soon and her children will follow in the fine footsteps of their heritage. As the daylight ebbed from the wall and the shadows grew darker in the office, Esmeralda hurried her children out from under the futon. They stopped.

All the towers were gone and in its place was a note. Apparently, the writer had a webcam operating in her office and saw them clean up everything.  The note said, “Here’s some food and the window is open. Go and see the world.”

Esmeralda and her children wept in joy. They ate and leaped from the window, their webs like silver in the moonlight until a strange pain twisted at their gut. Esmeralda gasped as she and her children writhed in agony on the rocks.

Esmeralda leaned back against the rocks and saw the writer’s face in the window. A smile crept over the writer’s face. That’s when Esmeralda saw the hate for her kind in that expression. The writer mouthed the words, “I hate spiders. Especially spiders whose females eat the dad of the house.”

As life began to fade from Esmeralda, she saw the Tower of Pisa in her imagination, and as sight faded from her eyes, she thought, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

*short, short story written as I get ready to clean and organize the office. If you like this story, please consider buying a short story from Smashwords. All profits on Smashwords go towards our first short term missions trip to Honduras in 2014.

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