short stories

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Short story – Harry the Hipster Spider

Published July 22, 2014 by Annie Oliver

Harry the Hipster Spider.

Harry was bored.

All of the other spiders in the library were spinning their conventional webs and trapping flies. Harry didn’t want to join in. They were so tedious. Harry was spinning a web, yes, but not because the other spiders were. It was only because he had to get to the floor from a high bookshelf. He liked to hang out among the obscure books where no one bothered him.  He didn’t pay any particular attention to the pattern he weaved; rather, he just nonchalantly let the web slide out in a crooked atypical pattern.  And flies…flies had feelings too, you know. Harry preferred to let the humans deal with the flies. They swatted – he prospered.  Harry liked to yawn near a swatting human or an electric fly zapper – that way the flies would accidentally drop into his mouth like he hadn’t planned it.

As Harry landed on the floor, a spider called Mick scuttled over in the darting, panicked way that most spiders like to move. “The other spiders are talking, Harry,” Mick had said. “You haven’t graced a bathtub in months. I saw a human walk past you the other day and you didn’t even do that crouchy-thing like spiderman…and when was the last time you scuttled?”

Harry shrugged one of his eight shoulders. “Look at you,” he said, “with your webs and your scuttling and your crouchy-moves. I’m sick of being hyper-vigilant to danger all the time. If a human is gong to squash us, believe me they’ll squash us. The crouchy thing makes no difference. In fact, i would say that crouching and staying perfectly still puts us at a disadvantage.” He blinked seven of his eight spider eyes, which in human terms is the equivalent of a snort. “I refuse to conform to societies view of what a spider is or isn’t.”

“What you need,” said Mick, “is to join in with the other spiders. No one likes a smart-arse. We’re spiders. We spin pretty webs. We trap flies. We do what our spider-wives tell us. You haven’t even got a wife. You’re nearly three days old and you haven’t even left your mothers web yet.”

“I don’t believe in conforming to traditional spiderships,” said Harry, “and I don’t live in my Mum’s web, we web-share.”

Mick’s wife, Sharon scuttled across at that point. “Ooooh, look at that web,” she said, pointing to the straggling strands that trailed behind Harry . “look how it shines in the sun. Mick why can’t you make me a web like that? It would look lovely in that spot in the window by the encyclopaedias. The human just dusted my last one away.”

“It’s a mess, Shaz,” said Mick. “Look at it, it’s all bobbly and uneven. Why would you want a web like that?”

“It’s all the rage though, Mick. All the spiders are doing it. Look.”

Harry and Mick looked over to the journals and newspapers section. A group of spiders were weaving webs which were as odd-looking as Harry’s. Although, weaving wasn’t really the word you would use; instead they seemed to be doing a nonchalant shuffle across the shelves, of which web just happened to be a by-product of. Great strands of bobbly, misshapen silk languished over the daily papers.

Harry couldn’t help himself. For the first time in almost seven hours (which is several years in spider time) he scuttled. He scuttled over to the weaving spiders, quite forgetting to be detached and blasé. “Hey,” said one of the spiders, “what’s the rush?”

“Who is this dude?” said another spider, widening only two of its spider eyes, which in spider body language is an expression of severe disdain.

Harry quickly remembered himself, slouched three of his legs over the Daily Star and tried to look as disinterested as possible. “What’s all this,” he said, (without any need for a question mark, so indifferent was the tone.)

“This, dude, is webbing and it’s something you can’t explain or teach. If you have to ask…” he said.

“But…” said Harry, desperate to tell them he’d been weaving like this for days. Webbing? They’d given it a name?

“…You definitely don’t know,” butted in the other spider.

A young girl spider walked across, taking care to use only four of her eight legs. “Have you hurt your legs?” said Harry.

“Who is this dude?” she said, ignoring him.

“Yeah mate,” said the first spider, “don’t be negative just because Sally chooses not to conform to traditional spider ways of walking. We saw how you scuttled over here. Go back with your friends and your nice symmetrical webbery. Fancy joining us Sal?” he said to the girl spider.

“I only web on vinyl…if I feel like it that is. I mean, half the time I don’t even mean to web I just kind of think about nothing and it happens,” said Sally, doing her lop sided shuffle over to the antique record display.

“She is soooo cool,” said both the spiders together.

“But you don’t understand,” said Harry. “I’ve been doing this ‘webbing’ thing for ages, this was my thing! I mean I didn’t call it anything but it was definitely mine.” Harry felt his third and fourth pupils dilate in panic, which is about the most embarrassing thing that could ever happen to a hipster spider.

“Arachnoid,” said the second spider, “hold yourself back, you look desperate.”

“But…but…I did it before it was popular.”Harry felt his world slipping away from him. He tried again, swallowing his pride, “Look. I’ve been er…webbing over by the electric fly zapper. We could go yawn. It’s over by the obscure books section.”

The two spiders began to laugh. “Yawning?” said the first spider. “That is the very definition of trying too hard. No-one eats house flies anymore. We only eat organic green fly that just happens to fall off the rose bush by the window. The second spider glared at him with his second and third eyes and he quickly added. “Er…If we are passing and they fall while we are making a particularly big vowel sound, that is.”

“I’ll just go then,” said Harry.

“You do that,” said the first spider.

“Grandad,” said the second, sniggering.

Harry scuttled – because he didn’t care anymore – back to his shelf and sat and moped. His once-original skeins of frayed silken web just looked dirty and tainted now. The worst of it all was that they had given it a name. He glanced over the shelf with one of his eyes and saw Shaz berating Mick for not making their web look vintage enough. What would he do now? His whole life purpose was to operate outside of the spiderstream. Where would he go? If he wasn’t original, then who was he at all?

Harry was having his first existential crisis.

But then it came to him. Like a searing flash of inspiration.

As the sun rose that morning, all the little hipster spiders sat webbing and accidentally catching greenfly by the window. Harry scuttled down the shelf. He scuttled like he’d never scuttled before. He threw webs from his front legs in great curves and arcs, spinning the most symmetrical perfect webs you’ve ever seen. A human walked through the door and Harry was the picture of hypervigilance. He crouched, he stayed perfectly still. He made an exaggerated face of pure danger-sensing, even though the human was at the other end of the room. He was the very essence of Spider.

“Who is that dude?” said the spider who had called Harry ‘Grandad’, “and what is his problem?”

“Yeah,” said Sally. “You’re so conformist and misled”

“Oh,” said Harry, “still ‘webbing’ I see”

“Yes,” said Sally, looking nervous. “Er…what’s wrong with that.”

Harry laughed. “Webbing is ok, but I was doing that last day. It didn’t even have a name yet when I started doing it. It was okay back then but now it’s so spiderstream that the webs don’t even look like the original webbing-webs-before-it-was-called-webbing.”

“What do you know?” said the first spider. “Look at you, with your crouching and your weaving and your scuttling. Get back to the spiderstream!”

Harry laughed. “Ah my friend, I’m not crouching and weaving and scuttling because I feel I have to because it represents what society expects of me as a spider. I’m doing it in an ironic sense to illuminate that I can choose to do it because I have transcended those societal roles. In a sense, I’m making a mockery of the spiderness of it all. Not because I have to or want to, but because I can.”

“That’s cool,” said Sally.

“That’s retro,” said Harry.

The gathered spiders made a cooing sound and gathered around in a huddle.

Harry scuttled back to his shelf and waited. Waited for the next day when ironic crouching and weaving and scuttling were the next big thing so that he could start ironically shuffling and webbing and accidentally catching…well, he would decide that tomorrow.

Such is the angst of a hipster spider.

 

 

 

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