Authors: Susan Wingate
The Riders,” How does she know their name? “Probably feel a little lonely since the mother passed away.” What the? Where was she getting her intell?
She stopped. Then turning to me, again, she puts one hand to her heart and says, “Remember how we felt when daddy died?”
Of course. God. I had to nod my head because my eyes began to burn all of the sudden.
Well, I’m sure that’s how they feel now.” She turned back as she loaded her favorite red and white Macy’s bag with the pie, two plastic forks, two plastic knives and two paper towels that she’d detached into singles and folded into quarters. “There.” Like it was Michelangelo’s
I rolled my eyes and humphawed again. I’ m really super-good at humphawing.
Now!?” I screamed.
Well, of course, now. The pie is hot and if you,” this is where all of the emotion she could muster came rolling off her tongue, “do, not, lose that attitude, young lady, I
think about a punishment worth the crime.” She lifted the ropy straps of the Macy’s bag and grabbed my arm moving me away from our fake Corian counter, twisting my body toward the door and pushing me. “Go. Come on.”
Quit pushing me.”
You know.” She made a noise that sounded a lot like losing air. “When was the last time you read something from your Bible?” We were out the door by then and she walked nearly on my heels with that stupid bag poking me in the middle of my back like I was going to be the first lamb to the slaughter and all the while it’s her demented idea to act as the neighborhood welcoming committee. God.
Gah. Mother.” Rolling my eyes again!
Quit whining, or else.”
What does that mean, exactly. Or else. Or else, what? Or else the world will finally implode from all of the pent up toxic gasses brewing at its core and I will never, not ever have to meet freak-boy next door? Or else. Or else, Jesus Christ himself will appear which would stop us, forever—I mean forever ‘cause that’s the effect Jesus has on folks—having to visit any new neighbors at all or especially to go over to freak-boy’s house across the street. Or else... I mean. Really. We could play this game for an eternity, this ‘or else’ thing. God.
QUATRO - Don't Give Neighbors Sugar!
His father answered the door. And, if I had, at that moment, a paintbrush, and if I could’ve painted anything across his face? It would be a big yellow question mark.
He looked like he’d been asleep or something ‘cause his blue button-up short sleeve shirt looked like a map of some land far, far away in the kingdom of Wrinkle, and he was wearing, somehow, someway, a pair of
relaxed jeans. The pocket hung just on the top of his thigh and one hand was so deep in it I thought he might be looking for a lost gummy bear or something.
Plus, one of his white tube socks had a hole at the end of it and his third, or maybe, fourth toe was sticking through inspecting the situation at the door. The toenail on the thing looked like a mouse had bitten a chunk out of it. It was yellowish, like gouda cheese.
He wore a pair of black Ray Ban-looking clear glasses that sat cockeyed and about one-third down on his nose. He stood there for a second before pushing the glasses tighter to his face with his thumb then he dove both hands now deeper into his pockets and stood evenly, balancing his oh-so-tired body somehow on both legs, as he looked at us.
He looked dumbfounded.
I rolled my eyes and looked away from him, away from mom for anything, for something to save me. A great big pumpkin perhaps with four white mice that turned into four white horses. For my prince. Where’s Justin when I need him.
But mom spoke. “Mr. Rider.” Mom shoved her free hand out from behind me for him to shake. “Hello. I’m Willa. Willa Speider from across the street. In 9. There.” She let out a single nervous laugh, turned and pointed with her nose behind her. It was like she was all giggly and I wanted to sit on the ground right then and fall onto my back, lie down on my side and then run my legs around in a circles, throw this humongo fit and suck my thumb.
But, I couldn’t. Mom was too fast. “This is Susie.”
Hello Susie.” He didn’t even offer his hand. Plus, his breath smelled yeasty like he’d fallen into the vat of beer and was still swimming around looking for a ladder to climb out of.
I know beer. Dad used to drink it when he and his guy friends went deer hunting. Don’t ask. It’s a real horror story. We still have a mounted deer head, a beautiful buck, now some morbid art form, hanging above the dining room table that mom refuses to exorcise from our house. I refuse to eat in that room. (Mom doesn’t even know but when I talk to it, you know, sort of, like, apologizing for dad and all, I call it “Moose.” Moose listens real well. And, sometimes, to me, he even seems to nod his poor guiottined deer head or move it real slow, side to side. One thing about Moose is mom could learn from his listening abilities.)
My hand flew up to my nose to protect me from his breath. Mom stepped in.
She nearly bumped me off the porch with her achy swaying hips as she held out the Macy’s bag for him to take. “I, we," Uh, yeah, I'm still here mom, "made you a welcome package.” Her recovery was swift and complete.
How sweet of you.” He grabbed the bag, looked in, looked up, smiled and then there was like this forever moment but then a thought formed in his mushy trap of a brain, it sounded like a slow wheel grinding up to start, and he turned and screamed, “Matt!”
He looked back to us and smiled again. “Matt. My son. He’s upstairs.” He turned again.
I rolled my eyes.
Matt! Now! We have guests.” He screamed again.
It’s not a problem, Mr. Rider.” Mom pulled me back by my tee-shirt right at the shoulder, “We came unannounced and certainly wouldn’t want to inconvenience you. Come on, Susie.”
No. Hold on.” He turned and walked a couple steps inside his house out of sight from us. “Matt! Down here. On the double!” I noticed how the floor in the entryway had black smudges on it, probably from moving in last week.
All of the sudden, you could hear lame-o speaking. “What, dad, I’m streaming...” but Mr. Rider cut him off.
Now. I won’t say it again, Matt.”
Jeez.” You could hear dorkowitz at the top of the stairs slogging down each thick carpeted step.
Then before I could turn and run, he showed up and all his long-limbed, bizarre-o glory.
Matt?” Mr. Rider said, “This is Mrs. Speider and Susie” I prayed he wouldn’t say it, “Speider.” God.
Matt kind of giggled but his dad nudged him with an elbow to the ribs. He pushed, with his thumb, at his dad-look-alike-glasses. No lie. “Nice to meet you.”
Nice to meet you, Matt.” Mom’s voice sounded like syrup over mushy mealy pancakes. “Susie? Isn’t it nice to meet the Riders.”
I turned face-front to her and looked deep into her eyes, squinting, like aliens were lifting her so far out of my sight I could barely make out it was mom anymore. Then, she pressed her eyes back at me and darted them like a spy toward the door where the Riders stood, like I’m supposed to respond or something.
Nice doesn’t describe it,” was my comeback, which exhibited the least amount of sincerity I could portray.
Mom. I have homework.” I did this thing with my body that I do when I m so totally disgusted by a situation. It’s like my whole body goes limp but I’m still standing on my feet, and then I let out a gigant-mo, “Gaahhhh!”
Mom’s discomfort level soared into her rosy cheeks. “Kids.” She looked at me and glared. “Go.” She ticked her head toward home, faced Mr. Rider again and began to apologize for my behavior and I started to leave but. God. It was like my body developed some sort of conscience, or something. Plus. Mom was trying so hard.
I turned around.
That got Mr. Rider’s attention and he looked at me over mom’s shoulder and when he did, mom looked too.
I actually said, “Really great to have you in our neighborhood Mr. Rider.” Then I looked at batboy and said, “Matt.”
He didn’t even speak. Instead, he scratched a blemish that shone like a beacon next to his nose and just retreated from the door then vanished.
Mom was smiling at me so I didn’t care.
Hold on, Susie.” She turned back to Mr. Rider. “Well, Mr. Rider,”
. Hope you and Matt enjoy the pie.”
It’s very kind of you.”
Mom backed up one step and smiled then wiped at her hair and looked over to me again, then her heel caught at the edge of the crack in the sidewalk and she kind of stumbled, then she giggled, again, “Oh! I’m such a clod!” She actually said clod, she waved and then she walked up next to me. “Come on.” It was like we couldn’t get out of there fast enough, you know.
As we crossed the street, she placed her arm over my shoulder. “You’re a very nice girl.” She pulled me in closer to her as we walked. “I love you.”
Now, don’t get all overcooked on it, mom.”
She giggled again but this time the way she used to when dad made a joke, slower and deeper, not her voice, I mean with love, deeper. “Oh, Miss Susan,”
Ms.” She corrected herself. “Sometimes you amaze me.”
I almost told her about using am or azin’ right then but decided not to.
She put the flat of her hand onto my back and gave me a slight push toward our house. “Go. Do your homework.”
And, I took off running the rest of the way home, all of about twenty feet. When I reached the door I looked back. Her blonde hair lifted under a late warm autumn wind that floated in and around our neighborhood. It swirled past her then rushed up the porch where I stood. It rustled my hair too and somehow connected us.
My hair looked nothing like mom’s. I’d gotten dad’s genes. NO! Not his Calvin Klein’s! LOL. His dark-haired genes.
I just stood there looking at her. She was beautiful, mom was. “I love you too mom.” I couldn’t help but say it.
FIVE - Weeeeeeeeeee!
You probably want to know how it felt. How the metamorphosis felt, going from a kid one second to becoming a bite-sized-spider the next.
This is the thing, see, becoming a super-human-spider-girl was so drastically different from anything else (as one might imagine). I'd never experienced the feeling and one I can only explain as a catching of breath. You know, like when you enter a dark room and turn on the light and the first thing you see is a spider? It's that Eek! Holy moly! startled feeling. And, that drawing in of your breath that describes the sensation of going from five feet to an inch tall. It's that sudden.
And, no! It doesn't hurt. Crimanittly.
Although, my teeth rattled as if they were dancing the Richter-scale-tango. Even my braces flew out of my mouth!
like getting pulled through a funnel. Big at the top, small at the bottom. It reminds me of the tune...
Susie Where Are You Going
Oh, yeah. It also felt stretchy, like the first stage is the funnel and the second you become a rubber band. Boing-O!