What Charlie Knew

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Hello there let me introduce myself. My name is Charlie, and I am a spider. I am not your ordinary spider that resides in a rotting log or a drafty barn. My residence is not a run-down shack with creaking floors or squeaking rodents running amuck. I was born and raised in Uptown Chicago and I have travelled the world with my people.

I have been to the countryside of LA (Lower Alabama) and enjoyed walking the sandy beaches in Hawaii. You may describe me as a world traveller for sure.

Mercy is my middle name, which is exhibited in the number of times that my prey has been allowed to escape. Why would I show such kindness to those that have the misfortune of happening upon my web? It is not because that my heart is filled with joy and happiness to do a good deed; that is one thing that I can assure you of.

The fact of the matter is this; I cannot stand the thought of eating a bug. Insects are not on this kids list of favorite foods. I have been told that it is not normal for a spider to be repulsed at the thought of eating bugs, or drinking their blood and whatever else we are supposed to do with our prey. Really, who would eat those things, would you? When I say as a teenager that my parents do not understand me; they really do not.

My father forced me to leave the house at the age of eight years old because he said, “you will not live under my roof if you do not eat what is caught in your web.” The thought of devouring any type of insect made me sick to my stomach and so the world became my home. My taste buds were too sophisticated for things with legs and wings. There was something that I found more palatable and that was the smooth, rich, creaminess of macaroni and cheese; not the store bought stuff, but the real pasta with sharp cheddar cheese and grilled onion, seasoned ever so lightly with some garlic and a bit of oregano.

That is what brings me to the corner above the oven in the world renowned kitchen of Martarono Cupani. His famous restaurant Mac A Roni is known from the streets of Chicago to the beaches of Cancun. This is my story for the entire world to read.

It seems like days have passed since I crawled into the kitchen area from the bustling Chicago streets. It was a dangerous journey to get here, but my tenacious spirit kept driving me along, as did my ever increasing appetite. I am starting to get hungry, voraciously hungry as a matter of fact. The hunger pangs are tearing me apart and I am so hungry that I could almost (I can’t believe that I am thinking this) eat an insect; not just one, but a whole swarm of them buggers.

Charlie’s body was shaking like a diabetic that had overdosed on donuts. “Hmmm, there was a donut in the trash can, perhaps he could”…No, the last time he did that; well Charlie didn’t want to think about that time in his life. Too many painful memories surrounded those days, and so he refocused on the matter at hand, feeding his stomach. The old family craving for “bug juice” coursed its’ way through Charlie’s now quaking, convulsing body.

Bob had told Charlie about this place and the wonderful dishes that were made here. He described lip smacking meatloaves, which had the aroma of cooked onion and garlic. “The mounds of pasta and rich, tomato and basil sauces with garlic bread were more than Charlie could dream of, but that did not compare to the vision that floated in his head about the macaroni and cheese.

The pasta was hand made by loving, caring hands. The rich, creamy cheddar cheese sauce; seasoned with grilled onion and garlic would ooze down his parched throat. To complete the vision were two fantastic items: (1) Crushed Italian seasoned bread crumbs and (2) Pieces of real fried bacon (not tiny bacon bits, the real thing) arranged along the top of the dish in a grid-like pattern.

This is what Charlie dreamed of night after sleepless, night. This is what Charlie saw in his mind’s eye every day as he worked his way around the city. He was like a mad scientist searching for a way to take over the world, but the only thing that he could find to eat was a stale donut and of course bugs.

They were everywhere. Big ones and small ones walked all over the ground and got trapped in his web. Charlie had even placed an enormous “BEWARE OF SPIDER” sign where anything that was foolish enough to get close to the web would see the warning and be able to retreat with their life intact.

Charlie had almost given into his desire for bug juice this very morning when that tiny, helpless fly got caught in his web. However, the combination of his dream of macaroni and cheese and the pleading look in the many eyes of the fly drove that primal instinct away.

Charlie waited patiently for some action to begin in the kitchen. It was 09:00 according to the clock on the wall and still there were no workers to be seen. As the hands of the clock approached 11:00 Charlie began to get worried. He moved very silently around the rooms of the restaurant. From the corner of his left eye something moved and Charlie jerked his head in the direction that he detected the movement. At first he was nothing, but then a miniature gray nose attached to a small gray face appeared on the shelf next to where Charlie was dangling from a thin strand of web.

“What are you looking for,” Charlie asked the mouse. “I heard that they have fantastic meat loaf here and I wanted to try some. You see Mr. Spider… “My name is Charlie,” the spider interrupted. “You see Charlie,” the mouse continued. “I am very hungry and I find it hard to eat what other mice eat. Why they will eat any old rotting thing and I cannot bring myself to something like that, but you probably wouldn’t understand that because there are probably thousands of bugs that get trapped in your web every day.

“Mr. Mouse…” ”You may call me Daniel,” the mouse injected in a squeaky voice. “Well then, Daniel, I too have a similar problem. From the time that I was a small spider until now the thought of eating an insect really turned my stomach. “You don’t like bugs,” Daniel said while looking at his new friend with inquiring eyes. “That statement is so very true. Insects or bugs as some call them are gross, nasty and why someone would eat them or drink their blood is utterly preposterous. My parents ate them and so did their parents before them. Even my brothers and sisters and other family ate them, but not old Charlie; I am different.

For hours the two new friends chatted about food, their many travel experiences and dreams for the future. Then something happened that changed the world around them completely. You see that while the friends were getting to be closer companions something else was happening.

Charlie felt his web vibrate in a manner that it had not done in such a long time. His inner alarm went off and reminded him of something from his past when he lived at 1060 W. Addison Street, Chicago, Il.

The vibration was the bell that mother rang to call Charlie and all of the other Spider children to dinner. There was something big caught in the web; this thing that could feed an entire Spider family, something that was not an insect. It was the one food that Charlie had loved as a child, but had forgotten about, until now.

Daniel knew that he was trapped. All that he had learned about spiders was coming back to him now. He mustn’t show fear in his little red eyes. Oh, why hadn’t he listened to the warnings of his mother?

“Daniel my son, do not make friends with a spider. It will cost you your life. In simpler words; YOU’LL BE DEAD.”

“Charlie, where are you,” Daniel asked nervously. There was no reply from Charlie. The thought of having enough food to last him for weeks was enough to stir the adrenaline in his tiny spider body back to life. He was busy winding the tough, sinewy spider silk around the back side of his friend.

Daniel tried to struggle and it seemed that the more he struggled and tried to escape, the tighter his trappings became. “I thought we were friends,” Daniel sighed as his last bit of energy drifted away. Charlie felt the fight go out of his prey and now he had two choices: (1) Wrap his meal up and save it for later or (2) Gorge himself on the delicacy before his eyes. He stopped to think for a moment and when he did something echoed back into his ears.

 “I thought we were friends.”

Charlie looked around the room to see where the words were coming from. There was no one there. There were no cooks creating wondrous dishes for anyone. There were no customers at the tables talking about important events of the day. The room was void of life and Charlie was very hungry. If Charlie couldn’t bring himself to eat a bug, then how in the wide world of sports could he eat a friend?

Daniel wasn’t moving, as a matter of fact he was barely breathing and in a moment he would be dead. Then the rules of etiquette wouldn’t apply to this situation. If the eyes were closed then the situation would be decided. “Don’t look into the eyes.” Those were words of instruction from his mother. “Just get on with business.” Those were more words of instruction. Charlie ignored those words because he was a fourteen. There was one other bit of wisdom that she had given him before he left, but that was long forgotten and besides that his prey was a small mouse and he was in control of the situation.

Charlie crawled down the head of the mouse and from where he was it looked like the eyes were closed, but he wasn’t sure. While he was trying to decide what to do next a thought entered his mind. There was something that he had forgotten to do, but what that something was escaped him. No matter, it was time for action.

The sigh that issued forth from Daniel told Charlie that the deed was done. Time had won out and he could now get on with the business at hand.

Charlie perched himself upon the nose of his prey as an act of victory over an enemy.

Suddenly he felt as light as a feather and opened his eyes in time to watch his prey become the aggressor. Somehow Daniel had regained his strength from the stunning bite that…now he remembered what he had forgotten.

As Charlie slid down the throat of the mouse he remembered that other thing mother had told him; never trust a mouse.

© Kurt Frazier Sr.

 

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