There was a cold front heading towards the property but it wasn’t supposed to hit until nightfall. I had finished up my work with the mindset of getting home in time to ready the property for the coming weather. As i drove through the gate and hopped out the car to close it behind me the sky wore an ominous look of change. There was blue, gray, and white all spread across the same canvas and the clouds were windswept and layered. Seemingly stationary clouds sat above another low-hanging layer that raced beneath them. They seemed to be racing me to nightfall. The changing weather instilled a sense of urgency in me and i hurried about digging blankets for the fruit trees out of the shed and closing the little potted porch plants into the well house, flicking the switch to the heat bulb jutting from the wall before locking the door and swinging it shut. I went to the house to grab the water pitcher. I liked to water the plants before cold weather so that if i couldn’t uncover them for days they wouldn’t die of thirst. As i stepped onto the porch i noticed a flash of familiar black and yellow at my feet.
It was Odessa, but she was all wrong. Broken and crumpled, legs folded, flat and lifeless…missing her head. One of her legs was strewn across the porch a foot away. As i knelt to examine the damage i noticed blood. I hadn’t thought of spiders having blood. Something had chewed through her, bite by bite, severing her whole head from her once impressive body. My mind immediately flicked back to that day the praying mantis had gone after Odessa and i with a mind to kill it had missed. Rasputin had finished the job. If it had been charlotte she would have packed up and picked a new spot, making another web from scratch. If it had been Ruby, she might have hid. But Odessa, she had been fearless; unphased. I wondered if she ever realized the trouble she was in. I wondered if she put up a good fight. I wondered how quickly it was over. I wondered how something so big and so vibrant could be reduced to this crumpled heap on the porch before me. She looked so small. There was no more time to contemplate. The wind was picking up and the weather was moving in fast. Now i had one more task to add to the list of things i had to get done by nightfall.
I stood and headed for the tool shed. I went with the mindset to get a shovel. I was going to dig Odessa a grave. However, i soon had a new problem on my hands. As i slid the door open i knew exactly what i was looking at. A formidably sized tail moved around in the dark as the rump of what could only be a rat bumbled around in amongst the scrap wood before climbing the sideways ladder and jumping across the room to scurry behind the shelves. As all this was going on i stood in the middle of the shed shouting, “oh, oh, oh, oh!” Both dogs ran to the shed entrance to see if i was harmed. I pointed to the rat. Both dogs leaned in and sniffed. As soon as she caught a whiff Sili was out. She turned on her heel and ran the other direction, away from the shed. I called, “sili, get back here and help me with this rat!” She glanced back, shot me a look that said “**** no”, and then continued running. Cashew backed away from the entrance to the shed slowly. I held out my hand and in my softest sweetest voice said, “here girl, come here, come to mommy…help me get the rat.” As soon as i said the word Cashew took off towards the house. I screamed, “get back here! Both of you!” But neither of them would listen. I had nothing of interest for a rat in the tool shed. However, most of my neighbors had livestock and i imagined there was animal feed in their sheds. This guy was a good sized rat and he looked like he hadn’t missed a meal in his entire life. I imagined he had found his way into the bags of feed somewhere. It was unnatural for a rat to be that well-fed in the wild. He continued to move about the shed and realizing the dogs were not coming back for me i grabbed my shovel and began swatting at the rat as it moved from shelf to shelf. I was not making contact with the rat, who was quicker than me in the ever worsening darkness. In fact i was just destroying the shed. Eventually i couldn’t waste any more time on the spontaneously added task and i gave up. Maybe it would freeze. I took the shovel back to the house and began digging a hole near some trees in back of it. I dug a good sized hole and then i gently shifted the lifeless corpse onto the blade of the shovel. Cashew immediately tried to eat her. I scolded her sharply and she ceased her efforts. I carried Odessa over to the little hole and dumped her deflated wrinkly abdomen and stiffened legs into the indentation in the earth. I began shoveling the dirt on top of her, saying a few words and vowing to kill Rasputin the next time i saw her, to save the others from Odessa’s fate.
Next to the little hole had been a tree stump. I took a permanent marker and wrote odessa’s name on the tree stump. It would be her tombstone. She started out covered only with dirt but as i turned to walk away i saw dirt flying through the air in my peripheral vision. When i turned back around Cashew had both paws in the hole and was holding Odessa in her mouth. “No!” I barked, “give me that!” I pried her jaw open and fished out the slobbery remains of the spider. I reburied her in the hole and placed rocks on top of her grave. Then i went back to preparing for the approaching storm. The rat and my revenge on Rasputin would have to wait.
Eventually Piper and Wilma would join Odessa in the spider graveyard just a week later. Piper had most likely been killed by a smaller male praying mantis seen lurking around the well house the morning of her disappearance. All that remained of her was a single torn black leg in the grass. Wilma was not in her web one day. Though i searched the property for weeks she was never found and i assumed the worst. Now all that remained were the two original sisters, Charlotte and Ruby.