IN THE CORNERS
She was staring at the carcass of the dead spider that had been glued to the wall for a week as she scrubbed the rim of the toilet. It had become habit to spend a few minutes each morning wiping Telicho’s shit from the toilet seat, picking the pubic hairs from where they had wedged themselves under the lid. She would then inspect the handlebars jutting from both sides of the toilet, installed so that Telicho could keep her balance as she sat. Then she would clean the faucet, then the door handle.
When she finally sat down to use the now-clean toilet she couldn’t stop staring at the dead spider. She had killed it one evening after she had found it dangling over her shoulder as she was peeing. It was a ghost spider, white with eight legs that stretched from its body like skeletal fingers. It was fall, so the spiders were everywhere —on lamp shades, in window sills. Resting on the tablecloth of the dining room table like they were dinner guests.
Months ago, a spider egg had hatched, the little baby arachnids flinging out everywhere like streamers. Miniscule parachute soldiers. She would lie in bed, watching an OJ Simpson interview and the spiders would crawl onto the television screen, into OJ’s eyes and across his mouth as he told the camera that he did not, in fact, kill Nicole. They would float down onto the salmon-colored rug and crawl into the dirty laundry that was piling up on her floor.
She bought bug spray. The 100 percent toxic kind, because she would much rather get cancer later in life than have tiny baby spiders crawling all over her, into the crevices of her body as she slept. The thought gave her chills.
When Fidelia found the bug spray under the kitchen sink she put it out in the garage. It was unsafe to keep toxic substances in the house, she chided, it will make your tía sick. Telicho is already sick, she thought, but said nothing. She could not talk back to her elders; a good niece would never talk back. So, she continued to crush the spiders when she found them falling from her hair.
She asked Telicho if she was finding spiders in her room, too. Telicho shook her head no, turned to Fidelia, who was putting herself through nursing school from the money she earned as Telicho’s part-time caregiver. Fidelia wiped the crumbs from the kitchen counter and said no, she wasn’t finding any spiders.
Of course Fidelia wasn’t finding any spiders, she thought, she was only at the house in the daylight. Fidelia came on the weekdays to cook and clean for Telicho, to take her to doctor’s appointments, to trim her gray hair and sweep the discarded locks from the kitchen floor.
Telicho could not do these things for herself anymore. She could not hear the doorbell when the delivery man left the packages of insulin on her stoop, could not rush down the stairs to greet the delivery man, could not slice the package open with a knife and place the insulin in the fridge so that it wouldn’t spoil. She could only take the stairs carefully, one by one by one, greeted only by the walker she kept at the bottom of the steps. Telicho could not see the mold growing on the bread on the kitchen counter, could not see the symbols on the buttons of the television remote, couldn’t read the words on her favorite magazines anymore. Telicho couldn’t see these things and couldn’t smell anything since the car accident fifteen years ago that damaged the pre-frontal cortex of her brain. Not the onions Fidelia sautéed for dinner, not the flowers cut from the garden outside and placed in a vase on the kitchen table.
Telicho couldn’t smell the essential oils—lavender, patchouli, peppermint—that her niece blended to ward off the spiders. She dabbed the oils along the cracks of the windowsills after Fidelia had gone home for the night and Telicho had retired to the TV room. She floated through the house touching the oiled cotton swab in corners of rooms that hadn’t been touched in years.
That smell is giving me a headache, Fidelia complained the next day, hand to forehead. She couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t do the homework for her nursing program. The smell had crept outside too, had settled on the porch and permeated the garden. Fidelia wiped the oils from the edges of the windows, removing cobwebs and dust in the process. Do not do that again, Fidelia scolded Telicho’s niece like she was a child, not a twenty-year-old who was afraid of spiders.
She flushed the toilet and stared at the dead spider carcass gummed on the wall above the toilet paper dispenser. She washed her hands, listening to the tapping of water rushing through old pipes. She had stopped using the toxic spray on the spiders, the non-toxic essential oils. Each time she found one scurrying across the room or swinging from its silken thread like an eight-legged Tarzan, she swatted it. And she had stopped sweeping the bodies away, stopped scooping them up with old grocery receipts and tossing them in the trash. The house was starting to look like a spider genocide had happened here, bodies collecting in the corners of each room.
But Telicho could not see the ghost spiders, and they did not reveal themselves to Fidelia. Only her. She stared at the dead spider again and decided she would leave it there just a little while longer. She was waiting for someone to take notice; to confirm that it was, indeed, fall, and there were, indeed, spiders invading the house, creeping in at the seams, searching for warm places to die.
Feliz Moreno earned her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of San Francisco. She is working on a story collection about a young, Mexican-American woman who became the first felon of Orange County in 1889 after protesting the railroad company. Her work has appeared in The Acentos Review, Longreads, Apogee, Vestal Review, and Watermelanin Magazine. She is the Managing Editor of the VIDA Review and currently lives in Oakland, CA.