The fairy fluttered for a moment before giving up in disgust.
“That you, Tangles?”
“Yeah. It’s me again,” answered the fairy. “Sorry.”
“No problem. Stay still, I’ll be right there.” The spider started picking his way to her.
“You won’t tell anyone, will you?”
“Not if you don’t want me to,” said the spider. He freed her wing from his sticky web with care.
She hung her head. “It’s so embarrassing.”
“Well, I don’t know about that. I’ve caught you three times this week, that’s less than last week by half! You’re doing well!”
Tangles sighed. “Thanks, Mr. Rupert, but we’re only half way through the week.”
Mr Rupert the spider looked around to see if anyone else was listening. “Between you and me, there isn’t a fairy alive that hasn’t been caught in a web at least once. We even get special training so we don’t eat you by mistake.”
Sure, she’d gone to seed. It happens. Still, she began to feel a little used, pulled in different directions by the weight of his web. She never signed up for helping him catch his prey. She liked bugs – they pollinated her for goodness sake! The day he decided to move into her seedhead without permission she put her foot down. Well, her metaphorical foot. More of a root, really.
It may have been overkill, but she called in a favor from the local ogre. He obliged by crashing through the undergrowth, colliding with the web, and carrying it away, stuck to his hairy ogre arm.
The spider peeked out from where he napped in the seedhead, grumbling. He should have taken the hint, but he was a bit thick, even for a spider, so he cast out a sticky thread and let the wind carry it where it willed.
The ogre, watching all of this and grinding his teeth in frustration, thundered back, plucked the seedhead from the stalk and shook the spider out. Terrified, the spider ran away. The ogre grinned and turned to his friend, realizing too late he had picked her and now she was gone.
“Oh,” he said. He felt bad but ogres don’t dwell on such things. After all, she’d be back next spring.
Gazing into the spider-made labyrinth, her mind grew dizzy and lost its way. She wandered ’round and ’round the web, unable to break free. A dying fly told her to run, but she found she couldn’t. When she passed a dewdrop, she stopped to scry inside, hoping for escape, but all she saw was spider. A stuck mosquito urged her to leave, but she couldn’t find the way.
A dragonfly flew past, his wing getting stuck, and she ran to him. He struggled in fury, and yanked himself free. “Wait!” she cried, as he flew away. “Take me with you!” He turned and gave her the strangest look, but he didn’t take her with him.
She sighed and set about mending the web, silk streaming from her body. She wondered if she’d always been a spider, after all. Foggy dreams of friends and books and human life were fading fast. There was little she could do but go back to the dying fly and finish off her meal.
The Captain kicked at the ground and grumbled to himself. His crew made him furious. They were lazy and clumsy and ruined his best sails. He came across a spider and watched it for a while. His anger ebbed as he marveled how the spider rushed onto a web with ease to catch its prey, despite it flapping in the wind. An idea occurred to the Captain.
The next day the harbour hummed with strange tales of a mad sea captain who replaced his entire crew, save the cook and the cabin boy, with a clutter of spiders. No one knew what to think as they watched the ship sail out to sea with flawless symmetry, each sail just so and the rigging just right.
Not every spider appreciated a web with a view as much as Penny did, but that didn’t matter to Penny. She hummed a happy tune as she spun her web, stopping now and then to have her spidery breath stolen away by the sight of the flower that sheltered her from rain.