What Did Graham Know About Spiders?

Steve Campbell

Janet slumped down onto the sodden floor, back against the side of the bath, a high-pitched ringing in her ears. The showerhead clattered against porcelain as the writhing hose continued to spit out water. Craning her neck, Janet peered back over her shoulder. Water was filling up behind the plug. A single, black spider leg poked out from beneath it, flapping lifelessly against the sloshing water. It pointed at her accusingly.

‘There’s nothing to worry about. They’re not going to hurt you,’ Graham would say, scooping them up and carrying them into the garden. Janet would sooner have stamped on them. Hunched over with cupped hands, Graham always looked as if he was reassuring them as he set them free.

This one had been as big as her fist, maybe even bigger. She almost stepped on it as she was about to get into the shower. It scuttled around beneath the taps; eight bristle-covered legs trilling against the bath.

‘It’s cruel to flush them away,’ Graham declared whenever she suggested it. ‘You can’t just kill them. That’s no solution.’

Janet reached out a hand for the showerhead, her attention fixed on the spider. With the shower at hand, she flicked on the tap. The noise of drumming water against the bath sent the thing into a frenzy. It darted back and forth erratically, desperate to escape.

‘They communicate with squeals,’ Graham had prattled on as if Janet had been somehow interested. ‘Much too high pitched for human ears, mind you. But they do. It’s how they’ve learnt to survive. They squeal for help.’

Janet hadn’t heard anything so ridiculous in all her life. But then there was no way of questioning the nonsense anymore. Not since he’d gone. He’d said he wanted a divorce; just came out with it matter-of-factly as he stood in the bathroom getting ready for work.

Gripping the showerhead in both hands, Janet stepped closer. The thought of the spider drowning in the bath spurred her on. It wasn’t going to get away. He was going to suffer. Janet directed the spray and blasted the spider into the water gathered around the plughole.

‘Got you,’ she snarled.

Graham’s reasoning and meaningless apologies had gone unheard as Janet stepped back into the bedroom, too stunned to speak. He was leaving her? The iron was still steaming from pressing his work shirt a few moments earlier.

Leaning over the rim of the bath, Janet concentrated the jet of water, keeping the spider beneath the surface. At the plughole, it spiraled round and around before being dragged towards the black void of the drain. Dropping the showerhead, Janet grabbed for the plug. In one last bid for escape, the spider clawed at the plughole, fighting against the flow. Janet shoved the plug in over it, shearing off one of its legs in the process.

Graham’s face slammed against the tiled wall and he slid down into the bath, a jagged crimson gash carved into the back of his head. The iron clattered against porcelain as it fell from Janet’s hand.

Slumped against the side of the bath, the high-pitched ringing in Janet’s ears began to fade; as though the sound was plummeting down the drain pipe with the spider. Janet reached back and turned off the water. And that’s when she heard the scratching beneath the sink, the scuttling behind the skirting boards and the clawing at every single nook and cranny in the bathroom.