Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ropin a Spider

"So then, where was I?" asked Captain Pat when I entered his cabin.

"You was right there in that chair," I told him.

"No, no," he protested, "where was I last time we talked."

I never knew I was so dense. "Like I says, you was sittin right there in that chair. It may have been an inch or two to the left or right, but I don't think that makes much of a difference. I mean, we're pretty much the same guy, so there's no need to stand on ceremony."

He looked for a moment and then told me, "You know, I just realized somethin. I'm either the densest man in the known universe or I am an absolute genius. I'm sittin here tryin to out think you, and my brain's just runnin in circles like a doberman on coffee tryin to catch its tail."

I wanted to be polite, so I shot him a, "Thank ya kindly."

"Yeah, sure," he said, distractedly. "I meant, um, hold on, let me word this carefully...Uh, ok. What was the last part of the story I told ya last night before you went to sleep?"

I had it. "You left off on a sort of cliffhanger. I thought it was a little contrived, myself, but I just went ahead and let it slide. I done the same thing myself once in awhile, cause, sometimes, there just ain't nothin else you can do. I mean, unless your story is totally contained in one neat little package, you're gonna have to leave off somewhere. And, really, who wants to hear a story that comes in a neat little package? I mean, except for all those lovers of short stories and news clips. Just don't feel right, though. Just don't feel right."

"Why, you hit the nail right on its flat little head there, Pat. Why, I tell ya, any story wrapped up in a little package leaves a lot of questions unanswered. I figure, the longer the story, the more likely you are to answer all the questions. And I mean ALL the questions. Even the big ones, like 'Why are we here?' and 'Why are we so unhappy all the time?' and 'What's for breakfast?' I gotta say, for me, those long stories, if they're told right, can answer all them questions."

"I'd say that's true," I confirmed, "but I don't want ya thinkin all them long stories answer them questions. And most of em answer the questions in a couple different ways, which is confusin to me. I mean, what do they expect me to do? Figure it all out for myself? That'd be rich, wouldn't it?"

"Sure would, Pat, sure would," he nodded like we'd said something actually meaningful, even though both of us really knew we were just passin the time by tryin to sound smart. I didn't think much would come of it.

Then, he broke the spell by sittin bolt upright and shoutin, "I got it! The spiders! We was talkin about catchin the spiders!"

"Actually," I had to tell him, "you was talkin about almost catchin the spiders. In fact, you'd just told me about the one that got away. And then you implied that later, you made it so's they couldn't get away."

"Ah, well, then I misled you, I'm afraid. You see, the problem with the moon spiders, as I think I've said, is that they could teleport anywhere in space, so it's right hard to keep them from gettin away. What we did instead is figure out a way to make it so gettin away didn't do them a lick of good. We was strugglin to do just that, and the discovery that the spiders could be trapped by their own webs was the first thing we needed. The second thing we needed was a way to keep them from chewin through that web once they was in it.

"Tha solution came from the other side of the moon base construction site. It was totally by accident, too. You see, a couple of them Squimonk was cleanin out a coupla spider tunnels that we was gonna use for storage. They was rollin up the webbin and passin it to one another when, because of their furry little hands rubbin on each other, they worked themselves up some static electricity and shot a tiny bolt of lightning, which latched onto that there spider silk they was handlin. Well, lickety split it goes straight and stiff like, uh, well, like somethin that's long and round that gets stiff for some reason. I think you know what I'm talkin about."

"Sure do," I told him, "a tube of peperoni in the freezer."

"That wasn't exactly what I was thinkin," he told me, sheepishly.

"Then what?"

"I was think more like a spaghetti noodle in reverse," he admitted.

"Yeah, I can see that. But I don't know why you didn't just spit it out in the first place."

"I guess I didn't think it was an apt metaphor. I bet someone else could think of somethin that's sotra tube or noodle-like that goes from floppy to stiff that would make a better image here, but I can't think of anything off the top of my head."

"Yeah," I shrugged, "sometimes, that's how it goes."

"Sure is, sure is. So, there they were, holdin a web-cum-stick in their little hands when the other Alistair, what had caught the spider, came runnin in with his news. I wasn't there or nothin, but I imagine them Squimonk got a little twinkle in their eyes and then they got to work. They spent a whole day braidin and tyin together the webbing and wirin it all up to a switch. Then, they spent the whole next week collectin information about where the spiders landed when they jumped into being on the moon.

"Once they analyzed that information, they found there were certain spots that were more commonly used for spider materialization. Their theory at the time was that the spiders had themselves a system for jumpin so they didn't run into each other. But that proved to be wrong, just so's you know. I don't want you thinkin that just because them Squimonk is super smart that they know everything, cause they don't. In fact, what they don't know could fill a book. Sure, it wouldn't be a thick book, but it'd still be a book. And not no little novella, neither, which isn't really a book. It would be a real book, prolly 200 pages or so, and titled, "Things Squimonk Don't Know. Course, you'd prolly have to ban them from readin the book or hearin about it in any way cause, you know, if they read it, then the book would have to be smaller on the next go round until it was nothin but a little pamphlet. And, really, who'd gonna buy a pamphlet about what Squimonk don't know. You'd have to give it away in a doctor's office or somethin with other 'What you don't know about...' type pamphlets. But we didn't find out they didn't know this until they'd learned it, but by then, it was already too late for it to go in the book."

"This has almost nothing to do with capturin spiders," I told him, "unless you bashed them on the head with a copy of that book."

"You're right," he said, "and we didn't. In fact, all we did was sit next to a switch and wait. We musta sat there for days, just playin cribbage and havin a good ol' fashioned makin stuff up contest. I got second place for my story about a block of cheese becomin president because of his skills with a bow and arrow. I think the clincher was when I named him Cheester A. Archer.

"I was just acceptin my prize, a medal made out of an old donut, as is traditional, when a spider jumped into the webs we'd laid out. The Alistair there whispered to me, 'Now!' and I threw the switch, electrifyin the webs.

"That webbing, which the Squimonk had braided and tied together jumped up into a perfect cage right around that spider, lookin like a soccer ball made out of chicken wire. Fearin for itself, it jumped away, but it took the cage with it. It kept flickerin in and out of view, presumably jumpin about the universe, and every time it flickered, there was more stuff in the cage. I don't know how many worlds it must have jumped to, but when it came back, there was all sortsa weird stuff stuck in the holes of that trap. Unmentionable things and one pair of ladies' unmentionables. I don't know what world that was, but after seein them unmentionables, I ain't sure I wanna know.

"As I know now, teleportin is tough business. It can tire ya out more than diggin a ditch in the middle of an asphalt road with an ice cream sample spoon. And eventually, that spider just collapsed in the middle of the cage, plum tuckered out.

"Once he had awoken from his swoon, he just hung his spider head and said, 'Just kill me and get it over with.'

"I say he said it, but he didn't exactly use words. Them spiders is telepaths, if you didn't know, so he just sorta broadcast his feelin to everyone in the room, like our brains was wads of silly putty and he laid his comic on top of em. At that, one of the Alistairs sidled up to the cage, laid a paw on the spider's leg and said, 'We have no intention of killing you, and we don't want to harm you, either. We're just here to bargain with you.'

"Well, the spider looked mighty surprised at this. A whole bunch of thoughts went racin through out heads from the spider, the most powerful of which was, 'You can't bargain with meth addicts, even if they are building a moon base.'

"That Alistair explained that we wasn't no meth addicts, and then laid out our position. Then the spider told all of us that he would speak to the spider high council, but not to expect help in our fights because spiders is pacifists. That's why they didn't kill none of us. They said they got compassion and love for every living creature because we all live in a cold, uncaring universe and we continually try to convince ourselves otherwise and this makes us unhappy on such a deep level that we think unhappiness is built into the very fabric of existence, when, in actuality, the real problem is that we expect the universe to turn around and be nice to us, even though most of it is just blind processes with no morality whatsoever and so the real problem ends up bein our expectations and not anything about the universe itself. In the final analysis, our consciousness is really to blame."

"Huh?" I asked. "I didn't get most of that."

"Yeah, me neither," he said, "I basically just memorized it cause it sounded fancy. I don't think there's much to it, though, so I wouldn't worry too much about it."

"I won't then. What happened with the spiders?"

"Like I says, they're hardcore pacifists, so they wasn't willing to join in the fighting. But they did allow us to use the moon to build a base from which we could mount an invasion. They also agreed to give us some of their venom in small quantities so that new Pats can be given the ability to teleport anywhere in the universe they want."

"Am I gonna be gettin that?" I asked.

"If you want. I gotta warn ya, though, it ain't the most pleasant of experiences."

"Needles and stuff?

"Nah, it just tastes like a week dead skunk on the highway soaked in patchouli. I nearly vomited," he explained. "But if you hold your nose, it ain't so bad."

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