I don’t seem to write fiction so much as anecdotes or dramatized lessons. Be that as it may, this piece came to me this morning. Enjoy or not as you see fit.
The Way of the Spider
The student knelt facing his teacher on the hard wood floor of the dojo. He was attempting to relax his twitching, nervous limbs without much success. He had come here to learn how to fight, as the old and new bruises purpling and yellowing his face announced to anyone looking at him. The teacher, however, wanted to tell a story first.
“When I was a boy,” the teacher said, “I used to hide in the lowest floor of our home. It was quiet and cool down there, and the walls high and deep, with windows that permitted me a view of mother’s garden.
“One morning, I was hiding from my parents and began watching a spider patrol the window sill. I was too young yet to acquire my father’s distaste or my mother’s fear of them. I was merely fascinated by the little grey being’s delicate, eight-legged movements. The little creature’s legs spread perhaps an inch across, and the sill extended not much farther from the wall. I had a pencil with me and placed the end of the instrument in the spider’s path, eraser first. I wanted to see what it would do. Unable or unwilling to crawl around the pencil, he did performed an about-face where he was and started to pace in the other direction.
“I placed the eraser the middle of the spider’s path again. It must have been aware of me now because instead of going back the other way again, it turned to face me, waiting to see what I would do next.”
The student frowned, uncertain of the point of the teacher’s story, but he kept his attention on his robed master, twitching restlessly to await the point of the lesson.
“I moved my face closer, transfixed by this little being’s behavior. He couldn’t really harm me, but he’d decided to stand still and challenge me. I knew a little about spiders a that age. I knew its limbs were highly sensitive. Again, I did not want to harm it, I just wanted to study it. I turned the pencil around in my hand and moved the sharpened end slowly toward the spider’s legs, which were now as restless as yours are now. Then, in a moment, the tip came close enough to just touch the creature’s left forelimb. I’d drawn my face closer as well, too, to see more closely.” Unconsciously, the student had done the same, leaning in slightly to hear more closely.
With frightening speed, the teacher’s arms rose from his side clapped his hands before the student’s face. Wide-eyed, the student flinched away from the smacking palms. The pop of sound echoed in in the dojo’s stillness.
The teacher’s face remained placid as his smooth tones never changed in pitch or volume. “In a flash much faster than mine, the spider exploded into movement, leaping upward and outward, its legs exploding outward so that to my six-year-old eyes, it appeared three times his size and deadlier than anything imaginable. I flinched, as you did just now. Do you know what I learned?”
Watery-eyed but recovered from his surprise, the student grinned slightly. “Don’t get too close to spiders?”
The teacher shook his head. “Too simple. What does a six-year-old boy weight? Forty, fifty pounds? That little spider was a couple ounces, at most. It didn’t matter. In that lightning flash of movement, that spider became the most terrifying thing in that basement. In that instant, I learned to respect something smaller than me. The spider leapt out at his tormentor with deadly speed and force, heedless of the danger. In the same way, your opponents must come to respect you. You must develop the reflexes of the spider, becoming the most dangerous creature in the room, regardless of what confronts you.
The student swallowed, nodding at the lesson. “I’m still afraid.”
“So was the spider,” the teacher nodded. “But he attacked anyway.”