Dan Cardoza’s poetry, fiction, and nonfiction: Apricity, BlazeVOX, Bull, Cleaver, Coffin Bell, Entropy, Fri(c)tion, Gravel, O:JA&L/Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, New Flash Fiction Review, Poetry Northwest, Running Wild Press, Spelk, and Your Impossible Voice. Dan’s nominations: Best Micro Fiction, Tiny Molecules, 2020 and Best Poetry, Coffin Bell, 2020.
The Flawed Logic of Taming Hunter Spiders
I grew up in a rough neighborhood in Los Angeles County, mother’s choice. Sasha is the exploring Bohemian type. She thrives on dissecting the communal toughness of urban decay and spattering it feverishly onto the cheapest of canvas. She makes a living as an artist, which isn’t easy. I do it part-time to beat the bills down. She’s said more than once that her ecosystem has enhanced her creativity. As she explains, “I need honest-to-God suffering in order to create.” Certainly, I inherited her genomes and father’s curse of wanderlust.
We’ve been told by the best, Meyer and Schweinsberg, that mother and I are blessed with organic talent. Maybe that’s why we’ve done well with our art sales in our shared studio in Culver City. Though we aren’t getting rich, the income is enough to support our minimalist lifestyles.
Let me tell you upfront, mother, and I have little in common with the exception of art and arachnids. Yet, we don’t fall in love all spiders, only the ones identified as Lone Wolf, Huntsman and Pirate spiders.
Our obsession includes jumping spiders, a species in the same phylum as the other killers. My biker father, Jack, is an excellent specimen. Jack is related to the Salticidaes, a species of deadly hunters. He’s gifted with athleticism, and has plenty of charisma. He was hatched from a spawn known for uncanny intelligence. He is the best at escaping and running away from almost any situation.
We last witnessed the leathered Houdini as he sped away on his Harley. I was only five then. Mother still calls him a loser, and a son of a bitch, behind his shadowy, nonexistent back. But I’m certain she’d let him inside her again, even if it meant extracting blood from her heart.
Certain insights gained from craziness stick with you. Understanding mother is no exception.
I’ll give you an example. Let’s take a look at the random texts my mother sends every few years. Take note, my mother is the worst at sharing T.M.I. Sometimes it’s X-rated, unfiltered information that can never unheard, “Shasta,” she’d keyed last holiday season. Using words in her story she’d punished before, “I was told by a handsome stranger in a late night Zen sleaze bar, good sex is an out of control bonfire. It’s a blaze in which you and your lover don’t exist unless you are pitch kindling. Not until the fire is out do the two of you retire wet and exhausted. Only then are you allowed to dream. And, in all your dreams, if you’ve done it right, it rains lit matches. And, as you are both startled awake from the terrible horror, you lust to reignite.” Mother is nothing if not interesting. I never let on, but I’m certain she was referencing to father Jack, her notorious fire-bug.
What makes her undying love sad, is that she has every reason to hate him.
My father never paid child support. My grandmother, father’s side, the one who lives in hell-hole Bakersfield, has never disclosed where her son Jack spun off too. So in my developing years, mother had lost a boatload of child support from Los Angeles County. Sasha was never able to attach his wages. You can’t collect from a spidery ghost if you don’t know which tunnel he’s down.
I’d like to share a few interesting facts that mother had shared over the years about killer spiders. Not that she’s learned to avoid them.
“They’re always hungry, food and sex and other women. They’re lazy as fuck, and controlling, gaslighting son’s a bitches, deadly as poison to self-esteem. Hunter spiders are iconoclastic bad-boys, girl, eye-candied eight leggers. Avoid them at all cost,” she’d said.
I had my first experience with the species fresh out of high school. I was horny and cross-eyed over this guy named Ogre. So much so, though we didn’t need to, we ran off to Vegas to get hitched by this beady-eyed Elvis impersonator. The name tag on the part-time preacher’s lapel read Willy the Burning Hunk.
Eloping with a spider is so damned romantic and dangerous. Still, I should have known better.
Upon returning to So Cal, Ogre and I paid what we hadn’t lost in Vegas toward the first and last month’s rent. It was a sketchy motel named The Mustang. Pimps and prostitutes use the Mustang on Western Avenue to hang out and do drugs until sundown.
It didn’t take more than a few all-nighters in the sleazy motel, holed up in his woven tunnel to convince me that he valued and loved me. I expected this type of thinking out of myself because I had no other point of reference except the decibels of sound a Harley Davidson makes as it rumbles out of your life.
Lovemaking was all about his daddy-long-leg arms and fish-hook fingertips. He’d ravished me and gently pierced the fleshy parts of my peach-skin goodness. His controlling darkness made me feel so safe and secure, anesthetized. After, I dreamed long and deep against his glistening abdomen. He was so romantic, dressed in his rock-hard exoskeleton. We shared unnecessary whispers up there in his suspended silken hammock. For the first time in my life, this clotting inside felt right. How could I know, his unique serum of contamination is what I’d been missing? Around and around, he fingered his barbed spool of delicate thread, cinching us closer and tighter, each sigh, each taste, a mucosa of near-death and heaven.
I was a bad bitch then, as cool you get. At least that is what I’d thought in my head. After all, I’d captured me one of those rare huntsman spiders. He wasn’t tame or domesticated like one of those innocuous specs you see up in a neglected ceiling corner. Nor would you ever imagine him up against a shelf and the wall in one of those walk-in closets in suburbia. A girl like me deserved the spit, slurp and sip of a huntsman. It was much more acceptable than being injected and ingested by a docile web builder.
My spider made it clear, there would never be room for children, “No such infestation,” he’d said. It was going to be just the two of us and pleasure. I was so thrilled. After all, I had captured my very own arachnid to control me.
First it was friends. And then, he refused to allow family over. The tracking device he placed on my car was for my own safety. Ogre was a master at making sure that nothing got in the way of my desired terror. His was very enchanting with his overpowering brand of sinewy masculinity and sensuality. I deemed him a gangly Marilyn Manson, dressed to the eights in his sharp, barbed legs. If what he injected into me wasn’t toxic enough, my venom of choice, it didn’t exist. He made sure, whenever I doubted myself, that we all make mistakes, and that there would always be a tomorrow to fix.
All that bankrupt, pretty future I’d convinced myself I deserved.
I should explain how they eat you, hunter spiders. It’s from the insides out. The first step in your consumption is allowing him to vomit his narcissistic digestive fluids all over your throbbing body. Then you wait, breathless. Next, after your insides get good and soupy, and only then will the exquisite huntsman use his jaws and mouth (chelicerae) to slurp your feminine goulash. If you’re lucky, he will take his time to suck out your most intimate fluids and soulfulness, clear to the back of his shiny alien throat. Way back there is where he tastes your essence and liquefied meat. This could take days or weeks, depending upon how much you’re into satiation. When you get really good at this victim shit, you can fool yourself into believing that what he’s taken and eaten is worthless. Only then will he promise to love you forever. What you give up is minuscule compared to what you’ve gained, or so you truly believe.
Wandering spiders, such as the hunter or loan wolf, typically have two large eyes and several smaller ones arranged in a beautiful crown around their skull, each eye an onyx jeweled looking glass. In contrast Orb weaving spiders have rows and rows of tiny eyes, eight in total. Most web spiders are comfortable in a household setting, methodically taking care of their pedestrian chores. From my point of view, this species of spider is boring. Web spiders are gifted with sensitive limbs. So much so, they can detect the tiniest of vibration in their webs. Insects they attract are adored and sparingly eaten in portions, enough to sustain life and ensure survival. Food is often shared. In contrast, hunting spiders have a dark reputation to live up to as the serial killers of the arachnid world. They actively seek out prey at night and kill more than they can eat. Too much is never enough.
Over several months, my worse nighttime came true. I grew tolerant of everything, even abuse, once my spider elicited love. Oh how I valued my time with him. How I considered my self-loathing a small price to pay at the altar of his vanity. I loved the sacrifice of being prey?
Spending quality time with your spider will make you feel cherished. It’s all about the space you both create. Just make sure to accept all his apologies, there is no exception. This includes when he says he’ sorry for any of the deep fissures of emotional hurt he’s cause you. Cracks he’s created in his temperamental ice storms.
And that damned co-dependency thing. What can you do about that? After all, it’s nourished the two of you. You might ask, and what do you do regarding all his soft lies? Repress them, accept them, you need residual disgust. It’ another loathing you can ponder when he’s not around. Methadone when there is no heroin.
If you want your very own spider-God, you’ll have to get good at creating sacred makeup situations so you can distract yourself and not ponder the collapse of your spiritual autoimmune system. After all, punishing yourself is a savored residual morsel only you can eat.
It doesn’t take long. In short order, you’ll convince yourself time with your magically dark spider is time well spent, or so it seems. And slowly, watch as your life becomes filled with endless bad choices, each failure a consumed elixir of lust and need. Watch as you’re slowly emptied of worthiness, until it’s too late, when nothing sacred remains.
Hunters are exceptionally gifted in the art of stealing away your future, as well as any sense of healing. After all, like most qualified victims, you’ve truly forgotten who you are and crave more discipline. You’ve become an insect, a Lilliputian thespian insect in your Shakespearean tragedy of destruction and annihilation. Change is always somewhere out there, outside of you, seemingly unattainable, beyond the insanity of desiring his chiseling sexy fangs between your legs.
And tomorrow, what happens in the early morning? Purple bruises never go out of fashion, dear. They are the perfect accessory for mourning blackness.
Everything was special at the beginning with Ogre and me. Every damned thing we did was new and exciting. We were kinetic together, a tripped electrical breaker, an electrical spark. My new life with Ogre was: dinner for two on a tapped together cardboard box, a dirty, full kitchen sink, two plates, two forks, one glass, two spoons. A bed with a sheet, one blanket, and a pillow to share on a wine stained studio carpeted floor. My Ogre believed that jobs were uniquely something that only I could perform.
Winged insects and pretty girls never have a chance around hunter spiders. I should have known better. After all, he had this reputation of flinging his deceptive net over unsuspecting prey, a common hunting tactic for Ogre spiders. Unlike most pilferers, his delicate mesh wasn’t sticky. Rather, he instinctually relied on the high tensile strength of his web for his captures, and his unspeakable charms. Amalgamations he kept within and spun around him.
Of course, I forgave him for cheating. I learned that trick of deception from my mother. And after I apologized for being moody, there was all this makeup sex, as Ogre injected his chemistry of cytotoxins and neurotoxins. He liquefied me with his tender kisses as he digested and consumed the all of me. I know because I was an audience of one up there on the ceiling, dangling and floating above what became sensual satiation. Detachment is something you learn to survive. Once Ogre was done with me, he committed the ultimate felony. He left me for another, to wallow in my very own entanglement of madness. I felt almost holy in my depression, as iridescent as an endoskeleton up on a cross.
Of course, his absence broke me. I’m still breaking. And so, for months on end, I hysterically painted spiders larger and blacker than English crows. Life seemed hollowed, empty and vanilla. It took a while. I worked hard to remove all the internal bruises and matching unhealthy emotional tattoos. Split lips heal too. You can see the stages of progress in the mirror, but what the reflection doesn’t’ reveal is the emphatic emptiness from everything that has been drawn out of you. In the end, it’s all about the webbed art of scarification.
After our estrangement, I did something crazy. I threw darts at a map, and moved a lot. I eventually ended up in the small city of Medford, Oregon. Running away was a skill my father had gifted me. The flow of time and changing scenery over the years was something I assumed would alter my internal wiring. It felt peaceful being all alone for the first time. It was a struggle, but I felt progress.
In Oregon, it was convenient to send my art via FedEx or UPS to Los Angeles, back at the studio. Celibacy grew to be something that agreed with me. Blind faith had become my go-to crutch in my attempt to properly heal. I was mindful to learn from self nourishment, as peaceful as chamomile tea. My life had become soothing and calming, yet peculiarly mundane. I craved me some fangs. And so I opened myself up to taming spiders again.
I met Sydney at the Osmos’s Ale House, a lively bar down on South Central Avenue.
Stick insects are remarkable creatures. The whip spider, Argyrodes Colubrinus, is an Australian variant, such an exotic specimen. He has eight legs and an abdomen with a unique length-to-width ratio. To say Sydney was gorgeous wouldn’t do him justice.
After a few brews, I let Sydney take me home, but not to Australia. He drove me up north a few miles out of town to Cottage Grove. Sydney’s place was nice. It was a little bigger than one of those tiny houses you see on A&E. his rustic place was situated up against a national forest, the Siskiyou-Cascadian. For days, we lay up in his loft, in a suspended minimalist web structure. With all his thin netting, we seemed to defy gravity in his golden matrix of silk.
Sydney, as well as most whip spiders, had a reputation for positioning himself over his victims. Only then would he lower himself on his viscous spindle. I was no exception. Winning a barroom fight and a few draft ales apparently had been enough to capture my heart that night. It had been so long since I had been devoured skin last.
He was upfront, Sydney. He’d said, “I’m a species of wandering spider, gifted in the art of camouflaging.” One day he might resemble a broken apple twig, the next, a dried witchweed stem. It didn’t take long to discover how hard Sydney worked at noting at all, about a month. My whip spider was diligent at avoiding anything strenuous. He avoided an honest day’s work, as much as insecticide. Sydney displayed nothing that resembled ambition, for fear of being labeled generic.
Of course, I attempted to tame Sydney, the spider, with my unrelenting love and affection. That’s what we do when you are an offering.
I did attempt to motivate him. I encouraged him to place his dirty boots in a designated corner. More than once, I showed him how to locate the containers of pre-assembled food in the fridge when I was away at work, and demonstrated how to place the dirty Tupperware in the sink when he was done. Maybe I was too hard on him?
I rationalized logic away. It was as simple as shooing a fly and waiting for the night. Sydney was the first man who was able to pair the Bluetooth in my brain with my vagina. I loved his mind. Oh, how he bound me in all those diamond corridors of moonlit, each passage lined in the filigree of moon-spindles.
Our relationship seemed so different and strained when I wasn’t high, up there in his intoxicating loft. This time I even allowed myself the labor of doubt. Looking in the rearview, I contemplated how I’d become naïve at not facing up to the dark similarities of my past. Had I failed to recognize a self destructive pattern in my endless series of dumpster fire relationships? Jesus, training a spider is difficult. It’s something you can never accomplish.
Attempting to train your sorcerer spider is so intoxicating, very difficult situation to abandon. I imagined all the potential for magic, once I had him trained?
The truth is, there is no way the almighty heavens are going to allow you to train your spindly God. He’d once said, “As with most spiders, my thread is long enough to encircle the earth I hold up for you.” I wanted so much to disbelieve him, but I was surprised when Wiki confirmed what he’d said.
“If you could weigh it, my see-through twine, the same thread that wraps around your heart, and the entire earth, you would discover that it weights slightly more than a pound,” he’d said. It was true.
If you can believe it, after six months, he kicked me out. He’d said, “You don’t taste the same or earn enough.” I’d broken down and moved back into my apartment in Medford. There, I lay in bed for weeks at a time, doing my best to build my very own dungeon of cobwebs. In there, I worked past most of my thoughts of suicide.
During my darkest hours, I nearly hallucinated myself into becoming a sexy Brazilian wandering spider. Just one bite will cause a man a long and painful erection and possible death. All I could think about was Sydney the whip and my long-gone Ogre spider, and what is the maximum striking distance.
Part of the healing process includes inner work, research, and therapy.
Based on my research, I learned that there are two general groups of spiders, the wandering/hunting species and the web builders. Web builders are nearly docile and overly approachable.
I’ve convinced myself I am addicted to the former, the killer spider species, and all the excitement of the hunt and being dominated. And so, believing a change in scenery might improve my disposition, I moved back to sunny California. In doing so, I picked a city named Delano. Delano is where grape vines and orange blossoms dominate the landscape. It’s a reclusive and panoramic sort of town. It happens to be situated between the great Pacific Ocean and the Sequoia National Forest. It seemed like the sort of place where I could work out any negative relationships I have with spiders. If Delano was good enough for Cesar Chavez, it’s good enough for me.
I began to paint in earnest again, good therapy. Orchards bouquets and passive mountains with gentle slopes, each stroke a search for renewal. To supplement my art sales in Culver City, I landed a bartending job at the Dog House Saloon on West Tehachapi Boulevard and Mountain View. I work the gig about twenty hours per week.
In the last couple of years, while working the bar, I’ve been hit on more times than I care to remember. Mostly cosplay locals dressed up as spiders. Men who can’t wait to get home to their young Pamela Anderson dates they’ve stowed away somewhere in their vintage C. D.’s. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not picky. You can’t be when you’re fifty-five and alone. There are times when dignity allows for bartering. These days, sleeping with the occasional arachnid has more to do with how much booze I have in my belly than a spider’s linguistic skill set. But, loneliness is one hell of an aphrodisiac. If you take the time to kiss me goodbye in the morning, I will fall in love with you all over again.
Behind the mahogany alter, there are times I don’t feel so hot. My feet ache, my heartaches. When I’m serving drinks, I’m wary of the hunters, though most of my male customers seem domesticated. I’ve learned to be careful about taking spider’s home though, especially if I get too liquored up. But believe me I’ve shrugged off the victims cape, I’m the one in control now.
My paid jobs allow me more than enough income to support my meager lifestyle here in Delano. And for the most part, I live a fairly healthy lifestyle. I’ve even joined a group therapy class.
The name of the group is “The Pitfalls of Training Hunter Spiders.” I know it’s a mouthful. Most of the group members are women who identify. There are a few men too. When I proudly explain the nature of our work, most locals say, “WTF?” just like mother, who continues to lament her long lost hunter.
In group, the majority of the time, I mostly listen. It’s heartening when I hear a member say, “I was this close,” she pinches her fingers together, “to tripping over a spider snare.”
I see that as progress. We run the group like A.A., except we have eight steps. Each step allows for a sense of empowerment and awesomeness, as well as a sense of psychological healing. We work on our emotional vision too, how far we can extend it into the future, a future with all kinds of possibilities, and new beginnings. For most of us, the act of loving oneself requires a lot of support. Discussing the pitfalls of falling in love with a huntsman spider is key. This is when all the difficult work of addiction truly begins.
From the Editor:
We hope that readers receive In Parentheses as a medium through which the evolution of human thought can be appreciated, nurtured and precipitated. It will present a dynamo of artistic expression, journalism, informal analysis of our daily world, entertainment of ideas considered lofty and criticism of today’s popular culture. The featured content does not follow any specific ideology except for that of intellectual expansion of the masses.
Founded in late 2011, In Parentheses prides itself upon analysis of the current condition of intelligence in the minds of these young people, and building a hypothesis for one looming question: what comes after Post-Modernism?
The idea for this magazine stems from a simple conversation regarding the aforementioned question, which drew out the need to identify our generation’s place in literary history.
To view the types of work we typically publish, preview or purchase our past issues.