American Chimera – 1.4

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We brought the egg back to the trailer and kicked all the dogs outta our bedroom. We opened the bottom drawer of our plastic dresser and stuffed it full of clean shirts and underwear, makin’ sure the egg were sittin’ in the plushest place you e’er did see.

Janie’s parents had raised chickens while she grew up, so she knew the thing needed to be warm. We unhooked the meth setup from the propane and drove to town to get a space heater, then stuck it in the room. Even with the dogs outta the room, the heat started makin’ all the shit stink to high heaven, so we cleaned that place up. While our lil’ egg grew in the underwear drawer, Janie and I slept in the livin’ room on the couch.

Well, turns out we didn’t have enough money for another propane tank to cook the meth, so Janie went to town and got a job fixin’ the Bojangles’ robots. I started workin’ for the Mexicans buildin’ a piece of the school down the road, plannin’ just to do it as long as I needed to get a new propane tank, but it weren’t that bad. It felt a bit healthier, too, not to be cookin’ meth or havin’ drug pushers breathin’ down my back. About then’s when we started to backslide on our cookin.’

Every night, Janie and me’d turn the egg. The swelterin’ summer soon turned into a nice, cool fall, and we cranked that space heater up to keep the room nice and cozy. Soon we was conflicted ’bout whether or not to sleep in the bedroom, considerin’ how cold it got outside, but we decided it better to keep it real, real hot in there instead.

One propane tank turned into two, then three, then four. Eventually it got so hard to keep up the gas that I near ’bout considered admittin’ where we was parked and hookin’ into electricity. I moved on with the Mexicans to the next job, and Janie was good enough at her job that they wanted her to become a specialist in the Bojangles’ Biscuit Bots.

At last the egg started hatchin’ in November of ’72. It was the middle of the night when I felt Janie’s lil’ hand shakin’ me to wake up, and I stirred just the slightest amount.

“Y’hear that?” I ’member her askin. I blinked my eyes a couple times, seein’ her eyes sparkle in the dark and the dogs pantin’ in the background.

I listened close for a minute, mostly just hearin’ a dog scratchin’ at the bedroom door and the whir of the space heater in the background. But then, sure ’nuff, I got an earful of the eggshell crackin’ away. My eyes lit up and I scrambled, hands picking myself up from the floor where I was sleepin.’ Some of the carpet came up in my hand, makin’ me fall, but my clever mind followed what Janie asked. “The egg.”

She nodded and helped me up. “C’mon – let’s go watch!”

I shoved the dog out of the way and opened the door behind her. I turned on the overhead lights, disappointed to find most of the bulbs had burnt out and it’d be dim in the room at best. The ceilin’ fan attached started wigglin’ the light every which-a-way, too, since a couple of the blades had been whacked off by my cousin Jim, who’d owned the trailer afore we did.

Janie didn’t pause a lick when she went over to the drawer. She picked up the Coleman lantern and revved it up. “It’s hatchin’!” she cried out. “Brett, lookit! We’re about to have a baby!”

I squeezed her so hard that she prob’ly near ’bout burst. I’d waited and waited for this moment, and finally it was happening. The cracks formed around the egg in a random pattern, much as you would expect from a dragon or a bird.

“I love you, Janie.” I gave her a kiss.

Then a spike poked out of the egg. Janie gasped and sat back. “Brett, what was that?”

More spikes poked out, goop from the egg splurting out everywhere. I heard screaming, just like a child, come from the egg, and my heart began to hurt. “It needs help!” I said.

“No – you cain’t! You never want to help something out of its egg, ever!”

At about that moment, the creature succeeded at pushing enough of the eggshell away that I could see it was a spider the size of a basketball, screechin’ like a newborn and all the black legs wigglin’ crazy.

Janie just put her hands up to her face and screamed. “Get the gun!” I shouted, pushin’ her back.

She froze, though, so I had to scramble out of the room. I fought through the dogs to get out the bedroom door and find the gun stuffed under the couch cushions. A couple of shells popped into the double barrel twelve gauge and I was ready to fight the monster.

I came back into the bedroom to find that Janie’s mood had changed. I pointed the gun at the dresser, but she was in the way. “Janie,” I said, “Janie, get out of the way.”

She turned her head to look at me and kept her fingers in the dresser drawer. “Brett,” she said, “Brett…it’s cryin.’ It’s cryin,’ and I don’t know how to fix it.”

“A shotgun to the head, that’s what! We shoulda known the damn Yanks couldn’t do anything good – this ain’t a dragon, honey, it’s a gol-dern spider!”

The spider’s legs wiggled in the drawer, the egg continued to crack more. I listened to it cry, saw it wasn’t harming Janie in the least. I didn’t understand how Janie brought herself to touch the thing, not at the time, but I heard the same cry she did.

It was a human cry.

“It’s a baby,” Janie said. “It’s…it’s not a dragon, but it’s just a baby…”

I put the gun down to my side. “We cain’t keep a spider, Janie. Spiders eat blood.”

She brushed a finger over the spider, fearless, then used a shirt to wipe away some of the grime from its legs. Though it didn’t seem to know what she was doin,’ it reached up to her. “I don’t know what to do,” she said. “Get it some instant breakfast or somethin.”’ She reached deeper into the drawer, picking up the baby spider and cradling it in her arms. “It’s our baby, Brett.”

And so I did what she asked, goin’ to the kitchen and fixin’ our baby spider a protein shake. That did good ’nuff ’til we went to the vet and got some formula the next day.

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