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Anansi

A spider crawled across the lawn, delicately treading on blades of grass that bent very slightly beneath his weight. Silent as a shadow, but not hard to miss, a fist-sized grey form upon the green, what we call a Donkey Spider. He lives in the ground, in the holes he digs, spinning no web but instead stalking his prey, and though in appearance generally placid and patient I have discovered how quick he can be.

They say that the father of all stories is a spider; his name is Anansi, he is made in the image of man, but still with eight legs, a big belly and a little head. He was born when the world was made, his mother was the Earth and his father was the Sky.

I grew up with the tales of Anansi, stories that came from Africa, and I imagined that the Donkey Spiders were his children so I chased after them to play. I filled their holes with the garden hose and forced them up to the surface. I’d catch them easily when they were sodden and still, and place them on the back of my shirt where they would quietly cling until they were dry. Then, they’d come to life, warmed by my body and climb up over my shoulders, and I would time this, as close to the moment of their reinvigoration as possible, to when I would walk into a mix of grownups, playing ignorant to the commotion I caused.

I saw one the other night and I bent down to watch him. He raised his front feet to me, waving hello and calling me closer. His big eyes watched as I poked my finger forwarded to stroke him. His fangs drooped down like the mustache of an old man. And I thought how gentle he must be that never in all my play had I ever been bitten.

I poked him once, and he did not move, then a second time and he remained still. But on the third time, he had me. Quicker than a flicker of lightning. He grappled my finger and pulled me forward. In my surprise I fell to the ground. Then, he was gone, faster than I could even see. Anansi had gotten me. He had lured me in, hypnotizing me with his big eyes and little head, dancing me closer until he could bite me!

And now I know how many times you have to poke a Donkey Spider before he bites; three times, exactly.

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