The spider had created a web in a corner of the kitchen, but she let it
live. It was a small, round spider. It wasn't a pretty spider or a
delicate spider. But she had been killing so many things lately, she
couldn't see fit to kill the spider. And besides, it was too fat to
crush without feeling the impact.
Moths and worms. She had inadvertently brought them home from the
health food store. When she discovered what she had done, she had no
idea how dire the consequences would be. Soon, her bags of flour were
teeming with moths. Worms crawled up the pantry walls. They made
cocoons in the seams of wrappers. She kept hoping that somehow they
would just go away, but they didn't.
For a long time it didn't even cross her mind to kill them. As a
teenager, she had been a proud pacifist. It was a long time since those
idealistic days, but still she didn't like killing things.
One night, she was asleep in the car, her friend Robin at the wheel,
when they hit a porcupine. She felt the thump under the car, and
simultaneously heard Robin's shriek. "Oh, God!"
"What? What was that?"
"I hit a porcupine! I think I hit a porcupine!"
They circled back to see if they could find what they had hit. To
confirm. Or to locate, perhaps, some kind of exoneration; a
miracle absolution, an unscathed animal trundling off into the
They saw nothing in the darkness. They heard an awful shrieking.
Robin told her about a time when she was just a girl, a passenger in
the car with her father at the wheel. "I could see a bird struggling,
stuck somehow to the road. I wondered what it was, how it was stuck
there, and then in an instant, before I even knew what was happening,
my father ran over it, finished it off. He didn't say anything. Didn't
say a word."
"I was only five years old! I didn't know what to say. I was shocked.
She wanted to have something to confess. She wanted to kneel down in a
church. She wanted to say Hail Marys and the Lord's Prayer and have it
be done with. But she was not Catholic, and she had no church to go to,
no Father to bless her.
At the start, she killed them one by one. She used rolled up magazines
at first, but soon she found she could clap them between her bare
hands. Sometimes that was just more efficient.
But it wasn't enough.
Finally she accepted the fact that she needed to do a vast cleansing of
her pantry. She threw out every box and bag, anything that was infested
or had even possibly been tainted. She knew she had to clear it out and
start again. She went on killing moths, waiting for the cycle to starve
She told Robin, I understand now what it means to be jilted. Robin did
not know what she meant, and she could not explain it.
Jennifer Lunden is a practicing therapist and the founder and executive
director of the Center for Creative Healing in Portland, Maine. Her
essay "The Butterfly Effect," from Creative Nonfiction,
won a Pushcart Prize.
Read her postcard.
Detail of photo on main page courtesy
of Digo Souza.
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