He sat at the edge of the microwave, imperious, but stunned. Three cycles of being cooked two minutes at a time took something out of him. He was too tiny to the human eye to see that his little arachnid abdomen was rising and falling like a bellows struggling to keep his tiny life flame burning.
I’d seen him the first time, so small that his thread thin six legs were wondrous in moving him about, as if he were lifted on puffs of air. My first impulse was to crush him, and that from a strange but universal fear. This itzy-bitzy non-venomous marvel of locomotion equipped with a millennia of programmed survival behaviors, beyond any power of computer technology to copy miracle for miracle, and I, so much more advanced, but infinitely more barbaric, craved to crush him on the spot. But my Zen training paid off, and I hesitated that nano-second of time needed to ask: why? Why crush a miracle of motion? What really did this creature add or detract from the sum total of my well-being?
He was lowering himself now, incredibly having the energy and intact mechanisms to spin a thread from his perch on the edge to the hot stove below. Of course, he didn’t grasp initially that he was jumping from the microwave and into the burner. This had to be the tinniest spider I had ever seen, and the most resilient. Was he some sort of genetic anomaly? Would he turn into a six-legged Godzilla in the morning, devouring everything in the refrigerator, leaving behind the dirty dishes, and then finishing me off for dessert? No, he was just a minuscule super spider, proof positive of heroic things coming in small packages. I knew somehow it would be a grave sin, worse than receiving communion in a state of mortal sin, to crush this little hero. But then, it occurred to me that the sins of omission are as great as those of commission.
But as I weighed the absurdity of an attempted rescue, he was already feeling the heat, and reversing direction. Left with only the option of up, and realizing that dangling was itself a predicament, he pulled himself back over the edge, and collapsed back into the microwave exhausted. He should have burst open like the chihuahuas put in the microwave by well-meaning old women hoping to quick dry their pooches. But he hadn’t. He had something called mettle. As surely as the programming that produced webs, this one had a program that produced a transcendent will to live. To crush this one would be to crush the sacred design itself etched over the eons.
So as much to honor the microwave safe arachnid as to honor the One who pulled off this incredible design, I tried to communicate my intentions. “It’s okay little fella. Just get aboard, and we’ll find you a nice place outside where you can enjoy the open air, bushes, leaves, dirt, everything to make your final spider days happy.” But my charge was not listening. I could tell, he was not well. As I moved the sheet of paper closer, he didn’t move. Sometimes catching your breath takes precedence, especially if was close to being your last. So small and fragile was he that I dared not press the paper too close for fear of crushing him, this time by good intention instead of ill. And so I let him rest. I gave him a minute, which is a long time in a spider’s life, I suppose. And then, as if some higher power transmitted my redeemed purpose to his nearly fried micro-brain, he moved onto the awaiting magic carpet as if taking a seat on a Boeing 747. I walked the 20 or so human steps through the front door, but very slowly, knowing air resistance alone could push him over the edge and onto the jungle of carpeting fibers below, to die among the synthetic threads climbing over one knot after another, unable to traverse or even see the few feet leading to freedom through the crack under the door. For a few feet was something like around the world for this little guy. But having the sense to take his seat in the first place, he was smart enough kick back for the flight. In no time, Flight 006 from microwave to ficus tree landed safely. Sorry pal, no meal service provided for these short flights, but you’ll find plenty of home-cooking there among the debris. As obediently as he boarded, he disembarked, and hardly visible in the first place, he now forever disappeared from my sight, merging from my microscopic into his macroscopic.
That night, whether true or dream, how can we know, when spiders survive 3 bouts of being hyper-cooked, he appeared to me in the dead of night. Most would describe the appearance of a six foot tall talking spider appearing at the foot of your bed as a nightmare. But this phantasmagoria had six instruments, enough to play a Vivaldi chamber piece, and then share six shots whiskey to cap off the night, three apiece. Not a word had been spoken from the morning before to the present, but as he packed away his flutes and violins into their cases, and wiped clean the glasses and fitted them into their velvet casing, he turned, just before crawling along the wall, up the window ledge, and into the vast dark outside, to say,
“No miracle saved goes unnoticed.”