Along Came a Spider

Too smart by half. People were constantly saying that about Jackie. Whenever he did something they didn’t like, whenever he got under their skin, that was their comeback: Too smart by half. It was meant as a put down. Jackie always pretended to misunderstand.

“Three-quarters,” he would say. And people would look at him, a long, slow look as they measured him, trying to decide just how much they disliked him. “Three-quarters then,” most would say, conceding the point so they didn’t run the risk of provoking him.

But every so often someone would decide that they disliked him sufficiently to pursue the matter. “No, not you. You got a ways to go before you reach three-quarters. By half. That certifies you as a genuine half-wit.” And Jackie’s toes would curl in delight. He would experience the most fantastic rush of pure joy. It was something akin to what a spider must feel as it watched a fly blunder into its web: A feeling that all was right with the world, that the grand design was playing out exactly as it was meant to.

Jackie often tried to put himself in the place of the spider. That way he could gauge his own reactions, calibrate them so that they more closely resembled those of the Master. Everybody had their role models. Some went with actors. Others thought that ball players were the goods. Jackie had known, from the time he was five, that his would be the spider.

“Math obviously isn’t your strong suit,” Jackie would reply and throw the chump a sly, sidelong look guaranteed to raise his hackles. “But that’s all right. People with your IQ, you’re lucky you can get out of bed in the morning. You’re lucky they didn’t toss you out and keep the afterbirth instead.” And the guy would get red in the face, genuinely angry now, feeling he couldn’t let an insult like that slide.

That’s when Jackie knew that he had them. They couldn’t talk their way down from a confrontation at that point. They couldn’t shrug it off. They were committed irrevocably. People were curious like that. They allowed themselves to be manipulated into a corner without really knowing what was happening to them. You might think that they could see what was coming – and would get the hell out of the way. But some fatal attraction, some irresistible lure, drew them on, beckoned them to their own destruction.

“I don’t say that you’re stupid. Why belabor the obvious? I do say that you’re pathetic and contemptible. But then, I’m sure you already knew that.” Jackie would flay his victims with insults, ridicule them till they lost it completely and came after him. Big mistake. Jackie wasn’t the most imposing looking guy physically. But his size was deceptive. He was quick and agile and had honed his skills to a fine edge of perfection. He burned with a fierce, unquenchable anger – anger that must not only destroy its object but terrorize and humiliate it. Had he not observed the Master?

It was surprising the number of insights you could pick up through simple observation. Jackie had learned that there were creatures in this world that were whole and complete unto themselves. Life forms that had fashioned an existence that was perfect in every regard, which lacked nothing. These creatures had carved out their own unique niche and there they reigned unchallenged, supreme. Such were spiders. All that Jackie sought for himself was to create such a life. Wherein he exercised complete control, he inspired terror and fear.

Immobilize the victim, kill them slowly. Emulate the Master. Jackie smiled. It all came to him so easily it was scary.


Thomas Canfield subscribes to a diet of Twinkies and warm beer. He harbors a deep animus towards spinach.