The Spider Dies Because Nobody Watered Him // Mick Malone

A kiss is never long enough, I tell her. And it’s always too soon that we arm tongues and teeth and hands. Is it strange that I want to touch lips and lie with you all night? I want to sew my mouth to yours and breathe each other until we faint and sleep.

I wipe the blood from her gaping stomach and frown. My hands are sticky and pruned with lines etching the flesh like broken capillaries and tiny lightning strikes. We wipe our hands on starch white handkerchiefs. The blood stains sanguine Rorschachs, resembling open windows through tree branches where we can hide like children and dine on phantoms. They resemble carnivorous plants in city streets, creatures of ink with enormous claws, flightless birds hiding in our light bulbs.

Autumn offers a consoling smile. I watch clouds roll in over the oceans in her blue eyes. I want to dive into her pupils.

“You worry too much,” she whispers in my ear. She climbs up, tippy-toed, with her arms washing over my shoulders, her fingers interlacing behind my neck. I breathe in the thick locks of her hair, a dark mane of curling waves. The ocean horrifies me, vast and endless with shadows of colossal beasts lurking in the deep, but with Autumn, I’ll gladly be the emaciated man in the diving bell trapped in the muck at the bottom.

“The wolf came back last night,” I say to her. He hides inside our walls, dining on beetles and woodchips. He wears a white elephant mask, and I watch him through the heating vents. Once in a while, he’ll come out to sneak milk from our fridge and eat peanut butter from a spoon. I’ll pour him a strong drink, and we’ll discuss the psychology of popular monsters, like why does an Alicanto devour gold when he could trade for better seed, and why does an Aswang replace a cadaver with banana trunks?

Autumn smiles and takes my hand, leading me out to the garden and smearing warm blood on my palm. The blood smear resembles crescent moths and ruined benches where she teases me for being unable to sufficiently pen sex scenes between plants. She spent last night planting our broken dishes and spider webs in the garden, watering them from her perpetually wounded belly in an attempt to prove that you can grow something beautiful out of anything. The tilled piece of land remained barren, aside from the tiny birds hopping about, dipping their beaks beneath the soil in search of squirmy treats.

“What did the wolf say?” she asks, running a hand through her hair and ruffling it in the back with her fingers. The air smells of worms, thick with haze from the spring rain.

“He’s been ill,” I say, watching her chest rise and fall with deep breaths. I follow streams of blood run dark on her white dress, an oil spill on white sandy beaches. “I gave him some peppermint.”

The forest beyond the garden is mostly dark. The frail milky moonlight can only penetrate the tree canopy where the caterpillars have congregated and chewed holes in the freshly green leaves. Further into the woods is a large pond with a carpet of trees beneath. The ground had sunk and flooded, but the trees remained alive. The birds caught in their nests grew gills, and their feathers turned to rainbow scales. The worms in the soil sprouted eyes and became eels. The bird eggs left behind were adopted by freshwater clams that held them close in their chests until they became baby blue pearls; the rich women at the top of the hill would hire men to dive and retrieve them for jewelry. Once they were all snatched up, the water turned acidic and murky. The trees jettisoned their bark and dropped their leaves to the soil below, binding with the skin that the eels shed and rot, forming a coagulated gelatin floor. The birds broke the surface and flew to the sea. The divers soon realized they couldn’t wipe the often appearing smudges from their eyeglasses; the affliction was to their eyesight. The haze of the swamp continuously rises; it’s only visible at night in the polluting lights of the mansions on the top of the hill beyond the trees.

“They’re having a party tomorrow,” Autumn says, looking at the lights that blur and form crosses in the haze. “Maybe they’d like to buy some fruit.”

In the apple orchard, Autumn wraps her arms around my waist and leans into me. She stains flowers swallowing bumble bees on my white vest and trouser pockets.

We planted the orchard in two weeks, using butterfly wings as seeds. Autumn nourished them from her wound. The rows upon rows of trees—with their crooked limbs and bouquets of banana fingers, pear and apple eyes, and berry teeth—is a reminder and a plea to embrace the fantastical lest we bury ourselves too.

Autumn plucks a blueberry with stained fingers and mashes it between her teeth. She grins when it pops and leaks purple on her lips. I reach down and kiss the bitter syrup from her mouth until she pulls back and smiles. The orchard absorbs the sounds from the road where I first met Autumn months ago, kneeling in her white dress and clasping her bleeding belly in the rain.

She speaks to the trees, apologizes for amputating and thieving, and promises to reimburse everything. She leaves bloody I.O.Us on flowers and trunks – elephants swimming in rain puddles, wheelchair bound stew pots, and mouse ears.

“When you die, then I’ll kiss your lips as long as you want,” she whispers under the sheets, her nose brushing against mine. “And when you tell me it’s okay, I’ll plant you in my garden and water you ‘til you’ve grown back.”

I reach behind her ear and dip my fingers in her hair, twirling strands into silken ribbons as we touch smiles. She always spits these oddly adorable sentiments laced in her natural beauty and saccharine sweet that rots my teeth and gums. I’m the haggard bridge troll with a face blushing tomato red, stumbling over sentence fragments about feeding my shadow to her, if only to patch the wound that bleeds shipwrecks on our bed sheets. We listen to the rain hitting our roof; the wind blowing through the window slams and opens our bedroom door and its broken clasp. I slide a band of porcelain on her ring finger when she falls asleep and kiss the wound above her belly button. I fall asleep with wilted dreamcatchers and treasure chests on my lips.

I dream of sitting with Autumn at breakfast. She softly sinks and retrieves a peppermint tea bag from a white mug, and I watch two birds tear a worm in half on our windowsill. A colossal beige spider grows from our garden; green and pink Venus flytraps, spiny pink sundews, and veined parrot pitchers flower over its smudged torso. Eight eyes composed of broken plates and mugs watch me as I reach out with my right hand to touch Autumn’s. I wonder if my palms are sweaty or if she cares. The fingers of my left hand wrap around the handle of my tea mug, and the cup bursts with the sound of horse hooves mangling dirt clods on a gravel road. Scalding tea spills, spreading chips of broken porcelain over the wooden tabletop. Autumn looks up at me, ignoring the mess, and smiles reassuringly. My chair tips forward, dumping me against the table, as the broken white shards wash across the top like an outgoing tide. The spider dies because nobody watered him. I tumble with the tide, upside down and desperately grabbing for Autumn’s hand. Her eyes don’t follow me as I roll off the table and out the front door.

When I wake up, Autumn isn’t bleeding anymore. The wound dried up and crusted black. Her stomach no longer breaths life. I comb her hair back, a lush and thick hypoxic ocean where pink and blue coral turns to grey stone in the depths. I change her dress and watch as the cloth remains white and dry. Alone, I stain vacationing house centipedes and unmade beds for widows’ daughters on my vest and sleeves.

The wolf and I bury Autumn in the garden, next to where she planted her broken dishes and spider webs, and where a gaping hole remains from something that grew and vacated overnight. We listen to the sounds of the party from the mansion on top of the hill. I think I’ll try to sell them some fruit.

Mick Malone is a writer, musician, and college dropout from Pittsburgh, PA. His most recent collection of poetry, Doom Riddles, is now available on Amazon.