Mr. Lightfoot was thinking of his theory about the reality of fiction when he and Nicky arrived at Sam and Tova's apartment that evening.
"Hey, Tova – and Sam ..." he heard his daughter whisper over his shoulder.
Elvis Lightfoot stepped aside so his daughter couldn't hide behind him.
Sam rose from the couch and ambled towards the girl, arms outstretched.
"Nicolette," he crooned, "you know I done told you I don't blame you –"
"And you know I don't do hugs," she said, ducking his arms when he got close.
Sam chuckled. "Nice dodge," he said. "I am a good teacher, if I do say so myself."
"I'll hug you," Elvis offered deadpan. "It's probably a good way to begin."
Tova pulled Nicky aside. "Why don't we go have a look at the community garden while it's still light."
Nicky glanced at her father, who appeared thoughtful as he embraced Sam. Both men had their eyes closed.
"They're okay," she observed. "Let's go."
"Bring back any fresh greens you can find," her father murmured, and Nicky smiled.
Once the door closed behind the two ladies, Elvis released Sam and went to sit on the sofa, rummaging in the leather satchel he was carrying.
"That guy really has it in for you," he said. "At least here in your home I can burn some sage."
He transferred several items from his bag to the coffee table, including one that looked like a tiny greenish-brown witch's broom. He placed it in a beautiful abalone shell the size of a soup bowl. Striking a match, he set fire to the little sage bundle and regarded the flame for moment.
As the blaze dwindled and the smoke rose, Elvis started to hum.
Sam inhaled the warm herbal scent, which was vaguely reminiscent of turkey stuffing, and he was beginning to relax when Elvis abruptly stopped humming and spoke.
"It's all in your head, you know. Writer's block. Your lady told me about it when she called. I paint, you know. Love to look at a blank canvas and picture what I'm gonna put there. Guess writing, at least the kind you do, is something like that."
"Could be," Sam said, staring at the plume of smoke that drifted up from the shell on the coffee table. "Ain't never done no painting. Maybe I should take it up."
"You're a writer, Samuel. Samuel J. Burnside, that's you. That's who you're meant to be. Been reading your stories since I was a kid. Nothing like 'em."
"Been writing them since I was a kid."
"Yes sir. You got a pretty good imagination for a white guy. Glad you didn't try any more of them 'Indian' tales, though. That one you did wasn't –"
"I know, I know, I don't allow that one to get published no more if I can help it."
"Hmph. Well, let's get back to business. Mind if I have a look at your laptop?"
Sam raised his eyebrows. "I don't usually let anyone else touch it, but okay."
"I don't have to touch it. You boot it up and I'll look on over your shoulder."
He awoke with a start, feeling trapped. He had dreamed he was back in Merwa's coffin prison, and he'd smashed the thing on all sides with his fists only to have the dust settle and choke the life out of him.
Waking, Crane saw that there was, indeed, a sort of restraining barrier above his face where he lay: a fine net, glistening in the early morning light. Before he could raise a hand to destroy it, his eyes focussed on the small grey-brown spider that picked its six-legged way carefully across the net's surface.
A web, then.
Crane did a quick inventory of his physical assets: fingers and toes now moved without pain; no burning or tingling harried any part of his epidermis; the rush of blood through his muscles felt healthy and strong.
He looked more carefully at the web above his face and noticed that it was anchored to the young tree on one side and to a tasselled frond of grass on the other. Raising his hand carefully, he reached around the outer edge of the spider's weaving and extended a finger to the little creature.
The arachnid froze for a moment, as if weighing her options, and then she raised one delicate leg after another and sidled over to Crane's digit. After one more brief hesitation, she wobbled onto his hand and stood still.
"Thank you," he said softly. "I had forgotten one of my comrade's lessons: that you always have what you need at hand, if you but know how and where to look. And I'm certain I did hear young Ayelet once talk of the uses of spiders' webs."
Crane breathed deeply and let every muscle in his body relax. The spider rested gently on his knuckles as his hand lay dormant on his belly, rising and falling softly with his breath.
Free at last.
Overcome with a feeling of well-being, he took the time to consider whether he could arise from his supine state without disturbing his new friend's work of craft.
Suddenly the spider hissed and waved one leg in agitation. Listening intently, Crane heard a disturbance among the undergrowth. As the noises drew closer, man and spider froze like statues, waiting.
YOU ARE READING
Once upon a time there was a warrior queen who loved peace ... Mild-mannered writer Samuel J. Burnside is working on his latest adventure story, set in ancient Susa, where Queen Esther is teaching former harem slaves how to fight! But can Sam's new...