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  • LaVern Spencer McCarthy

Aunt Maizie

School was out for the summer, and Willard and his twin brother, Dillard were happy. They couldn't wait to spend their days sleeping late, exploring the woods near their home and catching fish in the river. They wanted to see their friends and also go to the circus that would be coming to town in a week or two.

Unfortunately, Mom and Dad had other ideas. They had booked reservations to attend a nudist camp for two weeks, and of course the boys could not go. It would strain their sensitivities. Grandma, who lived with them, was not welcome to go either. She would have a hissy fit if she even knew what they were up to.

The boys were checking out their fishing lures when Dad popped into their room.

"Hey, boys," he said. "Your mother and I are going on a two-week vacation. We have made arrangements for you two and your grandma to visit Aunt Maizie in Harbunkle, Kansas." Dillard threw his lure back into the tackle box.

"We don't want to go," he whined. Grandma, who sat on the bed, looked at her son sternly. 

"You know good and well that Maizie is no good. I wouldn't let her be around my pet pig, if I had one. She is my daughter, but she is evil!" Dad looked at her fondly. He walked over and patted her back.

"Just because she had that run-in with the law once when she hog-tied the sheriff and left him in the middle of Main Street doesn't mean she is all bad."

"Humph" went Grandma. "I wouldn't put anything past that woman. The last time I heard anything about her, she was into the occult."  Dad gave her his sternest expression.

"You have to go anyway. We can't trust you to be here with the boys by yourself. I know Dillard and Willard are almost sixteen, but you are too unstable to be left here without supervision." Grandma glared at him.

“If you are talking about when I set my bedroom on fire, that was over five years ago," she sniffed. 

"But you never stopped smoking," Dad reminded her. 

"I only smoke two a day," she grumbled. 

"Two packs a day," Dad replied. "Not only are you going with the boys to visit Maizie, you are going to have to do without cigarettes during that time. Maizie doesn't allow smoking in her house."

"Well, whoop-ti-do," Grandma sneered. "You have everything planned out, don't you. Where are you two going anyway?"  Dad's face turned red.

"None of your business." Grandma looked at him knowingly.

"I'll bet you are going to that nudist camp in Dodge City. I've seen brochures about it all over the house."

"That's not true," Dad lied. He retrieved three round trip bus tickets from his pocket. 

"Here," he said, giving one to each person. "You leave in three days. Have your bags packed and ready to go." Grandma looked sadly at the boys.

"Well, boys, you are going to have to put up with me for a while whether you like it or not." Dillard ran to his grandma, hugging her.

"We don't mind," he assured her. "We love to be around you."

"Yeah!" seconded Willard. "We'll have a real good time."  Grandma wasn't so sure, but she didn't want to discourage the boys before they started. Three days later they were on their way to Harbunkle to see Maizie. Grandma kept bumming cigarettes from the people riding the bus until Willard gave her part of his newspaper money to buy them with. 

They had only one suitcase for the three of them. Each boy had a couple of shirts and trousers and several pairs of underwear and socks. Willard also carried three sleeping bags in a large, heavy-duty canvas bag. Grandma only had a few items to wear since she knew this was not to be an extended visit. She kept the return bus tickets in her purse, ready to be used as soon as possible. 

She had no desire to spend time with her daughter, Maizie. There had been too many incidents in the past for Grandma to trust her. However, she would try to make the best of the visit. Perhaps she and the boys could make themselves scarce for two weeks. 

The three walked from the bus station to Aunt Maizie's house. It was in a derelict part of town. Strangers stared as they passed by. One guy who looked like a gangster snickered and said something about ugly, old Grandma. Grandma ran up to him and kicked him in the shin. He limped away whimpering. 

"You're not as tough as you thought, huh boy?" she shouted after him. When they reached Aunt Maizie's house, they were appalled by the sight of it. Tall weeds grew in the yard. The house needed paint, and the shutters hung by a nail or two. The area around the place smelled like a backed-up sewer. Grandma and the boys pushed through the weeds and approached the residence warily. 

When Aunt Maizie answered the doorbell, she looked as if she had been on a two-week drunken spree. Her eyes widened at the sight of them.

"I thought you would be here next week," she told them." I haven't got much to eat at the moment.

"Don't worry about it," Grandma answered as she pushed her way past her daughter. She looked around the living room. There were cobwebs with dead bugs in them everywhere.

"Where's the broom?" Grandma asked Maizie. "I'll help tidy up this wretched place. Those cobwebs have got to go."

"No!" Maizie shouted. "Those are my snacks!" Grandma turned to look at her, aghast.

"Since when did you start eating dead bugs?" 

"Since I learned they are a good source of protein," Maizie told her. Willard and Dillard snickered. 

"Grandma, I heard she was off her rocker and now I know for sure," Willard said. Maizie rounded on him.

"Shut up, you little jerk!" she screeched. "I'll eat whatever I please." Grandma frowned.

"And what exactly are we supposed to eat while we are here?"

"I don't care if you starve!" Maizie snarled.

Grandma and the boys went to the nearest McDonalds for dinner. Grandma could not believe how much Maizie had changed in the several years since she had seen her. Maizie had developed long, spindly legs and arms. Her torso was oval shaped. She was nearly bald, only a few sparse hairs grew around her ears. She wore a black dress with a bright red symbol of some kind on the bodice. Her feet were clad in red heels and she wore red framed glasses. Grandma couldn't put her finger on what had changed, but Maizie looked odd. 

Since Maizie did not own a television or computer, the boys were extremely bored. Grandma was not, but she was curious.

"What do you do around here, and how are you surviving?" Maizie glared at her.

"None of your business!" she spat. 

"Okay, okay," Grandma replied. "There's no reason for you to be so hateful." 

"There's an arcade half a mile from here," Maizie informed her mother. 

"You and the boys can get out of my hair.” 

What hair?" inquired Dillard, then burst into howls of laughter. 

"Humph," said Grandma. "I can see we are not wanted around here." She grabbed her purse.

"Come on, boys, let's go."

The boys loved going to an arcade, no argument there. After getting directions from Maizie, they were on their way.

"I wonder why Aunt Maizie is so gripey,”" Willard said.

"I don't know," replied Grandma, avoiding a broken place in the sidewalk. "We may have to shorten our visit even if your parents don't want us to." 

"We will if we have to," Dillard assured her. "We trust you, grandma. You have never let us down." Grandma smiled.

"And I won't," she told him. "I can watch after you two at home as well as here."

After several hours at the arcade the trio had sandwiches and drinks at the arcade snack bar. They decided to go back to Maizie's house for the night, but all three were leery. Grandma said she had bad vibes but would try to make the best of it. 

When they reached Maizie's home, there was no sign of her. They looked through the filthy house, calling for her. Wondering if she had gone out for the evening, they put their sleeping bags in the middle of the living room floor and crawled in.

In the middle of the night Willard jerked awake. He felt as though something was choking him. He grabbed his neck. It felt hot and painful. Had something bitten him?  He whispered to Dillard,

"Are you awake?"

"Yes," came the reply.

"Something bit me." 

"Me too," said Willard.

"Here, also," Grandma whispered. "Everything is black." No streetlights illuminated the living room as before.

"Where are we?" Dillard asked.

"I don't know," admitted Willard. "Something is very strange." He felt around. His hand touched something soft like cotton candy or spun cotton. He tried to move the substance. It was strong. Grandma's foot touched his knee. They were close to each other. Willard touched Dillard’s shoulder. They were wrapped in something that felt sinister. Some sort of slime covered them completely. They soon realized they were trapped inside a cocoon-like structure. Willard cut a small hole in the substance with his pocket knife and peered through it.

"What do you see?" Grandma whispered. Willard could not believe what he was looking at.

"It’s a spider.”

"What's it doing?"

“It's sitting at a table reading a newspaper."

"This is no time for jokes!" Grandma hissed. 

"It's no joke," Willard said. "It looks like a big black widow spider with several pairs of red plastic framed monocles and red stiletto heels on five of its feet. Two other legs are holding the newspaper, and one leg has a cup of tea the spider is sipping. It has a red, hour glass on its stomach. I think it's Aunt Maizie." 

Grandma nudged Willard away from the hole and peered through it. 

"I remember a birthmark she had on her head. I can still see an outline of it," Grandma whispered. Willard shuddered.

"What do you think she plans to do with us?" he asked Grandma. Grandma turned away from the hole and let Dillard have a peek.

"She plans to eat us, most likely," she told him. Dillard moved away from the hole.

"We can't let that happen," he decided. "We will have to trick her somehow."

"Yeah, we have to get out of here," Willard agreed. "For now, let's try to rest." From their position in relation to the table Maizie-Spider sat at, Willard knew they must be hanging on the wall. 

The cocoon was huge. It held the three of them, their sleeping bags, and the canvas bag they had used to haul them in. Grandma had her purse with her by some miracle. The three of them had vicious headaches from being drugged with some form of venom. Fortunately, no real harm had come to them, yet.

They slept on top of their sleeping bags because the cocoon was stuffy from lack of ventilation. While they slept, the hole Willard had made was being widened. Around two o'clock in the morning Dillard felt something brush his face. He was awake instantly. He sat up. Several red eyes were watching him. He screamed. 

Grandma and Willard jerked awake. They screamed also, not knowing what was happening but afraid. Dry, creepy, feathery spider legs were all over them as the spider made her way into the cocoon. 

"Kick it!" Dillard shrieked. They did, but it took several attempts before they were able to force it out of the cocoon. Finally, it hissed and withdrew. 

"It bit me!" Dillard whimpered. There was no sleep for anyone the rest of the night. When morning finally arrived, the three tried to think of a way to escape.

"Try to cut another hole with your knife," Dillard suggested. Willard began to explore their prison with his knife. He struck something solid. After much effort, he felt the outer wall their prison was attached to, crumble, making a hole big enough for escape. He was relieved that the walls were rotten.

"If we escape, she will come after us," Grandma said. "We have to trap her."

The boys agreed, but how? They decided to wait for nightfall to trap the spider. All three were very hungry, and thirsty but had nothing to eat or drink. 

"When we get out of this, I will buy us Big Macs and huge colas," Willard promised.

"Yes, and I'm going to give my son and your mother a piece of my mind," Grandma said.

"I know they went to that nasty nudist camp even though they denied they were going there." The boys snorted.

"We knew all the time," Dillard confessed. "I heard them talking about it when they thought they were alone."

Later that night they laid their trap. They told Grandma to crawl out of the hole Willard had made and wait for them nearby, which she did. Around 2:00 a.m. they heard the spider as she began to widen the hole she had closed when she left the cocoon the first time. 

"Shh", Willard whispered. "It won't be long now." Come on, come on, you piece of evil. The boys waited until they could tell she was fully inside the cocoon. 

"Now!" shouted Willard. "Pull the strings tight!" They heard a squeal as they closed the top of the canvas bag they had brought from home. It was very heavy and strong. They had placed the top of it at the entrance of the hole the spider had made. She crawled into it. She would not be able to chew her way out of it even if she turned back into a human, and she would die. It was lucky that Maizie-Spider had enclosed it in the cocoon she had trapped them in. Hopefully she would suffocate soon. 

The twins hurriedly escaped their prison and were on their way to the bus station. Grandma had no idea how her daughter had changed into a spider, but she was glad to be leaving that horrible place. They had to wait for the next available bus, but were soon on their way home. They had a circus to attend and lots of fishing to do.

About LaVern Spencer McCarthy:

LaVern Spencer McCarthy has written and published twelve books of poetry and fiction.

Her work has appeared in Writers and Readers Magazine; Meadowlark Reader; Agape

Review; Bards Against Hunger; Down in The Dirt; The Evening Universe; Fresh Words

Magazine; Wicked Shadows Press; Midnight Magazine; Pulp Cult Press, Metasteller and

others. She is a life member of Poetry Society of Texas. A poem she wrote was

nominated for the 2023 Push Cart Prize.

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