Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Expire (08/01/13)
TITLE: Use My Breath
By P. J. Baker
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“Hey Charlie, wanna see my worms?” asked Ned. He held up a glass jar half full of pink, wriggling earthworms.
“Cooool!” said Charlie. He held out his hand and Ned dropped a worm onto it. “Feels sort a weird” said Charlie.
“Yeah, can’t keep ‘em long, gotta put ‘em back in the ground before they dry out. Roaches make better pets” said Ned. “See ya!”
Charlie shivered, remembering the horror of discovering a roach on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night. But worms are ok, he thought.
Charlie sat pondering what sort of pet he’d like, when he heard a loud smash of glass and a scream that ripped apart the air. He jumped, dropping his toy train. “Mom?” he shouted. “Mom, are you ok?”
He ran up the stairs two at a time and found mom in the bathroom, her hand covering her mouth. There was water on the floor, and a broken tumbler. And in the bath was the largest spider Charlie had ever seen.
“It’s just a spider, Mom” he said, taking the other tumbler from the shelf above the sink. He carefully lay the empty glass down on its side in front of the terrified spider. It ran sideways then stopped. Mom screamed again.
This time Charlie tried placing the tumbler upside down over the spider, but the spider scuttled away toward the plughole. But just before the tumbler caught him, he changed direction and ran toward the other end of the bath.
Charlie started laughing, and his hand was shaking so he couldn’t keep the tumbler still. He put the glass down. Mom began laughing too: “it’s running in eight different directions!”
The spider stood still watching Charlie and his mom shake with laughter. Then it crawled right into the glass!
“See! It wants to be my pet!” said Charlie. He upturned and covered the tumbler with a piece of card. Then he ran to fetch the empty fish tank from the basement, and put the spider inside it.
“Hey Ned, come and look at this!” shouted Charlie from his front step. Ned ran over.
“WOW! That’s awesome!” said Ned. They looked for dead insects in their gardens and basements to put in the spider’s tank.
“Night, night spider” said Charlie, turning off his lamp. He smiled in the darkness.
The next morning, Charlie woke early and jumped out of bed to see his pet spider. But it was lying on its back with all eight legs in the air.
He tapped on the glass. It didn’t move. He poked it with a pencil. It didn’t move. He shook the tank. The spider shook and one leg fell off. But it still didn’t move.
“Mom!” shouted Charlie.
“Sorry honey, your spider has breathed its last breath. It’s not living anymore, it’s dead.”
Charlie opened the lid and breathed into the tank several times. “Use my breath, spider” he whispered. The spider didn’t move.
“Charlie, honey, creatures have a life cycle: they are born, they grow up and they have babies. If spiders didn’t die there would be millions and millions of them, and they would upset the balance of creatures.
Charlie thought about this for a second. He liked, no, loved spiders but what if they were everywhere? Eating on his dinner plate, or sleeping in his shoes. Running around in his bed or nesting in his hair. He shivered at the thought.
“We’ll say goodbye properly by having a funeral” said Mom. They dug a hole in the ground by the back wall.
“Dust to dust, ashes to ashes” said Mom. “That means the spider will melt back into the ground and feed the soil.” Charlie laid him in the hole and sprinkled soil over him until all eight legs were covered.
“Goodbye spider” he said sadly.
“Mom?” he asked. “Can we get a hamster?”
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