John; Chapter 1, The Doorman Spider

By: Jessica Bishop

A man approached a large, wooden door where a small spider hung off the edge. Spinning and spinning, around the web he went. The sun drops danced along the clear web string that connected the spider to the side of the building. Constructed with grey brick the building loomed over the street in an air of respect and magnificence. Plain silver lettering, tattered from the sun, announcing “Mr. Peppercorn’s Museum of Wondrous and Amazing Things” gleamed underneath the spider’s numerous legs. He scurried along the inside of the mailbox, situated underneath the shiny, old lettering, and waited there to surprise the mailman, or perhaps just for the next unlucky housefly.

The man realized he had been staring and wondered how odd he must have looked from that street corner. Of course nobody saw the man, or the building for that matter, but the man was self-conscious none the less. The door emitted a low creak as he opened it and as he walked inside he couldn’t help but feel a sense of being watched. He stepped through the dusty doorway and onto the building’s concrete floors. It was dark, dark and quiet. The hush around him seemed to echo on forever. The man thought that perhaps he should just turn back. No harm done. He would just tiptoe through the doorway, wish the spider a farewell and be on his merry way home, just in time for supper. But he didn’t. He couldn’t. His legs were glued to that old, chipped concrete floor, and he knew that the job must be done.

Suddenly his ear picked up on the drip, drip, drip, of a leaky facet coming from somewhere down the corridor. The subtle splashing of water somehow gave his feet the courage to wonder onward. His boots made an odd clunking noise against the concrete, and despite his best efforts to plead with them to be quiet the boots ignored him and continued their thudding all the way down the hall. The florescent light above the sink flickered on and off, giving a strange illumination to the end of the hallway. With a sharp glance backward, the man entered the tiny janitor’s closet and turned the sink all the way off so that the dripping ceased.

The man instantly wished that he had just left the sink on, for the all consuming silence was somehow worse than the steady trickle of the facet. The closet was dusty. The doorman spider’s friends all scurried away at the sight of the man. He turned once again to the sink and smeared away the grime from the mirror. He pondered his reflection for sometime, noticing how the greyish bags under his eyes aged his face from his 32 years to a well-worn forty-something. His peppered black hair hung over his face, unkempt and wild, falling just over his bright green eyes. He looked exactly how he felt, weary and beaten down.

A loud bang startled him so much so that his hand slipped off the sink and went smashing into the mirror. Shards of glass scattered everywhere and mixed with the man’s blood as they gracefully fell towards the dirty closet floor. The man uttered a few choice curse words as he began to search through the cabinet for a first aid kit. He finally found the contents of one strewn across the shelf. He picked up the gauze wrap and tape and quickly wrapped his hand. He starred at it for some time with a look of discontent when he is again startled, but this time it was by a familiar voice.

“Damnit John, you can’t go anywhere without breaking something, you spaz. ” Fred…. he should have guessed. “Fred, you ass. I about nearly cut my hand off because of you. What the hell are you doing here?!” John exclaimed, with a sigh of bemused relief. Fred just grinned at him with a huge boyish smile.

If Fred was tired you couldn’t tell. His blue eyes flickered with the excitement of a well done prank. Despite the laugh lines etched into his face, Fred was a handsome man. Blonde curly hair reached out past his ears, just covering his masculine chin and strong cheekbones. John looked at Fred with such a sullen expression that the grin on Fred’s face vanished with haste and left a version of Fred that John had never seen before. He looked worried, and perhaps just a bit frightened.

John smoothed his voice into a calm. “I didn’t realize you were coming, you never said anything. In fact, last I heard you were at the other end of the country.” Fred smile returned. “I have to keep them guessing you know”, he replied with a wink and a sheepish expression. There was a long and awkward pause in which the two men just stared at one another in curiosity, each one sizing the other one up. Fred cleared his throat. “So have you found it yet?” he asked. “No, I just got here” replied John.

Before Fred could form a reply a distant light flicked on, and a familiar thudding echoed throughout the hallway, but this time it wasn’t from John’s own rude boots. “It seems that we should continue this adventure another time” said Fred in a hurried tone. “Agreed,” replied John as both men scurried back down the corridor and out the wooden door without even so much as a goodbye to the doorman spider.

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