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Alan's Adventures With Arthropods

“What can I get you?” asked the lady behind the bar.

“I’ll have a pint of your best quaffing ale, please” I said. She reached for a glass and began to pour my beer, being careful to put a nice head on it so as to trap the full flavour in the glass. My dry throat ached with anticipation as I watched the golden fluid rise up through the pint pot. My fingers twitched, eager to hold the glass. She shut off the tap just as the foam began to crawl over the edge. Beads of moisture glistened and ran down the side of the glass. I reached thirstily out for it, but she put it to one side, picked up another and began the whole operation all over again.

I stared in horror at my abandoned pint. “What was wrong with the first one?” I asked.

“Just as I finished pouring it, a fly flew in from nowhere at all, dived head first into the glass, splashed around for a little bit and then drowned. Didn’t you hear the pathetic gurgles as it splashed around in its death throes?”

“No,” I said. “I was concentrating too much on the perfect pint you were pouring for me. Can I see the fly?”

She handed me the original glass. A small black speck floated forlornly in the foam. She handed me my fresh, flyless pint and I took a deep and extremely satisfying swallow. “What will happen to the original?” I asked.

“Oh I’ll give it to the landlord,” she said. “He’s not fussy and if I don’t tell him about the fly, he’ll probably never even notice it. He tends to close his eyes and drink his beer in one continuous gulp. He’s a philistine. As long as the fly doesn’t tickle his oesophagus on the way down and make him cough he’ll be perfectly OK with it.”

“I really think you should tell him about the fly,” I said.

“Where’s the fun in that?” she retorted and trotted off in search of her thirsty boss. I sipped my pint and mused about the idiosyncrasies of arthropods.

Wavy music and eerie lines...wavy lines and eerie music...wavy music and eerie lines...

I don’t use my microwave oven very much. Mainly I consider it to be just a convenient mechanism for defrosting frozen stuff and for re-heating already cooked stuff. However it has one indispensible feature – it has a countdown timer buried somewhere in its complicated controls. I use that almost every day in order to keep track of the savoury sauces simmering on the stove.

One day I walked over to the microwave to press the timer button. As my finger floated towards the control panel I noticed that I could no longer see the glowing digits that told the time and which helpfully decreased themselves sequentially when the timer was activated. There was a blob obscuring the digits and several thin wavy lines spread out from it. My first thought was that the glass over the digits was cracked. I diverted my finger from its journey to the timer button and rubbed it across the glass. I couldn’t feel any cracks so I looked a bit more closely and counted very carefully. There were eight thin lines radiating out from the central blob. And now one of them was waving at me...

Oh my goodness.


Robin wandered into the kitchen. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

Too overcome for words, I just pointed at the microwave. Robin squatted down and examined it closely. “Well I never,” she said. “There’s a spider trapped behind the glass. It looks like it’s sunbathing in the glow of the clock digits. I wonder how it got there?”

“More to the point, can it get out and start nibbling on whatever I’ve got going round and round in the chamber? I’m not sure I fancy eating spider leftovers for tea.”

“I doubt that,” said Robin. “The chamber is all sealed off. Look how thin the spider is. The poor thing is probably starving to death. There can’t be very much for a spider to eat deep in the bowels of a microwave machine. Can’t you be a good Buddhist and unscrew everything so you can let it out?”

“No,” I said. “I’m not dismantling the microwave just to release a skinny spider. It got itself in there, it can get itself out or die in the attempt.”

“Perhaps it crawled in through one of the ventilation holes in the back when it was a baby,” suggested Robin. “But now it’s grown too big to get out of the holes again.”

“And just what do you suppose it lived on while it was growing so big?” I asked.

“I imagine it probably fed on its brothers and sisters,” said Robin. “It’s very unlikely that it went in there alone. Doubtless it’s an extremely persuasive spider, and it must have convinced its whole family that they would all have a great adventure if they went exploring inside the microwave. And because they all came along, it knew that it would always be home in time for tea. What a cunning spider!”

“Yes,” I said, “now that you come to mention it, I vaguely recall hearing faint screams of agony coming from deep inside the microwave for the last couple of weeks. I think you’ve hit the nail right on the head. Those screams must have been the sound of the spider feeding.”

I decided not to use the microwave timer any more. There’s also a mechanical timer built into the cooker. It’s not as accurate as the timer in the microwave because its cogs are clogged with grease but it will do in an emergency, and there was no doubt in my mind that this was an emergency. I refused to go anywhere near the microwave oven as long as the spider was living in it. I was scared that the microwaves might have given it super powers and that when it saw my finger approaching for a quick poke at the controls it would shatter the glass and come roaring after me, eager to suck the marrow from my bones. No thank you very much.

For the next day or so the spider hung around and bathed in the eerie glow of the clock diodes. Then it crawled back to wherever it had come from and vanished from view deep into the bowels of the machine where presumably it eventually starved to death. It wasn’t long before the faint but unmistakeable smell of rotting spider permeated the kitchen. Robin sniffed appreciatively.

“Are you cooking curry for tea?” she asked.

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