Back to Original Fiction

Small-Town Spider

Written by Felicia Rondo, Rated 18+

Summary: One night in an old barn, a hootenanny goes down that tears the heart of a small town clean out. Things get said that can never be taken back, lives are changed irreversibly, and one life is outright lost. It was a night like so many others - and for one small-town spider, it was one night too many.

Contains: Non-Binary character, Misgendering, Near-Deadnaming, and Country music.

‘Lonesome’ the Spider/Pound the Tarantula © Felicia Rondo

It was late. Too late, that night, just like all the other nights. Forever caught in the web of others, they were left with no choice but to bear with the situation at hand. Where they would find another nerve, lest they be caught on their very last one? Only the night would tell.

Feet stomped, hands clapped, and guitar strings strummed. There was no mistaking it, no escaping it at this hour, a small-town spider found themself standing in the middle of another loud and self-absorbed hootenanny - filled with people who’ve never watched their step or second-guessed a single breath.

No one in that barn knew our spider all too well, none liked them an awful lot, but they had a story just like all the rest - and this night was part of it, for better or worse. Looking at them, many of the kindly old folk in there might’ve had some ideas for what to call them, but not a one of them dared speak them. At least, not to their face.

Tonight, we’ll call them ‘Lonesome.’

Awkward as could be, Lonesome attempted to travel from one corner of the room to the other, getting their feet trampled on all the way. That night couldn’t have ended soon enough for Lonesome, and they were fixing to figure out when exactly it was going to from the man who would know.

“Sir!” Lonesome hollered, calling the attention of a Sparrow sitting on a stack of hay with his toes tapping along to the beat of the song that was playing, “When were you saying this hootenanny was gonna wrap up, huh?”

“Lighten up, lady,” the old man shook his head with a grin as Lonesome stumbled out from the crowd, “what did good old-fashioned fun ever do to you to get you so wound up about it?

“I’ll tell ‘em to get along at midnight if they don’t settle down before then,” he acquiesced after Lonesome wouldn’t budge, “now go on and enjoy yourself - my ol’ boy’s playin’ his heart out up there!” He gestured to the makeshift stage where a younger bird with a look in his eye that’d make the sun need to squint.

Up there was the pride and joy of the town, singing a song so radiant and unique it captured the hearts of all who heard it. All except our Lonesome, anyway. They didn’t much like music, which may or may not have had anything to do with the fact that stuffy little barn that hootenanny was being held in was also where they slept.

“This ain’t my idea of fun, sir,” Lonesome replied, dead-tired and not able to hold back their resentment.

“It’s funny,” the old man’s voice lowered as the light in his eye faded ever so slightly, “I’m hearin’ the distinct sound o’ venom drippin’ from that disgustin’ voice o’ yours. Isn’t that right?” It was the same line he’d given them a dozen times before, whenever their mouth went anyplace he didn’t like. He stared them down, coldly, holding the eye contact until Lonesome broke it.

“No, sir, no venom here,” Lonesome replied, assuring him like they always did of how unthreatening they were. As if it wasn’t him doing all the threatening.

“Good. I ain’t got no use for a poisonous spider ‘round here, and there ain’t no one makin’ you stay in this old barn,” they heard the man remind them.

“I know, pa, I—sir, sir… I know,” Lonesome corrected themself, quickly and thoroughly enough to the Sparrow’s liking, “I know when I’m not wanted.” With that, they made their way to the exit, with not a soul asking why they had to go. They knew they’d be back ‘cause, as shitty as the barn was, it was still a place to be in at night. He knew they’d be back ‘cause his efforts to guilt them out hadn’t worked yet.

Leaning against the wooden wall of the barn on the outside, the noise of it all was mercifully muffled—if ever so slightly. Lonesome sighed, finding the lack of company refreshing for right then, only to catch the sound of another sighing at just that moment.

“Gah!” Lonesome yelped as they caught the sight of another figure in the night, “S-sorry,” they apologized, the ever more familiar figure coming into focus, “I thought I was all alone out here.”

“It’s all good,” spoke the other, one Rebecca Squirrel - the woman that unknowingly taught Lonesome that they most definitely were not a woman… and their first crush.

“What’re you doin’ out here?” Lonesome asked, as though they’d found a train had left its tracks and began rolling down a ratty old road.

“Just gettin’ me some fresh air is all,” she replied, every word she spoke sounding like the only kind of song Lonesome would ever wanna listen to, “I like to get me some every night to last me before I head back in, so’s I can stay focused.”

“Oh… okay,” Lonesome nodded, “… I-I’m not bothering you or nothin’, am I?” they asked, suddenly, causing a laugh to come out of Becca’s lips so warmly it threatened to melt that cold Winter night like Spring was coming tomorrow.

“‘Long as you save some air for me, girl, I’m fine if you are,” she answered. Everything about her was so beautiful to Lonesome it made them want to cry, but they knew damn well Becca was in a league of her own, and they couldn’t even pass the tryouts. Not on their very best day.

“… Are you good?” she asked, when they just let the silence that fell upon the two of them hang.

“Oh, yeah, sure,” they answered, a yawn escaping their lips, “just tired. Hoping things settle down soon so I can get some shuteye.”

“Right, don’t you live here?” asked Becca, Lonesome only nodding in reply, “how do you deal with all that noise? Doesn’t your pa let you into the house?”

“He’s not my pa,” they replied shortly, looking ahead at nothing in particular, “he just lets me live here out of the kindness of his heart.” They couldn’t make that not sound sarcastic, but she wasn’t gonna say anything about it.

They were no conversationalist, that much was clear, but it almost felt like the two of them were beginning to connect… but they didn’t get to have sweet dreams like that. No, their dreams were lonely on a good night, if they could get to sleep in the first place.

“I better head back in,” Lonesome said, deciding that they’d be taking a bad situation over a situation that was too damn good for them.

“Sure thing,” she replied back. Part of them hoped she’d ask them to stay just a bit longer, which was all the more reason for them to leave.

The longer they spent letting themselves think theirs was that kind of story, the more it’d hurt when they got that regular reminder they didn’t get what the other people got.

Didn’t get what the golden child of that old town got, what he was getting that night on the stage. He was wrapping up another one of his pretty little songs they all loved hearing him play and, maybe it was the deprived optimist still clinging to life in their heart, but it seemed like that cruel night was finally coming to a close.

“I ain’t never seen such a hoppin’ crowd!” the singer exclaimed, “Don’t y’all know how late it is out here? Shucks…” He shook his head gently, a little run down from his performance, his audience watching his every mood breathlessly as if he would be leaving the next day to go out into the world after having been kept by that little town for so long. Catching his second wind, the singer looked out into the crowd and hollered,

“We all had some fun tonight, now didn’t we?” Cheers erupted from all around that barn as he repeated, “now didn’t we?” He was milking it, as if he wanted to grate Lonesome’s very last nerve down to dust. As ‘luck’ would have it, or whatever you’d like to call it, the man of the hour noticed the one sorry soul in that barn who wasn’t enjoying themself.

“I guess y’all haven’t,” he said, his voice lowering softly, calling attention to the spider. The whole barn turned to look at the arachnid with accusatory glares, only for the man of the hour to pull their attention right back, “Now y’all listen here, I ain’t gon’ start nothin’ over nothin’ - I just wanna know what’s the matter!”

“Nothin’s the matter, boy! Don’t you go mindin’ our spider problem!” hollered the old man, his hoarse voice echoing through the barnhouse like a chainsaw through bark, to uproarious laughter from the singer’s audience.

“She lives here too, don’t she?” Golden Boy said to his pa, his voice sounding as soft as if he’d never heard a bad word in his life, as the crowd slowly parted between him and Lonesome.

All eyes were on them, the floor was theirs, and it was suffocating. They were the buzzkill, the one ruining everyone’s fun, and now they were being put on the spot in such a way that would only serve to make everyone’s favorite guy look even more big-hearted while they’d seem like an even bigger heel for complaining at all. If they had any sense that night, they would’ve just shut up and let it go.

But they were all out of sense.

“I’m just tired, y’all, and I can’t get any sleep ‘til y’all leave,” Lonesome spoke, their voice coming out like a string breaking off a guitar.

“But…” an even more innocent look came over the golden boy, as they questioned, “how come you don’t just go on over to the house? I ain’t ever seen y—”

“Welp! That’s enough for the night, we best be headin’ off here!” came the happy, gravelly voice of the old man, “I think we’re all about ready for some shut-eye, ain’t we?” It couldn’t have felt any more forced, and it did little to dispel the tension in the barn, but people began to leave nonetheless.

That is, until Golden Boy held up his hand.

You fuckin’ had to, didn’t you,” Lonesome thought, gritting their teeth.

“Just you wait, y’all - I got just one more song left in me, if y’all don’t mind hearin’ it,” Golden Boy proposed, which brought the crowd right back in. People shoved and pushed to the front, inadvertently forcing Lonesome nearer and nearer to the stage until they were on it with Golden Boy.

Lonesome looked out at the crowd as it watched them expectantly, so disoriented they nearly didn’t spot Becca walking back into the barn and looking up at the stage, before the strum of Golden Boy’s guitar strings wrenched their attention back onto him.

“Ain’t no reason you shouldn’t have as good a time as the rest,” Golden Boy said, causing the old man’s expression to harden, though he wasn’t focusing on him then. Right then, his eyes were locked on ol’ Lonesome, while his feathery ‘fingers’ played on his guitar a song that their audience was slowly beginning to recognize.

They’d heard it so many times, Lonesome knew just what it was going to be from the first chord. It was the absolute sappiest song Golden Boy knew, and the very last thing Lonesome wanted to hear that night.

“I know you’ve been lonesome out here tonight,” Golden Boy sang, to cheers in the crowd, before interrupting himself to tell Lonesome, “you just join in whenever you feel like, alright?”

It was a position so many girls in that small town would kill to have. Lonesome was beginning to feel like they would kill to stop having it.

“I’m really too fucking tired for this,” Lonesome snarled, some in the audience beginning to boo them afterward, “Just sto—”

“Your only friend the moon, shinin’ so bright,” he sang on, not quite hearing her, “But what you gotta know is…” and it hit them. He had just changed the lyrics, and they knew exactly what that last line was going to rhyme with.

He was going to sing a name they’d been called so many times before, a name they wanted so little it would’ve ruined their mood on whatever counted for a good night of theirs, that they never wanted to hear ever again.

And that was the very last straw for our lonesome spider.

“You’re always gon’ have me, Li—hey!” Golden Boy suddenly squawked, as he was gripped by his neck by the spider, “Wh-what’re you doin’?!” he asked.

“Oh, I just had a request is all,” they replied, with a sinister grin, “there’s this song I’ve been dying to hear you sing all night - a little number I like to call, the sound of you desperately trying to breathe as I strangle your smug ass to death.

And they would’ve, had the old man’s crowbar not slammed into the back of their head - knocking them off the stage and causing Golden Boy to fall to his knees coughing.

“I knew I should’a never taken an ugly creature like you in, lousy bitch!” hollered the old man as Lonesome picked themself up, “My boy ain’t never done a thing to you, ain’t nobody here ever done a thing to you, but that ain’t nothin’ to a no-good spider like you!” He made being a spider sound like such a wretched thing, and the crowd around them was more than ready to back him up.

“… That’s funny,” Lonesome grinned, baring their fangs and stretching their topmost pair of arms to the sky, “I’m hearin’ the distinct sound o’ venom drippin’ from this disgustin’ voice o’ mine…”

“Just gimme a reason and I’ll put you out of this town’s misery, gruesome,” the old man growled.

“P-Pa,” Golden Boy coughed, tears staining his eyes as he approached the two, “Pa, don’t do it, I’m beggin’ you - we can still all go home!”

“Don’t worry,” Lonesome laughed, revealing their claws, “he isn’t gonna have the chance.

“Besides… in case y’all hadn’t noticed,” they said, getting ready to finally end this night and beat the life out of the old sparrow, “I ain’t got a home.”

No!” Golden Boy cried, the very last word anyone would be hearing from him that night, as he threw himself between his father and Lonesome. He wouldn’t see the blood that would be shed in the moments after, as the tarantula gave the audience a sight they would never forget.

It was chilling, how quiet the rest of the night was. Police cars surrounded the barn, a lifeless body was taken away from the scene, and our lonesome spider had themself chained up until they couldn’t move a muscle.

A kneeling doctor checked the eerily-still body of a sparrow for a pulse, turning to give the bad news,

“He’s in a coma. No telling if or when he’ll come out of it.”

Elsewhere, officers spoke to witnesses, all of whom were shaken to their very cores. The music that had brought them all together had so suddenly been killed.

“And then sh-she said she ain’t got a home, and… a-and…” a trembling voice tried to explain to the sheriff, only for the rest of her words to disappear into a storm of sobs that erupted in her.

“That’s good enough, Becca, you get on home and we’ll take it from here,” Tom softly told her, dismissing her and heading back to the spider in chains.

“Ain’t got a home, eh? Well missy,” the sheriff snarled, crouching down to meet Lonesome’s gaze, “you got yourself a home, now - and ain’t no one letting you leave it as long as you live.”

Just like that, they were sent away. There was barely a trial to speak of, though not a single person in the town had any interest in prolonging it. Lonesome was put away for the rest of their natural life and what lay beyond it, and that was enough for some of the townsfolk. Some wished they would be put down for good, but others took heart in knowing how long they would suffer - living with what they had done.

It was late. Too late for Lonesome. Forever caught in the web of others, they were left with no choice but to live with the consequences of their actions. No one came to their defense, no one wanted them, and no one missed them. That spider without a home.

The End

Originally-published on August 24, 2022

Comment on AO3! (Registered Users Only)