The pretty little waitress told him it was there in the bar. A big one. Black. Maybe the hourglass. A black widow.
He hitched up his pants. “I’ll take care of it.” He put his Jose Cuervo down with a solid thud.
“You want a flyswatter?” She looked all woman in that little short dress and tiny apron. It had a ruffle around it. “Drink Up” was the name of the bar. It was stenciled on the back of her shirt.
“I don’t need a flyswatter.” He stood up. “Where is it?”
“Under the last table, in the corner back there.” She pointed. She needed a manicure.
He wondered how he would do it. Just stomp on it? What if it jumped? But it probably wouldn’t.
The corner table was like all the others. Sticky with the remains of the croissant someone had brought over from the bakery next door. He almost turned away. No real man ate croissants. He leaned over and looked under the table. Nothing.
“You sure it was here?”
Her face was pale. “I know it was. I saw it.”
“Where exactly?” He pulled out a chair to get a better look.
“Right about where you’re looking.”
“I don’t see it.”
He wasn’t about to admit he needed glasses. He squinted. “How big did you say?”
“Couple of inches.”
“Would that be including the legs?”
“Yeah. Including the legs.”
He still didn’t see anything. She was probably pulling the helpless female thing to get his attention. It had happened before. During the war. Back in Paris….
“Are you going to just look?” she asked. Exasperation edged her voice.
“Reconnaissance is a big part of any battle. General Patton -”
She jumped back. A trembling finger pointed. That chipped polish again.
He grimaced. “Now what?”
“It’s there, right there.”
“RIGHT BY YOUR FOOT!”
He jumped. It wasn’t because of the spider. She had the voice of a trumpeting water buffalo.
“Dang, woman – I’m not deaf.” He stared all around his feet. Nothing.
A little man came out of the kitchen. A thin man. Small, insignificant. A white towel was tucked into his pants front like a surrender flag. A man who’d obviously never seen action. Probably ate croissants. He stared at them. “What’s going on?”
“It’s a black widow. Right there by his foot,” the girl said. She backed up. Now she was behind the little man with the towel around his waist.
“That could be a Steatoda grossa,” the little man said.
“A what?” He wished this clown would just go back in his kitchen and cut himself on the can opener.
“A false black widow. They can look black in some light, but -”
She shrieked. “It’s going up his pants leg!”
“What!” He jumped and fanned his hand at the general area she was pointing to. Now he was actually feeling something. A crawling sensation. It was there. It looked black to him. He could just make it out, advancing upward. Shiny. Stealthy. Brave. Coming in for the kill.
“Get this thing off of me!” he screamed.
The little man twitched the towel from his belt and snapped it at the spider.
They fell together, man and arachnid.
She knelt beside him. His head was now cradled in her arms. She patted his cheeks. “He’s fainted.”
The small man picked up the limp spider with a swizzle stick. “No, it was the real thing. Black widow. I’ll put it down the disposal.”
The girl looked down into his face. He was beginning to come to. “You okay?”
“Is it – ” he asked.
“Dead and gone. It’s okay now.” She was watching the color come back into his face. “Can you get up now?”
“Sure.” He managed to get up, trying hard not to let her see that he was hanging on to the table. She clung to his arm, just in case.
“It was a flashback. Anzio. I was there again. Back on the beach. It happens to a lot of us.” He settled hard into a chair. He wondered exactly where Anzio was.
The little man came back from the kitchen with a hot croissant and set it in front of him. “On the house. I got it from next door. You want something on it?”
“Got any strawberry jam?”
He couldn’t help it. He loved croissants.