On the hard-packed snow in the dusk is a tarantula the size of a child’s hand, black and still. In this light it’s hard to tell whether it’s real or a dollar store toy, the kind you find in hedges at Halloween, resting on clots of synthetic floss.
I nudge it with my toe and it slides forward, stiff and unresisting. Lighter than rubber, lighter than wood. Something more complicated, more fibrous.
The sky is pink, turning purple. It was thirty below zero at noon and it will be colder tonight. They found the boy without vital signs. At first I was relieved because I didn’t know what that meant. Two volunteers found him, two men. His mother said, “To the gentlemen who found my baby—”
Clouds of steam from furnace pipes catch on the dry air and vanish.
If it was real, it would not be this splayed cliché of a spider’s shape. It would be a tangled ball, curled in on itself, its limbs a cage for the vulnerable heart, backed into some crack, nameless and without language, without surprise or regret, or the euphoria people are supposed to feel when we die of hypothermia.