Title: Curds and Whey
Day/Theme: October 13th / typhoon generation
Series: Anansi Boys
Character/Pairing: Daisy/Charlie, Marcus, Spider
"Daddy," Marcus says one day. "Where do babies come from?"
Charlie Nancy chokes. "Daisy," he gasps.
"From Mummy?" says Marcus, puzzled. "But--"
"No!" Charlie says. "Babies do not -- I mean, your mum -- Daisy, help."
Daisy, who has been watching Charlie stumble over his words much like he used to when she first met him with great amusement, asks Marcus, "Why do you want to know?"
"I saw lots and lots of little spiders on the porch," says Marcus. "And I wanted to know where they come from."
"Oh. Oh," Charlie says. "You meant where do spider babies come from that's much better I can explain that--"
"It's like watching a train wreck," Daisy mutters. "If I ask you one day about perfume on your shirt, remember I've already heard that one, Charlie."
"I'll keep it in mind," he tells her after a pause. To Marcus he says, "Let me get you a book."
"Daddy," Marcus says, as though he's talking to an insane person. "Daddy, this is a story about a pig."
"It has a spider in it," says Charlie. "See? Right there on the cover. And it has a web. The web's right in the title, see? 'Charlotte's Web'. It's a story about a spider and a pig." Marcus gives him a dubious look. "Trust me, okay?"
"Daddy," Marcus says later. "I don't like this book. They're going to eat Wilbur."
"They won't eat Wilbur," Charlie reassures him. "Trust me. I'll put it in a song that they won't eat him. They can't eat him if I do that, right?"
"But it still hasn't told me where baby spiders come from," Marcus points out with startling alacrity.
"That's because you haven't finished it," Charlie tells him. "Look, if we skip to the end--"
"No!" Marcus gasps, grabbing the book away. "You can't do that! You'll ruin how I read the story!" He runs off to hide the book in the depths of his room, while Charlie gapes his mouth wide open and wonders why oh why his father's way with stories has manifested in his son so quickly. It gets better.
"Our son is refusing to eat pork, or ham, or any edible product from a pig," Daisy tells him. "If you told him that there's a religion that bans the consumption of pork, they'd have a convert on the spot. This would not be a problem, only I like dim sum, and there are pig products in dim sum."
"Not all dim sum has pork," Charlie says. "You can order your pork-filled dim sum, and he can get non-pig dim sum."
"Which is why I haven't shot you," Daisy says agreeably.
"Okay," Charlie says. Funny how that stage fright works; it's always worse when you know it's coming. He knocks on Marcus' door. "Marcus?"
"I DON'T WANT TO KNOW HOW IT ENDS," Marcus says loudly through the door.
"Okay!" Charlie calls back. "But can I tell you how spider babies come out to crawl all over the porch?"
The door opens a crack. "You won't spoil it?" Marcus says suspiciously.
"Cross my heart," Charlie sings, and Marcus comes out. Takes his father's hand. "Let's go look at the porch," Charlie says.
The porch is not crawling with spiders. It is underneath the porch where they hide for the moment, and Charlie takes a moment to wonder how his son knew there were baby spiders under the porch before he reminds himself that Marcus is a young boy, and young boys are always in search of good hiding spots. It could be worse, Charlie reminds himself, because under the porch, at least, there are spiders, and spiders like Charlie.
"When a girl spider is going to lay eggs," Charlie explains. "She spins an egg sac, which is like a bag for eggs."
"I know, Daddy," Marcus says. "A bag is what a sack is."
"Okay, okay, I guess you know everything and I don't need to keep explaining," Charlie says, beginning to stand. Marcus catches his trouser leg. Charlie grins.
"So the spider lays her eggs in the egg sac, and there are lots and lots of eggs, a few hundred of them," Charlie says. "Now the sac's kept in a safe, warm place, and when the time's right, the eggs hatch, and all the little spiders come running out."
Marcus waits. "...That's it?" he says, his face falling. "That's just like a chicken, only a bit more spidery."
"The miracle," Charlie says. "That comes after the spiders hatch. You want to wait and see it?"
Marcus nods. They wait. And wait. And wait.
Eventually Marcus announces that he's bored.
"We could ask them to hurry it up," Charlie says.
"Okay," Marcus says, yawning dramatically. Charlie tweaks his nose.
"Hey," Charlie says to the porch. "I don't mean to be rude, but would you mind hurrying it up?"
"..." says the porch.
"Nothing's happening," Marcus says, after a while.
Charlie looks thoughtfully at the porch. "How about this," he says. "A song for a miracle. What do you say?" Because Charlie Nancy knows spiders, and as cute and lovable as they are, they're smart, and they want things in return for services, even miracles.
But what do you sing to baby spiders?
Charlie hums the first bar of Itsy-Bitsy Spider because it's a good nursery rhyme. "No?" he asks.
The porch is silent.
Charlie tries Little Miss Muffet next, which doesn't work, and can't think of any more nursery rhymes.
"Daddy," Marcus says. And Charlie can't let his son down, so he tries to think of why the miracle's not happening, and why the baby spiders haven't gone yet even though they've been hatched for a few days now.
He begins to hum a song. A breeze kicks up, spitting a soft dusting of sand a little ways, and Charlie makes up words about a little spinoff puff of a Westerly that somehow blew along and along until it came to the house and lifted lots of little baby spiders into the air.
The porch is still silent, but now it is a busy silence. Spiders keep the silence, Charlie remembers. And here they come, spinnerets working trails of silk out to catch the updraft. The little parachutes snag on the wind, and little spiders float off and away.
"Can you hear them?" Charlie asks softly. "They're saying, 'Whee!'"
"They are not!" declares Marcus, but his eyes are as round as saucers and he cocks his head to one side to listen better.
Charlie watches the miracle fondly. "If you see my brother," he says quietly. "Tell him I said hello." Because spiders have a way of getting around better than Charlie does these days, and it never hurts to remember family. "You're not scared of spiders, are you?" he asks Marcus, perhaps a little late.
"No," says Marcus. "Uncle Spider says he's a spider, but I think he's lying because he doesn't have a web."
"Maybe you just can't see his web," says Charlie.
"Maybe," says Marcus like he's talking to an insane person again. Charlie thinks of Marcus and his knowing of the propriety of stories and wonders briefly if Spider's as-yet-unconceived child will have a penchant for songs. "Uncle Spider's cool," Marcus adds.
"Hey!" says Charlie, mildly affronted. "I'm cool too."
Marcus snorts. "No, Daddy, you're not." Charlie smiles. Looks like he's doing his job right.
"So apparently you don't mind that little baby spiders crawl all over the porch," Charlie says to Daisy.
"It's the great circle of life," Daisy says. "Besides, your brother's name is Spider. I figured your family has a weird spider fetish along with the weird voodoo thing."
"It could be that my parents were hippies," Charlie argues.
"Hippies who named their other kid Charles," Daisy says, unimpressed.
"Well," says Charlie.
"Spiders aren't scary," says Daisy, shrugging. "There are worse things to pass down than a love for spiders. The stink of cigars about a fedora, for instance."
"There is nothing wrong with my hat," Charlie says immediately.
"Nothing but the smell," says Daisy, and they fall into the comfortable argument like an old married couple.
A few months later, a spider scuttles into the house and heads up the stairs, through several corridors, almost meeting with an unfortunate accident with a door, and finds Charlie. Spider laughs at his brother over an ocean.
"Dad," sends Charlie back. "Dad wants grandkids. Plural. And it's not all going to be on me. So one day if you give your kid The Talk and it turns out less embarrassing, then you can laugh."
"Salutations," he tells the spider, and grins when it waves a foreleg at him. Then off he goes to spin an invisible web about a little girl who loved singing and spiders (with a very cool uncle who also loved singing).
(Across an ocean, Spider shivers, but he doesn't know why.)