Daddy Long Legs

On his way to school one day, Gus found himself walking behind Jimmy and Vinnie Scopezzi. The twin brothers, three years ahead of Gus at Christ the Redeemer, were all-league linebackers on the school football team and had a reputation for being bullies. Turning the corner from Main onto Magnolia, Gus overheard them talking about spiders.

“I thought you were gonna flush it down the toilet,” said Jimmy.

“I did flush it,” answered Vinnie, “after ripping off its legs.”

The brothers laughed in a loud, whiny, high-pitched squeal that was often heard on the gridiron when they made a big play.

“Did you see those legs twitch when I yanked them off?” asked Vinnie, which set off another round of squealing that only died out when they noticed Gus coming up behind them.

“Hey, wart,” said Jimmy, calling Gus by the name given to freshmen at Christ the Redeemer.

“Wart! Wart! Wart!” chanted Vinnie, like it was a war cry.

Gus slowed down to put some distance between himself and the brothers.

“Smart move, wart,” said Jimmy. “Stay away or we might pull your legs off.”

Vinnie made an exaggerated tweezing motion with his right hand, snapping his thumb shut against his fingers and jerking his arm away to show Gus what it would look like to have his legs plucked from his body. Gus stopped walking altogether, hoping the brothers would keep going and leave him alone.

“Don’t worry,” said Vinnie, “we’re running late, or we’d stick around and have some fun.”

“Wart! Wart! Wart!” the brothers grunted as they kept walking.

Gus stood still, his heart pounding in his chest, as the war cries and high-pitched laughter faded in the distance. When he was sure the brothers were gone, Gus breathed a deep sigh of relief and continued toward school.

A few days later, in the cafeteria, Gus heard a familiar squeal coming from a nearby table.

“That’s gross,” exclaimed Cindy Riordan, a redheaded cheerleader and the prettiest girl in town—at least Gus thought so.

“You guys are nasty,” said Suzy Belasco, another popular cheerleader and Cindy’s best friend.

“Oh, come on,” Vinnie said to the girls. “Don’t tell me you have a thing for spiders?”

“Yeah,” Jimmy chimed in. “You aren’t some kind of kinky spider-loving weirdos, are you?”

“Ew,” said Cindy, scrunching up her face as if she caught a whiff of something unpleasant.

“No, we don’t like spiders,” said Suzy, “but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to torture them.”

“Exactly,” Cindy added, enunciating each syllable to emphasize her disgust.

“Lighten up already,” said Jimmy. He made a motion of flicking a lighter in his left hand while waving an aerosol can in the right, like he was spraying the girls with a homemade blowtorch. “Lighten up,” he said again. “Lighten up. Get it?”

“Oh, that’s a good one.” Vinnie snorted. “Lighten up. Like we lit up those spiders last night.”

The brothers’ loud squealing caused heads to turn throughout the cafeteria.

“Jerks,” said Cindy, picking up her lunch tray.

Suzy rose to follow her friend to another table.

Jimmy and Vinnie continued laughing while looking around to see if anyone was watching. Whatever you do, thought Gus, keep your head down and don’t make eye contact.

“Hey, look over there,” said Vinnie, pointing at Gus. “It’s that dumb wart.”

“Wart! Wart! Wart!”

Gus scooched to the edge of the bench and calculated the best path to the nearest exit; he was on the balls of his feet and ready to bolt if he had to. Thankfully, the bell rang to silence the brothers’ taunts and signal the end of lunch. As relieved as he was, Gus knew it was only a matter of time before he’d have to face the Scopezzi brothers. What can I do? he thought. They’re older, bigger, and stronger than me. And there are two of them. How can I stand up to these bullies?

When Gus fell asleep that night, he dreamt of Jimmy and Vinnie. They were older now and living in the green-and-white mansion on the corner of Elm and Taylor, the house next to the park with the towering eucalyptus trees. The brothers were married, and they both had two children, though it didn’t take long for more kids to arrive on the scene. They squeezed through doors and windows. They slid down the chimney. They even wriggled through cracks in the walls and floor. All of them were squealing at the top of their little Scopezzi lungs.

With the house bursting at the seams with rowdy children, Jimmy and Vinnie slipped away to the garage, which was spotless, sterile, and brightly lit like a hospital operating room. A cardboard box was placed in the center of a steel table.

“I’ve been looking forward to this all day,” said Vinnie, slipping his hands into tight rubber gloves.

“You’re not the only one,” Jimmy replied. He reached into the box with a pair of needle-nose tweezers to pull out a big, fat, hairy, black and brown spider. He held it up to the buzzing florescent light before placing it on the table, which was now set for two with crystal wine and water glasses, bone china plates, sterling silver dinnerware, and red silk napkins. Vinnie picked up his knife and fork, sliced the plump spider into two uneven pieces, and gobbled down the larger half, its legs squirming as they slid down his throat.

“Delicious,” said Vinnie.

Wolf, crab, and ant spiders. Wandering, recluse, and cellar spiders. Black widows and golden silk orb-weavers. Tarantulas and daddy long legs. The box on the table seemed to contain an endless supply of spiders of all colors, shapes, and sizes. Jimmy and Vinnie were gorging themselves on one spider after another when a sudden tremor shook the room.

“What was that?” asked Jimmy, his mouth full of spiders.

“It’s just an earthquake,” Vinnie explained. “Finish your dinner.”

A second jolt, bigger than the first, was accompanied by a thunderous roar.

“That’s not an earthquake!” said Jimmy.

Before Vinnie could respond, an even louder roar came from above as the roof split in two and a long, spindly, claw-like appendage waved across the gaping hole where the ceiling had been.

“Let’s get out of here!” shouted Jimmy.

An ear-splitting howl stopped the brothers in their tracks and drew their attention up to the gigantic, sagging underbelly of a gargantuan daddy long legs. The creature thrust its massive leg downward with such violence it punched a hole in the concrete floor and shook the entire house. Deafening screams of terror came from the adjoining room, causing Jimmy and Vinnie to look over and see a second oversized spider spear Vinnie’s wife with one of its legs and dangle her over its gaping mouth.

“No!” shrieked Vinnie, but it was too late. His wife’s blood-curdling screams were snuffed out in a flash when the spider bit off her head.

Yet another spider – this one a dinosaur-sized tarantula – reached out to lift two of Jimmy’s boys off the ground.

“Daddy!” they wailed while trying to break free. “Daddy! Daddy!”

Jimmy tried to step toward his sons, but his feet were glued to the floor, stuck in place by ankle-deep webbing. It was the same with Vinnie. Struggling in vain to free themselves, the brothers could only watch as an army of giant spiders devoured their children, one by one. By the time the feeding frenzy was over, Jimmy and Vinnie were slumped to their knees in the sticky goo and sobbing uncontrollably. Their cries of grief were soon drowned out, however, by an eardrum-rupturing squeal from above. The bullies cast their tear-filled eyes skyward to see the monstrous, churning jaws of the gargantuan daddy long legs coming toward them.

“How did you sleep, honey?” asked Gus’s mother when he came down to breakfast.

“I dreamt about an invasion of giant spiders,” Gus answered, wiping the sleep from his eyes.

“Oh, my goodness,” replied his mother. “Was it scary?”

Gus took a sip of orange juice. “Not really,” he said. “It was kind of cool.”