Thursday, September 2, 2010

Karen Pavlisko


We called her “Spider-Girl” inspired by the spider web design in black ink that adorned her left arm, tracing all the way down it and tapering off into her middle finger on the back of her left hand. But the name could have come about due to the fact that she looked almost like a spider. She was thin, spindly, and sickly looking. Pale white with long, frizzy, black hair that could best be described as “big.” She had large dilated black eyes that were only further enlarged by the wire rimmed glasses surrounding them, which were much too large for her thin face. She wore oversized dark clothes, commonly frequented by a black hoodie tied about her waist, and socks that stuck up a few inches above her sneakers.

Every day we could see her through the bus windows riding up to school on her purple bicycle. She was the typical “weird kid” that other students would normally make fun of, but for some reason nobody ever said anything to Spider-Girl, and she never said anything to any of us.

She worked at the convenience market on the corner of the main road, and therefore everybody from school avoided the place like a sick leper, though sometimes they would watch it from the ice cream shop across the street to see if the purple bicycle was tied up in the front. Many said she had troubles at home. One boy, Richie Findle, a fat red-headed fellow with freckles and a double chin, swore that he had proof that her mother gave her nothing to eat at home but old peanuts and stale croutons, and beat her if Spider-Girl ever asked for more.

Curtis Clermont offered to give her a ride home one night, pulling over to the curb just past the market in an old, beat up, navy pickup truck. Although the rain was coming down cold and icy, such that it was almost hail, spider girl refused, with excessive shaking of her head and increased the speed to her pedal.

It was startling how much the incident changed Spider-Girl. She grew nervous and jumpy, and would snap at people in a high-pitched squalor if ever they came to close to her. We were all frightened; pondering if we had ever even heard her voice before.

She began riding up to school later and later, until her attendance became such that she skipped several periods before arriving, and began having similar attendance problems at work. The popular rumor was that Curtis’s gesture was the only nice thing that anyone had ever done for her, and the realization that anyone could ever be nice shocked her to the point of snapping.

One week in February Spider-Girl stopped showing up to school all together, but Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday her purple bicycle could be seen at the convenience mart. We all grew concerned for her, although not a one of us could call her friend. A few days later the corner market burnt to the ground overnight. That Friday school was riotous with excitement and rumors as to what had happened. Spider Girl was still unaccounted for and our curiosity led us to bazaar conclusions about Spider-Girl setting it afire. Richie Findle’s explained it as Spider-Girl’s suicide; how she trapped herself inside the lit building, taking her only real home with her to her death.

A few days later the charred frame of a purple bicycle was found amongst the ashes of the corner market. Although no body or skeleton could be found amongst the rubble, we never saw Lola Fulton, the girl with the spider web tattoo, again.

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About Me

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I write short stories and essays. I have published over one hundred stories, essays, and flash fictions or nonfictions in magazines or anthologies, as well as a novel, Jack's Universe, and a collection of stories, Private Acts. I grew up in a military family, so I'm not from anywhere in particular except probably Akron, where I've lived for forty years. Before I came here, I never lived anywhere longer than three years.