MANTULA Part Twelve: Super Doug

Doug explores his inner strength.

     Surprisingly, there was something different about me compared to most tarantulas. I had skills those others could only dream about.

     There was also the depressing fact I am a man, containing the intellect I possessed back when I had two legs and two arms, a neck, and a belly button. That’s not what I’m talking about, but that kind of sets me apart too.

     The strength is what I’m talking about. That was something that set me apart in a way I didn’t realize until we’d made our way from Sedona to Cottonwood, and not until I’d found my crappy little apartment. The place was a safe haven for us, and I’d paid for the rental through October, so we were set for some time.

     The super strength, I now realized, was as supernatural as my predicament.

     I could lift the coffee table with one leg. Balancing the thing was tough though. I nearly killed ManQuail with it. Luckily he can run out of the way pretty fast.

     The super strength, I also realized, undoubtedly helped when I’d stumbled feverishly to Coffee Pot Rock, climbed to the top, and tried to leap to my death. I could probably take down a human in a fist fight if I tried to fight someone. It might look weird, but I’d be able to do it. And knowing I had that kind of strength really helped me get around the apartment.

     In the week we’d been there we ordered a pizza online using my debit card, which still had a chunk of change on it-mostly thanks to the hefty life insurance payout. “You only live once,” Glenn said after we ordered it, parroting another of his tedious, and painfully overused euphemisms.

     We ordered online, with instructions for the delivery person to just leave it at the door and knock once when he arrived. Glenn and I also ventured out one morning with the idea maybe we’d meet others of our kind, though ManQuail had taken on the assumption (finally) that I was somehow different than all the others. None of them, as far as he was aware, himself included, possessed the same level of strength they possessed when in their human form. He’d finally come around to believe me when I said that I had not changed. Had I been addicted to anything, I didn’t know about it–nor had I been cured of it. We didn’t come across anyone with our particular affliction, but a scorpion very nearly stung ManQuail when he started flipping over rocks in the yard. Luckily he’s a fast bird. Not good at long distance flying, but quick on his feet.

     Carrying a pizza into the apartment, with my man muscles, was no problem. Eating it, on the other hand, wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Not that I didn’t try.

     The experience led me to learn a thing or two about my new body, however. I’d never been much interested in how my stomach worked. With the pizza and everything else, I had to turn it to goo first. I balled a pizza slice into a ball. After that I sort of mounted the sucker like a bull humping a turned-on heffer and sank my spider fangs into it. When crap started pumping from my chest into the middle of the ball, I was a bit surprised. But I let my body take care of business, trusting it would do the right thing. And it did, only it wasn’t eating like I’d known before. The inside of the ball of pizza turned into a sort of liquid goo that I sucked up like I was drinking through a straw. It had an acidic flavor, but believe it or not I could still taste the mozzarella, pepperoni and sauce. And it was damn good. ManQuail didn’t have as hard a time as me. He just pecked at his slice until it looked like a casualty fresh from a BB gun war.

     What’s funny is we still had most of the pizza, like more than two-thirds of it, left when we both announced how full we were. Later we decided to try alcohol and raided my cabinet for what was left of my Crown Royal. Following that embarrassing episode, we slept for a day or so and woke up feeling like we’d been dragged behind a big rig down Interstate 17.

     He’d sensed I didn’t want to talk about my son right off the bat, and kept far from the topic, but that didn’t stop him from pecking through nearly everything I had in the place, which wasn’t much. My largest collection of paraphernalia, actually, was the empty whiskey bottles all over the place. Glenn counted eight of them. Normally I cleaned the place on the weekends, but the week I turned into a bug put me behind.

     At one point during the week, while I tried to watch Die Hard through my eight eyes, I heard ManQuail cry out in my bedroom. I nearly got off my spot on the couch to go check on him when he came bounding into the room with a silver coin in his beak. I recognized it immediately as my addiction medallion, complete with a prayer and a photo of Saint Kolbe on it.

     “I knew it! You said you weren’t addicted to anything! If you aren’t, then why do you have this?” He cried out, dropping the coin on the carpet at the foot of the couch.

     I tapped my foot impatiently. Bruce was just about to run across the glass barefoot on television. It’s one of my favorite scenes. “I used to smoke, Glenn. I got the coin to get me through it.”

     “So you were a smoker? I bet you don’t want one now. That’s the addiction, man.”

     “That was three years ago. I have not had a cigarette since. But to be honest, there isn’t a day that goes by I don’t crave one. Even now.” (Story continues below.)

ManQuail Meme!

     “Well that’s weird. I guess I should stop trying to figure you out, man. It’s funny though, I had a coin just like this. I kept it in my truck. I hoped back then it would help me steer clear of meth, that somehow it would make me drive somewhere other than to meet my dealer. He was from here in Cottonwood, but he’d drive out to Camp Verde just to hook me up.”
     “Guess the coin didn’t help much.”
     ManQuail dipped his head down and retrieved the coin. He took flight for a second and placed it daintily on the coffee table. Being ex-humans, we both still liked to behave like our old selves. And it was after the pizza, after we’d gotten shit-faced drunk, and after we’d played He-Man with the furniture and flipped rocks in the yard, that ManQuail finally asked. “So, what now?”
     “What do you mean?” I replied, thinking after I’d finished “Die Hard” I’d put on a little “Road Warrior.” I had all the DVDs in the closet, enough movies to last months.
     “Well, we know our bodies aren’t left behind when we change. We have a place to stay for a while. What do we do now?”
     “Now we watch movies. Maybe we’ll order some Chinese tomorrow.”
     ManQuail sounded frustrated. “Do you mind if I get on your computer and check my email?”

Published by patrickwhitehurst

Patrick Whitehurst is a fiction and non-fiction author who's written for a number of northern Arizona newspapers over the years, covering everything from the death of the nineteen Granite Mountain Hotshots to Barack Obama's visit to Grand Canyon. In his spare time he enjoys painting, blogging, the open water, and reading everything he can get his hands on. Whitehurst is a graduate of Northern Arizona University and currently lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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