My feet ached from running. I let my legs dangle from the weathered wood of the playset that sat outside my grandma’s house. The all-too-familiar smell of Oxford Lake in Manitoba was brought to me by a gentle breeze. I rested my head against the playset and watched the rusty trucks clunk along the gravel roads, the trail of dust behind them growing larger and fading away.
I was freshly seven years old, and I was bored. I mean, how many times can you go down the same slide before it gets old? I lay down with my hair trailing along the slide, and for a second, I considered sliding upside down. Then, I saw something out of the corner of my eye.
I shot up and looked to my side, where a giant spider stared right back at me. It was about the size of my thumbnail, but it was enough to send shivers down my spine. My breath caught in my throat as I thought out every possible escape route. Then the spider moved.
I screamed and jumped off the playset, running as fast as I could to the door of my grandma’s house. I sprinted inside and ran directly to Granny.
“Granny! There’s a spider on the slide. Please, can you go kill it?”
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Granny shook her head. “You shouldn’t kill it, Kaylee. That spider could be your great-grandpa.”
I looked up at Granny with bewildered eyes: “What?” Granny, I thought to myself, that’s a spider.
“It’s our belief that after you die you will come back.” Granny held out her hand. I took it and she brought me into a hug. She held me as she continued, “Your spirit will wait seven generations first, but you will come back to Earth, and you won’t always come back as a human. Someone could come back as a drop of rain, a rock, a plant —”
“As a spider.” Granny nodded.
“It would suck to come back as a mosquito, eh?” Dad added. He was listening in on the conversation from the living room. “Waiting all that time only to instantly die again on someone’s arm.”
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Everyone laughed, and Granny continued, “That’s why you must be kind and respectful to everything, Kaylee. You never know what could be an old family member or friend.”
I nodded and immediately went to the door to put my shoes back on. I’m going to meet my great-grandpa!
I rushed out the door and back to the playset, but when I climbed up the ladder to the top of the slide, the spider was gone. I began searching the corners of the playset, but I couldn’t find the spider anywhere. He’s probably hiding. I did scream at him for no reason. Defeated, I sat leaning against the playset.
“I would’ve really liked to have met you in person. Granny talks about you sometimes, and I can tell she misses you.” I sat in silence, waiting for a response that never came. I wanted him to know he wasn’t forgotten.
“I love you.” Even if you are a spider, I thought to myself.
I spent the rest of that day telling each rock, plant and bug I came across that I loved it.
Kaylee Wood is a First Nation student at Fort Richmond Collegiate in Winnipeg. Her home will always be Bunibonibee Cree Nation, which she visits during the summer and winter months.
This story first appeared in Broadview’s September 2022 issue with the title “Arachnophobia.”
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