I Saw the Spider Eat

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
A humorous article about Glasgow under the recent nationalist movement.

Submitted: October 04, 2014

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Submitted: October 04, 2014



One Day in Glasgow I saw the Spider Eat


In mid September I was in Glasgow, waiting for a train. I was outside a cafe in which I had just been reading a book. The book was about Moscow in 1920. An interesting time. I was outside, smoking in Glasgow, waiting for the train, passing some time.


Because it's said that in Glasgow things sometimes get stolen, I had to keep on looking in through the window in order to keep an eye on my bags. For that reason, that things get stolen in Glasgow sometimes, I also had to hurry through the cigarette I was smoking so that I could get back inside and to the bags. Nearby, next to the doorway I was in, some kids had organised themselves into a string quartet and were playing Scottish anthems on three violins and a cello. Performing, as they were, in the main stronghold of a popular nationalist movement which had just gripped half the country, they had gathered quite a bit of change in an instrument bag.


Amongst the crowd which had gathered there there were two traffic wardens watching, with some apparent interest, this impromptu street performance. Their presence on the fully pedestrianised street did not immediately strike me as strange, as it should have done. They were standing side by side, watching the quartet with intent, the female looking decidedly moved. Peculiar, I thought, absent mindedly. What had happened recently? Why was there a nationwide outburst of hysterical nationalism, and why had it gripped forty-five percent of the population? For some reason it was Milosevic that came to mind, dressed in that suit and being interviewed on Serbian television. I took another few seconds to finish smoking and then turned to go back inside. As I did so, on turning around, I came face to face with the wardens who must have moved right up behind me at lightning speed.


“Excuse me, sir, you have just dropped a cigarette end which, under section eight of the environmental protection act of 1990, constitutes a criminal offence”. I winced and hastened to pick up the butt, but it wasn't enough to make them go away. As I scrambled to identify my own one amongst the others that were down there I seemed to say things like “oh I'll just pick that up then, how about that, there we go now, no harm done”. “There are bins installed with ashtrays located in this area, sir, so even if you do pick that up I'm afraid we are going to have to take some details from you”. He produced a clip board and flipped over the first page. “Can I have your name and address please.”


At first I wanted to run. To run and to push over some tables behind me etc. Then I remembered my bags inside and thought of giving a false address. I was hesitant even to do that, though, since I didn't know exactly what kind of powers I was dealing with. I had heard of someone being charged money for dropping a cigarette end once, but I had assumed that that had happened under some backward oriental military dictatorship. I had heard that in some of these oriental military dictatorships, in the bad ones, the parking attendants and litter wardens actually wore militaresque uniforms and caps, carried guns in nylon-webbing gadget belts, and were permitted to shoot dead anyone acting in defiance of municipal law. It was the petty law-keepers, I thought, who had been the first to sign up to the Republika Syrpska army firing squads. Fact, I thought, suddenly losing the motivation to run.


“I have to inform you, sir, that we are both equipped with body-mounted cameras” said the fat little traffic warden, his torso compressed like the flesh of a great pomello inside his stab-proof vest, “the footage from which will be submitted to the Strathclyde police in the case of a false address. Now, do you have any photographic ID?”. I considered smashing his face in, I mean, really smashing it in, but immediately I thought better of it, imagining myself laying railway tracks through the frozen Siberian wilderness. “I don't have my passport on me, I'm afraid” I said meekly. “Can I ask how much the fine is?” “It is eighty pounds, sir”.


I steadied myself. It took a while for my breathing to return. “Eighty pounds!” I should have said. ”You'll be taking fingerprints” I should have said, “from all these other butts here. You know, so you can catch the guys responsible for that. Because that's the result of some high level organised crime. Oh yes, sir, you don't just throw twenty butts on the street, just like that,” I shoud have said, “just like that all over here, sir, all over here, without some prrr-etty careful planning and connections on the inside of the system”.


Of course, I never said that. All I managed was “You guys have to raise money for the government somehow, I guess. I feel like I've done my bit.” Just after I said that the female warden looked at me and for a second I saw some intelligent sparkle of irony pass behind her eyes. The more butts, she was probably thinking, the more money. It's a roaring trade. I know what you're thinking, though, wouldn't the incentive of that system be to make sure as much litter was dropped as possible? I wondered what it would be like to spend a romantic evening with her. A cool, music-filled evening, on a beach somewhere in the orient, or somewhere in the former Yugoslavia. Coconuts fresh off the stick, and then us, drinking beer in a hammock. Yes, that's it, beer in a hammock on a big colonial beach, completely torn apart by nationalist violence. I had once seen on the television that it's possible to make a hammock from some old nylon rope and a newspaper. That's all very well, I had thought, but wouldn't it be extremely uncomfortable?


“That's a good way of looking at it” she said. Perhaps, I thought, that is how she rationalises her own extraordinary role in the world, too. Lots of people are cast in strange roles by forces they don't control. Then, of course, they rationalise. Sometimes they can become happy with and even morally committed to the new role. Perhaps she had just heard from me, another human being, a littering krypto-Scotsman, the very ideas that she uses to defend herself, to herself, from the onslaught of bad feeling that must accompany such a role. Who knows. I didn't know. I didn't even know how one goes about becoming a traffic warden or a Serbo-fascist death-squad gunman. I just wanted to be with her on that backward oriental beach, under martial law, drinking beer in a newspaper hammock and being shot dead by the municipal authorities.


And for that matter, I was woken by a slow drop in temperature and cold, misty air had filled my lungs. I looked around me. Some dark shapes protruded up into the the sky. Some mangled climbing equipment. Where was I? I remembered Victor. When had I last saw him? A few moments ago maybe, or yesterday. And was he Victor? No, it was something else. Where was he? I remembered something about some traffic wardens. Where have I been? How long have I been lying here for? The hats and the street in Glasgow, the clipboard. I go to move my arm but can't feel anything. I can't feel anything anywhere, I am weightless. All I can feel is my mind. It is still heavy with the thought of that Glasgow street. I notice that my waist is only inches from my eyes, but this does not terrify me. I see dark patches, blood it must be, and torn flesh, my own, I think. And a slip of paper, stained, sticking out of a pocket, what used to be my pocket. It is almost too dark to read it. “Glasgow City Council – Fixed Penalty Notice” it says. I hear a long, warbling scream drift up from somehwhere in the darkness. A friend, Victor maybe. Who is Victor? What has happened? Maybe Victor will have eighty pounds. Do I know someone called Victor? The scream comes again, louder this time. I feel the rocks beneath me shudder. They give way now and I am falling alongside them, alongside the earth itself, all falling, all towards the voice, the voice that screams “some details from you, some details from you, some details from you, some details from you”.


I woke up in the cafe. Some tinkling music was going on outside, which hadn't been the case when I had first entered. Some street performers must have set up shop while I slept. It sounded like a children's string quarted playing well-known Scottish anthems. My coffee was cold too, and I had creased the pages of my book, a book about Moscow in 1920, an interesting time. So I stepped outside onto the sunny street and saw two traffic wardens standing there. Beside them was a man on crutches being eaten by a terrific spider. What was left of him was trying to put out the animal's eyes with a crutch, but he was so weak by this point that everyone there could tell that he was done for.























© Copyright 2019 Lewis Rosmer. All rights reserved.

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