Green Shirleen versus the Spider, Man…

by Brian Clarey

‘“Can you see him?’ I said. ‘“He’s right over there.’”

‘“That little-bitty thing? Over by the porchlight?’”

‘“Yeah, that’s him,’” I said. ‘“Look at the size of him! Do you think you can take care of it?’”

‘“You have got to be kidding me,’” said Green Shirleen. ‘“You asked me to come out here and get rid of a spider?’”

As a superhero of my own invention, Green Shirleen is indebted to me and must heed my call whenever I’m in peril. I try not to abuse it.

‘“He’s huge,’” I said. ‘“And look how strong he is.’”

I took a breath and focused a blow on the critter, perched as he was in the center of his elaborate web. The web quavered but still the spider hung on. I could sense his determination. When the web stopped moving he spasmed his many limbs and I jumped back. I may have shrieked a little.

Shirleen shook her head slowly and made a little clicking noise with her tongue.

‘“Of all the things’…,’” she said. ‘“Honestly.’”

She gently pushed me aside.

‘“You know I’ve been tracking some kind of crazy wild cat through Fisher Park?’” she said, unspooling a thin and powerful vacuum tube from around her waist. ‘“Big as a child!’” she said. ‘“I knew something was up when I found some big ol’ cat turds when I was cleaning the sandbox in the Elm Street playground.’”

She put the mouth of the tube near the spider and sucked it through with a quick flip of a switch on her belt.

‘“They caught that cat,’” I said. ‘“I saw it in the paper. It was a serval.’”

‘“Whatever. Wouldn’t want to get sprayed by it, I’ll tell you that.’”

She took a few steps towards the driveway, flipped the switch again and launched the spider into the air.

‘“They’re good luck, you know,’” she said.


‘“Spiders. Means money’s coming.’”

She pulled from her belt a slim wand, twisted the handle and a bushy coat of tendrils formed on it. She swirled it around the vacated spiderweb and it disappeared. Then she began dusting the corners around my front door.

I opened the door and called inside: ‘“You can come out now, boys.’”

My sons, five and three, tumbled onto the porch, the oldest dressed as Spider-Man and his little brother decked out in the red, yellow and black uniform of the Incredibles. They had been in the living room rescuing each other from invisible enemies and theoretical bombs that lurked somewhere by the folded laundry pile, which I imagined was now in total disarray.

‘“I see you boys liked your costumes,’” Green Shirleen said to them. She had brought them by as a gift. She squatted down to look my youngest in the eye.

‘“Why, you look just like Mr. Incredible,’” she said. ‘“Your Aunt Greenie wishes she had a crack at that hunk of man before he left the open market.’”

‘“I don’t want to be Mr. Incredible now,’” said my three year old, who has recently discovered a talent for whining. ‘“Maybe you could call me Dash.’”

‘“Dash it is,’” she said. She turned to my oldest son. ‘“And you’… if I didn’t know better I’d say that was Spider-Man himself standing in front of me.’”

‘“Spider-Man’s not real,’” said my presumptuous five year old. ‘“He’s just in video games and TV.’” He stopped for a moment and considered Green Shirleen, the six-foot-five protector of Greensboro and its citizens decked out in her shiny purple breastplate and opera gloves.

‘“You’re not real,’” he said finally. ‘“My Daddy just made you up to use when he runs out of column ideas.’”

She ruffled his hair.

‘“Well just because that’s true doesn’t mean there’s no such thing as Spider-Man,’” she said. ‘“I even got to meet him once.’”

‘“You did?’” he said with an intake of breath, his skepticism suspended for the moment.

‘“Yes I did,’” she said. ‘“And that man’…,’” she sighed. ‘“That man has just got it all ‘— speed, strength, a cool costume, those cool web thingys. And you know what? When you grow up you can be a superhero just like him.’” She gave an opera glove a tug. ‘“And me.’”

‘“I don’t have any super powers,’” my oldest said, determined to be argumentative with an adult. But Shirleen wasn’t having it.

‘“Well that don’t matter,’” she said. ‘“Batman doesn’t have any powers, and there’s nobody wants to mess with him. Well’… almost nobody.’” She turned to me and winked. Green Shirleen and Batman had a thing once. ‘“Iron Man’s got no powers neither,’” she said. ‘“No more than you boys, anyway.’”

‘“I want to be a superhero now,’” said my three year old.

‘“Well then you be a superhero,’” Shirleen said, giving his nose a soft tweak, ‘“and then you can help out your daddy when he’s afraid of bugs.’”

She again looked at me derisively.

‘“Well boys, Aunt Greenie’s got to go. It’s leaf season, don’t you know,’” she said, taking a few running steps down the driveway and launching herself into the air.

My boys watched her until she was just a small speck in the sky. Then the oldest turned to me.

‘“Are you afraid of bugs, Daddy?’”

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