Flash Fiction: for writers, readers, editors, publishers, & fans


Tarantulas are slow but deliberate” by Anita Goveas

Aziza pulled at the heavy entrance door to the flat until it closed qui­et­ly. She picked up Hamid’s coat, brushed her hands over it and hung it up while putting her own coat away. She fold­ed her head­scarf into a square and put it in the near­by draw­er with her oth­er out­door scarves and mother’s hijab. 

These few min­utes when no-one knew she was there were her space to decom­press from school. She was vol­un­teered to be pen­cil mon­i­tor again today, respon­si­ble for mak­ing sure every­thing was in the right place before and after each les­son. The flat smelt of oak and pot­purri, the floor­boards creaked com­fort­ing­ly. Hamid’s game sys­tem beeped in his room. He must have left it on again, wast­ing elec­tric­i­ty. Aziza pulled her hair out of its tight plait and put it up in a neat bun. She straight­ened the pic­tures in the hall­way as she went past to check the Nin­ten­do.

As she stalked into her old­er brother’s room, Aziza paused and looked at Quentin the taran­tu­la in its plas­tic cage, with its hairy joint­ed legs and thick brown abdomen. Hamid said taran­tu­las were docile and del­i­cate, not dead­ly, and their bite was no worse than a bee sting. He usu­al­ly said this when he was run­ning late or to some unex­pect­ed event, and want­ed her to feed it. If he used a diary, he would be bet­ter pre­pared.

One day, Hamid would for­get to shut Quentin in prop­er­ly. If it crawled out, it might lie low in a dark cor­ner and they wouldn’t find it again. It would pit­ter-pat­ter across the floor at night and she’d nev­er sleep well again. They’d con­stant­ly step on bits of exoskele­ton and part­ly-digest­ed bee­tle. Female taran­tu­las could live 30 years in the wild, males gen­er­al­ly made it to 10. Quentin was prob­a­bly Quenti­na. She’d leave for col­lege even­tu­al­ly.
It could lurk until they opened the front door, then scut­tle to free­dom down the stairs and through the ground floor flat, ter­ror­iz­ing Mr and Mrs Gold­stein on the way. They would com­plain. Hamid would be ground­ed.

It might set­tle in father’s All-Bran, mis­tak­ing the cere­al for its insect prey. Taran­tu­las don’t use webs, they hunt on foot. Quentin clear­ly missed that and would stalk that All-Bran relent­less­ly. The spi­der would be giv­en to the zoo. Hamid would get his Nin­ten­do con­fis­cat­ed to teach him about care­less­ness and caus­ing heart-attacks in unsus­pect­ing accoun­tants.

Aziza gath­ered some mag­a­zines and a crum­pled t-shirt to reveal the game machine. As she bent down, a brown speck launched itself at the ceiling.The car­ton of Quentin’s food was lying open under the bed. All the crick­ets had escaped and were stretch­ing their legs.

The last time this hap­pened, Hamid went to work, and Aziza spent 5 hours grab­bing at minute ric­co­chet­ing exas­per­a­tions that could jump fur­ther than she was tall and move faster than she could close her hand. After two hours of pest dodg­ing, father had stamped on some of them. Aziza then got to scrape bug entrails out of the car­pet in the hall­way.

She hung the t-shirt over a chair and put the mag­a­zines on the desk. She turned off the Nin­ten­do. The chirp­ing of the escapees became the dom­i­nant noise in the room, sec­ond­ed by the blood rush­ing in her ears. 

Then she let the spi­der out.


Pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished in the Lon­don Short Sto­ry Prize anthol­o­gy 2016.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *