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margaret by richardsplanet

24 Jan

Margaret narrowed her eyes and stared at the spider on the ceiling.

“Oh, dear, how did you ever get up there?”, she said. “Ben, God rest his soul, would have been so unhappy to see you there. He was a bit of a stickler for cleanliness – hated bugs. Not that you are a bug. Arthropod is what you are – class arichnida, order araneae.

“Yes, I know quite a lot about you,” she continued as she moved to the corner, “I always wanted to be an entomologist. Ever since I was five. Of course, in those days, it wasn’t proper for a woman to have too much study. They said all that learning made us go crazy.”

She continued speaking as she moved the three tier step stool she found, “Respectable women didn’t study, they didn’t work. We were supposed to knit doilies or something.” She chuckled to herself. “But there was the war. A big war it was. They called it the Second World War. It was a terrible time. I even got to work in a factory. Making munitions for our brave boys. It was only temporary. It was a time of desperation, a time when all good souls banded together to fight against the evil axis of Fascism.” She set the stool down and looked up at the spider. “But you’re not evil are you? Just misunderstood. People have so many irrational fears. It’s fear that drives folks crazy, not the book learning.” She expelled a big puff of air and puttered towards some drawers.

“When women were called to help in the war effort, I though this was the chance for us to show our capabilities. To show that we could take a place beside men in the world.” She took out a small jar with a green base. “I bought this shortly after Ben, bless his soul, died. It wasn’t expensive, just a dollar at the Dollar store. It’s a little bug collecting jar for children. I was so excited when I bought. It wasn’t a big thing, but I felt both giddy and guilty when I bought it. Ben would never have approved. ‘We fought for decency’ he would say. ‘Women shouldn’t get their hands dirty,’ he would say. Not that he ever cleaned the toilets or scrubbed the floors. But he was a good man in his own way – just a little old fashioned. I suppose I am too.” She set the specimen jar on a rubber mat and with her twisted fingers worked to unscrew the lid. “This is such a nice jar. The top is a large magnifying lens. It makes it so easy to see the organism locked inside.” She stopped to look at the spider. “I wonder, do spiders get arthritis? Probably not, your joints are different from ours.” She sighed again and returned to trying to work the lid off the jar.

“It’s a shame really. I dreamed of being an entomologist when I was younger. Madame Curie was a big inspiration for me. She won the Nobel prize twice, you know. And the only person to ever win in two different fields: chemistry and physics. A shining role model she was.” The lid finally came off the jar.

“My fingers aren’t much good any more – twisted and misshapen as they are, “ she said looking at the spider. “I had dreams and I had hopes, but they have all withered like my fingers.”

She left the lid on the counter and picked up a thin sheet of card. With the jar in one hand and the card in the other, she moved toward the step stool and looked up at the spider. “When Ben, rest his soul, died three years ago, I thought part of me died too. But, lately, I realize that when my dreams and ambitions were denied, so too was my life denied. I can’t die because I have never lived.”

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