The Hunting of the Spider

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Penelope nestled against the pillows on her bed, pretending not to see the stack of cardboard boxes stacked in the corner of her new room. Their jumbled contents could be dealt with in the morning. She opened her laptop, typed her password, and waited for it to boot up.

Her brother Douglas knocked three times in quick succession. “Penny, open up!” he whispered insistently.

Penny rolled her eyes and opened the file containing her music collection. Once she decided on a playlist for the evening, it would be considerably easier to ignore him.

Douglas knocked constantly, each knock a little louder than the last. “Penny, it’s important!”

Penny snapped her laptop shut and left it behind as she strode toward the door. She yanked it open and glared at Douglas. “What?” she snapped.

“Sheila is missing!” he hissed sharply. “She’s not in her tank. I checked my room, but I can’t find her anywhere!”

Penny jerked back and covered her chest with her arms. “You keep that NASTY creepy-crawly away from me, or I’ll make sure Mom and Dad ground you for a month!” Penny moved one hand to the door, preparing to slam it.

Douglas pushed his way further into the room. “Please, please, please help me find her! She’s got to be scared and confused after the move. And if we don’t find her soon, she might get hurt.”

Penny snorted.

“I’ll do your chores for a week!” implored Douglas.

Penny bit her lips. “Two weeks.”

“Two weeks if you find her,” amended Douglas. “One week if I do.”

“Done.” Penny put her hands on her hips. “Do you have a container or something to put that thing in if I find it?”

“She’s gentle. You can just scoop her up in your hands.” He glanced the sneer spreading across Penny’s face. “Or... I don’t know, use one of the empty cardboard boxes?”

Penny grabbed a shoebox and stomped downstairs. She wove around the boxes and randomly placed furniture, taking just enough time to glance at the walls and ceiling.

She was passing the screen door when she saw movement out of the corner of her eye. She stepped back slowly, eyeing the fuzzy, brown, eight-legged shape that was now blocking the view of the cactus in their yard. Penny had found the tarantula; now she just had to get it to her brother.

Slowly, tentatively, she held the box up to the tarantula. The tarantula edged back at first, but hesitantly crawled onto the outstretched flange of cardboard into the box, brushing Penny’s fingers on its way in.

Penny slammed the lid onto the box as soon as she was sure it wouldn’t hurt her brother’s precious little spider, then thundered up the stairs. It was her turn to hammer on her brother’s door.

“Three weeks,” she spat out as soon as Douglas opened the door. “Your stupid spider touched me, so it’s an extra week.” She shoved the shoebox at him.

Douglas frowned in confusion. “But I just put Sheila back in her tank.” He scratched his head, then snapped his fingers. “That must be a wild tarantula. We live in Arizona now, remember?”

Penny had already dropped the box, screaming as she ran down the stairs.

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