She didn’t notice the tattoos at first, not really. Well, there was the spider on the back of his hand that followed the veins up the fingers to the second knuckle, but not to the nail—a dark spider, well, really dark, black but not hairy, not a tarantula, double triangles in the middle, red ones—what was that called?
He put the change in her hand with some degree of deliberation, counting out the ones slowly, apologizing for not having a ten. “Eleven, twelve, and twenty-four cents.” He dropped a quarter into her open palm.
“Then I owe you a penny,” she said. She was more flustered then she’d like to admit, watching a spider—a black widow spider—that was what is was called— count twelve bills and a quarter into her hand. A tattooed black widow.
She looked up at him then. God, he was young, more child than man, still in high school and his parents . . . Well, he must not have parents—look at his face, lines tattooed on his cheek bones, spreading to the ears—web or spider—she didn’t stare—that would be rude—so she couldn’t say for sure.
“Thank you, Ma'am,” he was saying. “Don't need the penny.” Nice, polite voice.
Well then, maybe he did have parents—a boy who spoke that well surely had parents. She looked at him directly then, just as he raised his hand to scratch an imaginary itch on his cheek, the black widow returning to the web, finger by finger, alone, widowed.
She expected the spider to disappear into the web and then reach out and pull her in too. She leaned forward, ready to go, closer to the boy than most customers got until he was forced to put both spiders—hands—on the counter, segmented legs toward her, fangs extended, and lean his webbed face into hers. “Have a nice day,” he said.
She nodded, widow to widow, and then she fled.
© 2012 Kathleen Coskran