I peer out my kitchen window through the delicate, perfect angles of a spider’s web, and I’m instantly caught. I glimpse the triangle of a mummified butterfly and try to imagine it didn’t just twitch. The spider hangs in suspension, the setting sun put to shame by the splash of orange on her abdomen. How does the spider know to cast her lines so straight? What keeps them parallel? Was her affinity for geometry handed down from ancient arachnid ancestors? Was there once a spider who cast its lines in tangled circles and died of starvation?
I know this much; a spider’s web must be anchored. The wind blows and the dying butterfly flails, feeling the last thrill of a gust, but remains held tight, prisoner of an elastic silk with the tenacity of steel. Still, the whole thing would sail away to serve as a personal parachute if it weren’t anchored securely to a stable scaffold.
Fiction can be as gossamer and as strong. A good story distracts with its own flurry of measured energy, outlining a new window to look through; a reshaping of the world. But there are anchor points in the author’s mind. We have to start from a scaffold of experience, from the stripped corners of a real life. No one has to know what those anchor points are; some of us go to great lengths to distract with literary acrobatics and stunning tapestry. But every now and then a reviewer strums the right thread, and the line quivers all the way back to the starting point– the point of non-fiction.
That happened to me today as I read a review of my short story in the newly released Scarecrow by Rhonda Parrish. The title, A Fist Full of Straw, and perhaps the unnamed characters, reminded reviewer Eric Kimminau from Tangent of the Man With No Name film series (otherwise known as the Dollars Trilogy), directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood. You can read the review here.
The man with no name.
There was once a man whose name I chose not to know. That may sound funny, but when you’ve reached the point where you know you should know someone’s name and don’t, you can either laugh it off and ask, or not. I decided at the time that this individual should remain nameless to me. I wrote a poem about it all. Then one day the poem metamorphosed into a story of a scarecrow; a nameless one, of course.
The scaffold matters little. It’s the patterned strings of sunlight I hope you’ll get tangled in if you choose. But it’s sometimes a little eerie how the movement on the lines resonate. And again I wonder what the god-like spider is thinking as she hangs from the center of my world, my offerings of self bound in perfectly woven packages, still twitching.