Yesterday, while glancing out the car window on our way to Sainsbury’s, I noticed the tattered remnants of a spider’s web clinging to the wing mirror. There was no sign of the architect, but it reminded me immediately of a long-lost friend.
His name was Steve Eightlegs, and he built his home in the driver’s side wing mirror of my old Ford Fiesta.
It was a hell of a place to choose to live. I may not have driven long distances, usually sticking to work or visiting the parents, generally avoiding motorways like the plague, but sometimes I could hit top speeds of almost 40 mph! You can’t imagine how terrifying the winds are at that kind of speed, yet somehow Steve forged a life for himself in those unforgiving conditions.
Every morning I would find a new construction spanning the mirror, a work of artistic beauty that sparkled with the diamonds of morning dew. Then, every day, I would get in the car and drive. Piece by piece, the web would disintegrate, torn apart by the whirlwinds of morning travel, the mean streets of Aigburth and Wavertree rushing by.
Most men would have cracked under those circumstances, fleeing for safer ground. Not Steve. Time and again I saw him out there, walking the tightrope of what remained of his web, struggling to repair the damage, fishing for insects as they flew past, refusing to give up. Every day he was there, ready to battle for survival, unrelenting in his determination to succeed.
It reminded me of a quote from David Gemmell’s Legend:
“And what is a man? He is someone who rises when life has knocked him down. He is someone who raises his fist to heaven when a storm has ruined his crop–and then plants again. And again. A man remains unbroken by the savage twists of fate. That man may never win. But when he sees himself reflected, he can be proud of what he sees. For low he may be in the present scheme of things: peasant, serf, or dispossessed. But he is unconquerable.”
That was Steve Eightlegs: unbowed, unbroken, unconquerable. He was a man in every sense of the word. Except he was a spider. A manly spider.
And he stayed that way right up until his last extreme web-walk, when the wind finally got the better of him. One second he was there, the next he was gone, his severed safety line flapping in the wind behind him.
At least he died the way he lived – with his heart in his mouth and the wind in his hair.
Now, whenever I see a broken web on a wing mirror, I think of Steve Eightlegs. I think of Steve and all the other heroes that have followed in his footsteps. The men and women arachnids fighting to survive against all odds, battling the elements and everything else life can throw at them, all because they’re just too stubborn to choose a better place to live.
Through them, Steve’s legend lives on.
12th July 2017