The spider

by Saleha Chowdhury

05aRURKI Rahim and Obaidul Odud finally got married. For both, it was their second marriage. Rurki’s husband had been killed in a car crash two years ago. Obaidul’s wife had been in a mental asylum for the past ten years. Obaidul had first met Rurki at a party. He had been alone, wifeless for the past ten years. And Rurki? Her life had become different, with her late husband’s big fat insurance, profit in share business and hefty bank balance; she looked thousand times glamorous than before. As if she had become part of the rich elite overnight. Her body and face looked classy these days — like a glowing scented candle in a dark room.
Rurki had never looked ordinary though; she just looked a lot better now. Nor had she ever been part of the ordinary class; everything about her would tell anyone that she belonged to the top class in society and suited really well there. She had moved effortlessly from a housewife to a socialite.
As she did not have to put up with some of her husband’s bad habits, and with ultimate independence in her reach, her lifestyle had changed and her body and face looked classy and seductive. Regular workout and beauticians’ hard work had made her look like an attractive, seductive and youthful actress.
Her rise had not been unexpected; still, she became the talk of the town. A bright bubbly butterfly had come out of its cocoon and morphed from a shy caterpillar into a bright and colourful butterfly. As if a sabre had come out of sheathe to take on the world. Her complexion was always glazed and tanned and her nose, eyes, lips, neck and cheeks were well crafted.
So, one day at an aristocratic party Rurki and Obaidul met. Obaidul was an international garment merchant. He managed to get her away from the crowd; they sat in a shadowy corner — drinking and talking. Obaidul Odud cleverly mentioned his yearly business turnover and she was stunned and hooked. Actually that was what she was after — money, money and more money.
When Obaidul had first saw her from behind he wanted to know who this Marilyn Monroe was. When she had turned around he was speechless. Now talking and giggling for quite sometime. No beating about the bush, he asked her straight — ‘Where are we going now? Your place or my place?’
Then they decided to go to the `Five Star’ and spent the night. In the morning, standing on the balcony he proposed and she accepted. But her inner thought was something like — ‘if I get bored with a garment merchant I always can invite a poet or a violinist and can tell the world that I’m not only rich but cultured too and understand fine arts. Obaidul would be very busy with his big international business and might not have time to watch over me all day long.’
Obaidul had not been living a saintly life either. His relationship with some of the women was short-lived, one-off or one-night stand. Some dishy women factory workers from his factories who would do anything to please the master, a friend’s sex-starved wife, and one university student who needed money badly — all were short-lived casual relationship.
This was the first time that he seriously wanted to get married again. But his inner thought was something like — those dishy women workers would always be there if I needed any change.
Rurki was a bit suspicious about Obaidul’s wife’s insanity. She had heard a lot of rumours. People did gossip and whispered; he was the reason. Rumour was that he had scared her with a big fat snake; he knew that she had abnormal fear of snake. People also said his wife’s scream could be heard from miles afar until madness took her and silenced her.
05bObaidul claimed though that it was only a practical joke; the snake did not have any venom. He was aware of his wife’s snake phobia; she could kiss a tiger but a teeny-weeny snake would make her shiver and freeze. Then, why did he do that?
She heard others say that the wife would compare the husband with her premarital intellectual professor lover and call him insensitive, thick-headed, boring clothe merchant. At one point she shouted at him — ‘I do not like you! You are boring and you have no bright imagination.’ So, perhaps to show his brilliance and imagination, he planned a practical joke with a real snake! He had kept it under her bed in a basket.
Rurki had listened to the story over and over. She had even asked him, ‘Why did you do that?’  ‘It was only fun, Rurki,’ he had replied. ‘We did take its poisonous tooth out, you know.’
‘What did you expect from the practical joke?’ Rurki had pressed on.
‘Nothing really. Expected she will hug me to death out of fear and will look at me as her saviour, throw her arms around me and love only me,’ he had said.
Rurki wanted to scream — ‘you thick-headed maniac’ — but controlled herself.
Obaidul had told her, ‘You would never discuss the subject again.’
‘Never,’ Rurki had promised.
His mood had changed. He had come close, looked deep into her eyes and whispered, ‘Rurki, I’m so glad to have met you at last.’
‘Me too, Obaidul,’ she had said as she looked at his attractive physique and thought about his mountains of money.
Obaidul’s gaze had been long and deep. People said Obaidul could hypnotise women with his gaze. Women sort of surrendered willingly to his wish. Rurki had surrendered completely and been waiting for the big day. The big day came. They got married.
Rurki’s friend asked her on the telephone, ‘What did you see in him? That sadistic moron who made his wife insane. Don’t you know that story?’
Rurki replied, ‘An international clothe merchant with billions of foreign money, villa, excellent physique does not grow on trees, you know. Lots of wives get madness at some point in their lives. No big deal. But this businessman’s wealth! God I told you it does not grow on tree.’
‘It grows on factory floors with the blood and sweat of unpaid or underpaid workers.’
The line got cut off. Who was going to listen to all those idealistic mumbo-jumbo? Jealous shitty bitch! Rurki did not have any time for this. She thought. ‘He is one in a million and he is mine.’
05cWhen Rurki saw Obaidul’s Gulmohor Villa, her mouth became wide open, and hard to close again. What a massive house. About 10 bedrooms, a massive swimming pool, workout rooms, sauna, Jacuzzi and a tennis court. ‘You have to play tennis Rurki. Do you play?’
‘But I can learn.’
‘You have to. I like a tennis player,’ he winked at her.
‘I see,’ Rurki smiled. ‘Only a tennis player?’
‘All sorts of game my dear. The seductive and sexy ones are the best.’
Rurki realised this man slept on a mattress stuffed with money. All big notes. No loose changes. For her wise selection she patted her own back again. She felt they were tailor-made, and she had chosen well.
‘Where would you like to go for our honeymoon?’ Obaidul asked.
‘You choose and surprise me.’
‘I will. I will take you to a place you have never dreamt of. It’s between Seychelles and Mauritius. A small private island. Remote, quiet and tranquil. No big hotels, no commercial casino and juke box. A few chalets here and there. Cute and cosy like green bird’s nest. Lush green tress with flowers everywhere. I had been there once and it is paradise.’
‘You know something, Obaidul: if I have to go to hell with you I would be happy.’
Obaidul laughed. ‘I know. But this is real paradise.’
Rurki was again spellbound and ecstatic.
When they arrived there Obaidul smiled triumphantly. ‘Did I not tell you? Do you think God can make a paradise better than this?’
‘I suppose not.’ Rurki was speechless for a little while. They were walking on soft-white sand, hand in hand, sometimes lips in lips. Some trees were heavy with flowers. Some were lush green trying to reach the sky. Lovely colourful birds everywhere. The forests and the sea made a very soothing sound. They were humming too while walking.
Obaidul had not exaggerated a bit; it was exactly as he had described. They thought it would be glorious seven days. Busy Obaidul could not spend more time than that. But he promised Rurki that they would come back again, soon. They were spending time loving each other.
Foods and drinks in ‘Love and Lagoon’ restaurant were of every sort and kind, and delicious — full of Eastern and Western promises and goodness. Eating there was a real treat for the few holidaymakers. The food, the atmosphere, the loneliness, the beauty and everything in there was nice and heavenly — too good to be true.
Rurki was worried about her waist line. Then she said, ‘The amount of calories we are burning each day, this shouldn’t be a problem.’ Odud replied, ‘No my dear it should not be a problem.’ And he laughed heartily.
‘Like Marlon Brando, my American partner Fredrick bought a part of it. It’s his Tahiti. Don’t you think so?’
‘I have not seen Tahiti but your friend Fredrick must have some good taste to have a place like that.’
Obaidul told her about the next day’s plan. ’I will swim for a long time here. Can you swim?’
‘Little bit. But swimming in the sea is not for me. I will be scared to venture into seawater.’
‘When we go back I will book you for some swimming lesson, you may have a personal trainer and practise in our pool. Would you like that?’
‘I would love that.’
‘Then next time we two will swim together. You can race me even. Now let’s go and eat. And after that I will have you as my sumptuous feast. Then you sleep till eleven tomorrow. You would need that when I am finished with you.’ A husky rough smile — when Obaidul was at his hungriest he smiled like that. ‘Join me when you feel nice and fresh tomorrow.’
Rurki asked one awkward question. It could have been a slip of tongue, or she was just in a playful mood. ‘I am really surprised, Obaidul! With your huge appetite for sex, why did you wait so long to get married again? Was it your guilty conscience?’
Obaidul’s feet froze. That awkward question again! With chilling coldness he answered, ‘When milk is cheap, why I keep a cow?’ He then said in a grave voice, ‘No guilty conscience. But Rurki I told you not to ask this sort of question again. I hope this is the last time, I warn you…’
Rurki did not give much thought when she asked that question. But what could she do now other than utter sorry a million times.
‘Sorry, sorry, sorry!’ She hugged him with million kisses. Rurki begged, ‘Please do not be angry with me. Please do not spoil our fun.’
Frozen legs got life a bit and he started to walk but trying to explain why he had not got married before. ‘I am pleased to have met you; otherwise, I can imagine being on my own for many years to come.’
‘I am sorry. So stupid of me to ask you an idiotic question.’ Her hands were caressing every part of his body and she was hugging him like mad.
‘Apology accepted.’ Hands in hands, lips in lips, they entered their chalet. In a stern voice, he uttered, ‘I hate those who called themselves intellectuals and pretend they know everything.’
‘O! Why have you brought up that subject now? Do you think I like them? Those long-haired Marxist vagabonds with baggy trousers and floral tops with only some sugar-coated poems in their pockets but no money. I hate them.’
‘Good.’ The one window which they had closed before going out looked wide open. A cool Siberian breeze played a little, pages from a book on the table rustled, the curtain was like a mast, and the bedcover flown up a bit and showing them that lovely baby pink satin bed and inviting them to make love, at once. For a minute or so, the Siberian breeze went like a cloud of smoke through the window, though Siberia was far away from this place but they could only compare it with arctic weather.
Where did it come from? This terrible cool breeze? Rurki was surprised and perplexed. Obaidul was heedless to that breezy incident, he got other things in mind. While they were travelling on an unbeaten track that funny Siberian cool breeze entered through the overhead ventilator and sprawled a little. Then it swished between them and vanished again.
Next morning Obaidul had to leave the chalet earlier. He was a keen swimmer. He took a long arduous swim. Then feeling tired, lied down on a beach towel and fell fast asleep. A cool bout of breeze shawled over his bare body for a little while and as usual disappeared. Half-awaken, he murmured, ‘Fredrick never told me about this weather, funny cool breeze comes and goes.’ Then he was fast asleep again.
With a basket full of fruits, sandwiches, some delicious cakes and drinks, Rurki was coming slowly to meet her husband. Her Colossus of Rhodes was sleeping peacefully there. Some spiders like insects were playing with his open broad face. But he would not know that for his sound sleep. With her silken scarf, Rurki brushed off those insects from his face. Obaidul woke up and asked, ‘What is the matter Rurki?’
‘Nothing. Looks like some spider-like insects were crawling on your face.’
‘Spiders!’ He screamed. He had severe arachnophobia which Rurki did not know anything about.
‘Not exactly spiders but looks like spiders. That’s all.’
He got up and sat straight and scratching his face like mad. With his nails he tried to peel off the skin of his face. Then he stood up. Rurki hugged him and whispered softly, ‘You are such a baby. Please sit down and have some ice-cool drink. You would feel better.’
Then Rurki gave him some soft kisses to soothe his nerves. But it took him a while to get back his normal self and sit down.
She asked. ‘How are you feeling now?’
Obaidul was reluctant to reply. Probably he was not sure about his state of mind.
Next morning Obaidul got up in the morning, wanted to shave and noticed some spots on his face. ‘God! What are they?’
‘They are nothing but spots.’ But Obaidul was not happy at all at Rurki’s explanation and became restless.
‘They are teenager’s spot, silly. Don’t you know in heart you are still a teenager?’
‘Teenager, my foot. I’m not staying here for a single night. Leave this blasted paradise today.’ Obaidul ignored his wife’s lovely smile, her sense of humour and was fidgeting a lot.
As soon as they got back they heard a very bad news — his insane wife had committed suicide the day they had left for their honeymoon. Her naked body was hanging down from a ceiling fan. The sari she was wearing was her only way to freedom. Obaidul had to swallow two strong sleeping pills to get some sleep. He needed it badly.
Next morning at about 11 o’clock Obaidul got up. His head seemed heavy and he was having difficulty seeing. To freshen up and put some cold water on his head and face, he went into the big attached bathroom. The big mirror was squeaky clean. He tried to gaze at the mirror. And somehow he could notice all those big spots were as big as summer boils. With half-closed eyes he was staring at the mirror. He could hear some peculiar buzzing and wheezing sound inside those boils. As if something was trying best to come out. He was staring with terrible fear. And then pop! Out came all of those. All baby spiders, probably thousands of them, in his face, under the vest, in his hair and everywhere.
Rurki came running to the bathroom door. The scream was as sharp and loud as grenade blasting. Obaidul was screaming, screaming and screaming. Screaming his head off and dancing like mad. ‘Obaidul, Obaidul, they are nothing but some baby spiders! Nothing! Listen to me, calm down.’
But who was going to calm down and listen? He was screaming like his wife had ten years ago.
His first wife was scared of snakes — a severe case of ophidiophobia.
He was scared of spiders — a severe case of arachnophobia.
Baby spiders were playing with his face and body happily as if they had found an ideal grazing or play ground. He went completely insane.
The cool Siberian breeze danced like a smoky snake and then went out through the window, probably to mix with the hanging cloud.
Rurki could not tell the good news of her pregnancy to her husband which she had realized this morning but found hard to believe. Petrified Rurki was looking for the nearest phone to call the house physician and mumbling, ‘Am I carrying his baby or spiders?’

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