Silver sat down on one of the chairs that the movers had positioned within his family room. It had been a very tiring day and it was not over yet. He had a few more things to do before making his bed for a night’s rest.
The house was a strange custom home, set in the middle of a quite anomalous three wooded acres in Huntsville, Alabama. Surrounded by a small stone half-wall with cast iron fence pickets atop, it looked like something more suitable for old New Orleans or homes along a Deep South river. The house itself was Victorian in design, with delightfully complex arrangements of gables and deep porches, but was actually built in the 1990s rather than the 1890s. Silver had been able to buy the home for very little. Not only were times difficult for those with large mortgages, but the number of such distressed properties had depressed the sale prices to extremely low levels for buyers with cash. Silver was such a buyer.
Walking among all of the boxes and furniture deposited on hardwood floors, Silver noticed ample evidence spiders were the dominant inhabitants of the home before his arrival. It was time to do something about that situation.
Sitting down in the middle of the dining room, he called out in a way only an arachnid could fully appreciate, a summons.
After a long minute, a small figure worked its way across the floor towards Silver. It was a Brown Recluse spider, and undoubtedly the closest example of their invertebrate class.
Silver made the overture of a peaceful greeting, which was acknowledged by a waving of the spider’s pedipalps.
“I want to speak with your queen,” said Silver.
The spider silently regarded Silver, with the equivalent reply of, “what queen?”
“Clearly, my credentials should be presented. I detect that you have a web with two live prey captured within it. Please go and regard your web, returning when you have seen what there is to see.” Silver pointed in the direction of the web, flicking a finger minimally.
Silver sat still and waited for the spider’s return.
“My prey is dead.”
“Yes, it is. They should still be alive should they not?”
“Go then once more and see what there is to be seen,” Silver said.
Again, Silver sat still and waited.
“More prey has come, bigger.”
“Yes, the message is that I can deny or provide. I can promote or eliminate. I prefer to reach an accord. Please summon your queen.”
Without comment, the Brown Recluse turned and headed for a nearby baseboard. After a few more minutes, a mouse-sized Wolf spider made its way towards Silver followed by the Brown Recluse.
Standing in front of Silver, the Wolf spider crouched and waited for his words which were not words.
“Your Majesty, the Queen of the Spiders?”
“Yes, and sorcerer you are?”
“Yes. You may address me as Silver.”
“What do you want of us?”
“I want lasting peace between us, as this is now my home.” Silver said.
“What is peace, as you see it?”
“An absence of conflict, agreed zones to exist, agreed prey, agreed numbers.”
“What do we get, from this proposed peace?”
“Safety from the hunt, my goodwill, and food when there is none to be had.”
“Absence of conflict, means that I will not war on you or your kind, your kind will not trouble me or mine. Agreed zones to exist means I want to keep my living areas free of webs or the need to clean them of such. Your portion would be that I will not remove or tamper with webs elsewhere. Agreed prey, any that do not have my parole. I am particularly offended by mosquitoes for example, insects which damage my home or those who I protect are yours. Agreed numbers, control of your population since deaths by misadventure will henceforth be greatly reduced. Safety from the hunt, within the iron fences of my domain, you will not be hunted by anything. My goodwill, for unknown things still to be considered. Food, when none is to be had, ask your subject there.”
“Initially, one hundred years, binding on our descendants?”
“It is either that, move, or die?”
“I agree,” Silver said as his hand pushed at an invisible barrier. “As a token of my appreciation I’ve filled the webs of the webmakers and removed those species of the small whose presence offends me, within my domain.”
“May we have two days to ensure full compliance? It will take some time to move where the accord makes necessary.”
“Of course.” Silver made the parting courtesies that sovereigns do when taking leave of their peers.
Taking a deep breath, Silver walked out onto one of the wide porches. It was a fine autumn day and the trees’ leaves color was turning high. Silver sat down in one of the all weather chairs and closed his eyes. His senses detected a number of reptilian species on the property. With a grimace of concentration, he killed all of the snakes where they were. It wouldn’t do to simply exile seventy-eight snakes, eighteen of them poisonous, onto his surrounding neighbors. The chipmunks, moles, and voles could simply be given the news of their forced eviction. In his mind’s eye, Silver traced wards of limit on the surrounding property lines, which isolated his home from those who travel on the ground. Included in the wards was a provision to request an audience. That provision proved to be in force when a canine mind requested permission to approach. Silver silently granted it.
Coming up the driveway towards the house, came an older woman accompanied by a Golden Retriever named Jezibelle. The woman was carrying a large plastic container.
“I’m up here” Silver called down.
“Hi there, my name is Mercy Hawkins I live across the street and wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood. I hope you like chocolate chip cookies.”
“Hello Mercy, my name is Silver Brixton. I was just catching my breath out here after seeing the movers off. I love chocolate chip cookies, indeed almost any cookie, but chocolate chip in particular. And who is this, Jezibelle is it?” Silver said as he courteously extended the back of his hand for inspection by Jezibelle.
“How did you know her name? Did I tell you?”
“I can’t say. To me she just looked like a Jezibelle. I love dogs, and up to now haven’t had the space to provide for one. I expect that will change after I settle in.” Silver rubbed Jezebel’s fur and surreptitiously eliminated the fleas, two ticks, and a small mange start. “I’ll have to get Jezi’s approval for whoever I bring in. Does she go for walks with you? I hear Huntsville has a lot of forest trails. Perhaps you’ll let her walk with me sometimes.”
“I do, when my hips aren’t acting up. She loves to go. Is Silver your given or a nickname?”
“It is a given name, and I think I got the best deal. My brother’s name is Gold and my sister is Platinum. We could go on Oprah for unusual. Now Mercy, I come from a much more direct society. So I will now speak to the unasked questions. I am widowed, without children, of independent means and artistic temperament. I chose Huntsville as my final home due to the availability of this house, I find it to be very special. I’m not a church person, but don’t mind people who are. I appreciate a cold alcoholic beverage on occasion. I don’t particularly follow football or care about The Crimson Tide, but I will fly the flag on appropriate game days,” Silver said and smiled as emphasis of goodwill.
Jezibelle leaned into Silver and positioned herself to get a better rub.
“Well, Jezibelle sure likes you. I find that she is generally a very good judge of character. I’ll leave you now to the unpacking. If you need anything or have any questions, just come on over and ask. I’ll introduce you to Ed, he would have come, but he isn’t all that mobile anymore. In the spirit of your own disclosures, I think you’ll find the neighbors very nice for the most part, and they tend to mind their own business too. Please bring the container back when you’re done with the cookies,” Mercy said.
“Thank you Mrs. Hawkins, I appreciate your gift and getting to meet the both of you,” Silver said.
“Come along, Jezi. You will see Mr. Brixton again later, he is our new neighbor!”
Jezibelle joined her owner as she headed back down the drive, looking back once with a slow tail wag of farewell.
After they cleared the boundary to the property, Silver said, “You can come out now.”
A large female bobcat came out from behind the bush where it had been sitting for the entire encounter, and set about grooming itself. Silver opened the container and took out a delicious cookie.
“The spiders say there are new rules here,” the bobcat said without words.
“Yes. You are welcome to continue living here. In fact, I would enjoy having you. But you would have to agree to the rules of sanctuary. Specifically, you may not kill or hurt any of the creatures I allow within the bounds of my rule. No creatures will kill or pursue you here either. Different rules pertain once outside of the fence, for that is not sanctuary. There will be dogs, but the same rules apply to them.”
“I would stay. What of my kits when young?”
“They may stay, within limits. We don’t need a hundred adult bobcats on our three acres.”
The bobcat smiled a toothy feline smile, “No worries on that front. We prefer to be spread out as adults. But I sense you have access to far more than three acres. How can this be?”
“Very perceptive. Perhaps I’ll show you after we are better acquainted. But for now, we’ll consider the limits that are immediately apparent.” Silver performed a similar service for the bobcat as he had done for Jezibelle. “These grounds will have little to no insect pests, one of the fringe benefits for all of the fur-bearing. You may stay for the next part if you wish. It is time for my discussion with the avian contingent.”
“Thank you for the cleansing. Yes, I noticed. I’ll just lay down in this patch of sunlight and observe.”
Silver closed his eyes, and let his senses range the skies. He called the raven, the owl, the hawk, the sparrow, the jay and the hummingbird. Three ravens soon perched on the railing of his porch, strutting back and forth importantly. An owl perched within the shade of a large tree branch. A cloud of twenty sparrows settled in the leaves of the same tree. A jay set down on an inoperative fountain basin. The hummingbird would not land, but hovered. A hawk set down on the same railing, causing brief raven complaints.
“I’ve called you here to explain the new rules of my home. Your kind will be welcome in moderate numbers, as here there will be no prey or predator. My friend, the bobcat, will not hunt you here. You will not hunt other creatures I have welcomed here. There will be no snakes. Those with nests will not lose their eggs. Outside the fence, the old rules apply. If you don’t consider that to be beneficial or the rules to be reasonable, I will banish your kind from my sanctuary. Your decision?” Silver explained and asked.
“Would we be able to nest here?” a sparrow asked.
“Yes, limited numbers for each of your kinds may nest in safety.”
The ravens croaked that they agreed, as did all save the owl who flew off without comment. Silver adjusted the wards, “The owls will no longer be able to enter these grounds. Welcome to the rest of you and we will speak again.”
Silver rose, stretched, and opened the screen door to go back inside. The bobcat followed, looking over the boxes and pieces of furniture spread throughout the house.
Silver smiled, “Please make yourself comfortable. Might I offer some refreshment?”
“A small bowl of milk would not go amiss, thank you.”
Silver opened his refrigerator and pulled out the unopened gallon of whole milk. He poured a cup into a bowl, and heated it slightly with the built-in microwave before setting it down before the bobcat.
“Thank you. Perfectly prepared and very much appreciated. I wonder whether you would also be open to accepting a female mountain lion friend of mine?”
“I would welcome such. Although it would probably be hard to sneak over here, given the location. She would have to agree to not prey on the neighbors’ pets, as that could pose a problem. You should probably agree to that as well,” Silver said.
“Of course. I already am well acquainted with Jezibelle, plus it does not make sense to hunt so close to where you sleep. My friend would also value a safe place to raise her kittens. It isn’t as hard to get here as you might think, as the city is well covered by foliage, and she would be doing so at night. One other fringe benefit is that she occasionally provides deer for her friends. Do you like deer?”
“I do. I look forward to meeting your friend,” Silver said.
“Thank you again for the milk. It takes me back to my days as a kitten. It is also nice to be understood.” The bobcat strolled over to the screen door and standing on her hind legs used the latch to exit back onto the porch as the sun started to go down.
One final task before he could pack it in for the evening. He took off his shoes and walked out onto the lawn under the largest tree. Communing with flora was much slower than with fauna. Communicating complicated ideas involving boundaries and limits, as well as ways to receive needed help, took Silver several hours of standing stock still. When complete, his trees no longer needed trimming, his lawn mowing, or weeds suffered to grow within the bounds he had set. This session was much more tiring than the previous ones.
Silver walked back into his house, and found the bobcat had already left for her evening hunt. A raven croaked greeting from above, which Silver reciprocated. The spider webs had already begun to vanish within the house, while building on the iron fence pickets surrounding the property.
Now, where did I leave that box with my coffeemaker? Silver thought to himself. It won’t do to start tomorrow’s work without a fresh cup.
All rights reserved (C) 2017 D. M. Kalin