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Tiny The Tattooed Tarantula

Tiny was a hard man, a fight anyone anywhere bare knuckle bruiser. No fancy Kung Fooey, no arty Queensbury Rules. Just a go for the throat beer swillin' giant of a hairy spider. He didn't live in the bathtub, he wore it. He could out-stare a cat, make dogs whimper and ferrets took detours. But like all hard men he had his Achilles heel. Tiny's was the fair Bes, a black widow who lived in the air vent. No matter what Tiny did Bes looked down her aristocratic spinnerets, the more desperate he got the more she ignored him. Presents were returned unopened. He'd tried flies, a mouse, the canary and a goldfish carefully threaded on a silken choker studded with bumblebees. Nothing. Not a flicker of affection. She didn't want any old roughneck, she wanted the whole oilfield and Tiny was distraught

Tiny could take no more and went rapidly down the plughole. His drinking got worse, fights turned into massed brawls and when finally he lost his job at the abattoir he couldn't pay rent on the bathtub and got evicted. He lived for a while in a banana box at the back of a takeaway, a squat he shared with a mean junkie scorpion, surviving on cockroaches swept out at the end of each night. Life was the pits, his health suffered and his beautiful hairy legs started to go bald, yet still, deep inside he pined for the fair Bes.

After another battle over a kebab stick with his squat Tiny moved out and headed for the bright lights. In desperation he got a few hours work as a weekend bouncer in a low dive but at least he was meeting other spiders and the landlord was quite impressed at the way he could shout “Time”, and clear the bar. One sight of Tiny and the ladies were gone with the guys in hot pursuit. He moved into a cupboard in a bed-sit owned by Vera, a fortune-teller who liked to use him as a prop and she let him dangle from her pointy hat while doing her readings.

One evening while Vera was out at the deli getting some snails and frogs legs, (well, decent garden snails are hard to find in the City and newts and toads are protected these days and one has to be adaptable), Tiny was playing with her wand conducting the crypt music that she used for her intro when he accidentally touched the crystal ball. A bright ziggy red flash erupted and filled the room with orange smoke and Tiny was thrown back in a daze. He'd never seen Vera do anything like this and just as he was picking himself up he heard Vera coming back up the stairs and a pale blue light glowed from within the ball.

II

Back at the bathtub things were also happening. The General, a slimy soldier ant and his Adjutant had moved in and immediately set to work on the fair Bes. She was dazzled by his charm and went with him to all the posh society soirées. She met Dukes and Ambassadors, Princesses and Presidential Ladies. She became the talk of the Web Times and gave interviews to Hullabaloo Magazine. Ah! This was what she wanted, not a struggle though life with a soppy hard-up tarantula. She quickly dumped the General and became engaged to the Prince of Thisorthat, a spineless slug whom she despised but who had more money than even she dreamt of.

The plans for the wedding went on apace. Gowns were tried and discarded, jewellery was commissioned and the pratznratsie followed her everywhere. Holidays, film premiers, enough column inches to down a rain forest; what did she care? She was the sun and the moon at the centre of her universe. Prince Thisorthat started to hate her but what could he do? If he called it off he would be ridiculed and her lawyers would have him barbecued. He wouldn't have a leg to slime on.

On the day of the wedding all went as planned and it was hailed a brilliant success, but the night was a different matter. They had gone to their, HER, palace on the secluded island of Mustiness and their shouting could be heard drifting over the palace walls. No one would tell what the row was about and in the morning the Prince had disappeared. A full search was conducted but nothing could be found. Inspector Morts, the eariwig investigated but there were no fingerprints and no body, just a faint smudge at the top of the stairs. It was all hushed up and the press reported it as a tragic accident, he must have slipped over the palace walls and into the salty sea. There was tattle of course. She was a widow twice over now; she had finally eaten her man and was living on his assets, who would be next?

III

As the door opened Tiny stood there on the table shaking. He was covered in fine white ash and looked like a ghost in the blue light. Vera wanted to be angry but just as she tried Tiny turned to look at her, great sad tears welling in his eyes, and she burst out laughing. She gently picked him up and gave him a warm bath and asked him what had happened. Being in the bath reminded him of his other home and he told her his whole story.

She listened patiently while he told her about Bes, his problems and how he was getting a new life back together. Down at the bar he had made lots of friends and his mate Pav from the Italian had given him a few singing lessons. He lost his bathtub echo and could sing a fair baritone to Pav's fine tenor. He did a stand one night when only half the punk band turned up, playing bass guitar and drums at the same time. The drums were really great; it was just like fighting without getting hurt and he was becoming a success. He was getting a few gigs and thinking about starting a group of his own.

Vera knew about Bes from the papers but didn't realise how much she had hurt Tiny so she took him inside the invisible dimensions he'd opened up within the crystal ball. There she showed him the true Bes and the ugliness hidden behind her beauty. His heart was still breaking but from that time he knew it would mend. She also gently told him about the dangers of playing with things he didn't understand and then they set to work and tidied up before Vera's boyfriend came round. He was a body artist down at the docks and claimed he could do any tattoo. Vera asked him to do a picture of Tiny on her shoulder and Tiny sat on the mantelpiece and modelled for him, fascinated while he watched Joe work.

That night Tiny slept soundly for the first time in ages.

IV

He spent the long hot summer days down at the docks outside Joe's shop. There he could practice his drumming on an old tea chest without anybody minding the noise. Joe took down the shop bell and fitted it to the wall so that Tiny could use it as a cymbal. The crabs and lobsters all said he would become a superstar. The joint was jumping.

On his way to the bar one night Tiny was trying out the words for a new routine he'd written. He passed the alley next to the Italian where Pav lived and heard a muffled scream.

Quickly feeling his way up the close Tiny could just make out the form of Mrs. Allegro lit by four sets of sinister red eyes like LEDs in the darkness. It was the O'Rati gang, a nasty bunch of hoods. One was rifling her handbag and the other three were trying to pull her legs off. Without thought Tiny weighed in, bit the first one on the nose 'till his eyes popped, then suddenly the remaining six eyes were focussed on him. Tiny was fast and swung up a roan pipe just as white incisors flashed like stilettos and smashed into the brickwork. Tiny spun a rope, trussed him like a Christmas turkey and booted him so hard out of the alley that he flew across the road, went straight through the fishmongers window and ended up in the aquarium beside the conger eels. The other two looked at each other and began to circle Tiny. Two were out but now he didn't have surprise on his side and these were hardened drain fighters. Claws and teeth slashed and stabbed at him and he knew he'd been hurt. One was on his back trying to bounce his head off the cobbles; the other was tying his legs in granny knots. With all his strength Tiny gave a mighty heave; the one on his back was thrown clear, rattled off a shutter and impaled himself on the finial of a spiky Victorian foot scraper. Tiny reared up on his back legs and faced the last one who snarled some bad words then scurried away.

Tiny heard voices and people running, Mrs Allegro was still hysterical and the crash from the fishmongers had alerted the police. The COD were on their way. Tiny stood erect on his legs, frozen in time. The voices grew faint, the darkness got darker and the last thing Tiny could remember was asking Pav to do a shift for him at the bar. His knees buckled, he fell over backwards slowmo and rolled into a ball, perfectly still.

When Vera heard what had happened she rushed down to find Tiny in a terrible state. One of his legs was broken, his wounds were dirty and deep and he was exhausted. She took him home and made him a bed of soft straw in the bottom of her cupboard and sent out to a country cousin of hers for some fresh herbs and witch hazel. She splinted his leg, cleaned his cuts and did her best chant over the slow cooker, (can't get a decent cauldron for love nor money since the interior designers got hold of them). Infection had set in and Tiny was only just holding on, life was hanging by a thread. Pav came round every day and talked to him about life at the bar. Mrs. Allegro visited to see how he was getting on and sent her daughter, Rosa, on special errands for Vera. Tiny drifted in and out of coma and the vet was deeply concerned.

One day Vera had to go out for a while and Rosa came to watch Tiny. She knew his reputation as a hard man but he had been so brave helping her mum and now he looked so helpless. She gently caressed his great hairy legs and slyly kissed him on his cheek. She told him that she secretly wanted to be a singer and loved to hear him play his rolls and splits. When Vera came home she could see what was happening. Rosa had been the missing ingredient in her potions and she began to go out more often so that Rosa could come round and sit. Eventually Tiny's eyes flickered and he saw a dozen beautiful angels beside his bed and thought he had gone to heaven. Gradually the angels started to decrease until there was only one left. Rosa. He sat up with a start then slid back down the bed as his head started to pound. Then he realised that Rosa had a leg wrapped around his splinted one and he looked deep into her eyes that were by now full of tears and love. Over the next days and weeks they chatted endlessly about music, the people they knew and most of all about how they loved each other. When Tiny was finally up and about Rosa took him back to meet her parents. Tiny had never been more terrified but Vera had tipped them wise about their feelings and when he politely knocked the door it was hugs and kissed all round. Mr. Allegro asked him all the usual questions that fathers ask. Talked to him about contracts and managers and investments and stuff. Mrs Allegro just went dewy eyed and started looking out her best lace. Someone said March was a lovely time of year and the matter was settled. March it was to be and March it was.

Epilogue

Short stories don't have epilogues. It's a rule I've been told, i's doted t's crossed and all lose ends knitted in or discarded. This however is your story and if you want an epilogue you shall have one………...

Love is infectious and one day whilst at Vera's decorating the cake Rosa asked Vera about her own plans. Vera looked sheepish and dabbed Rosa with icing sugar. Someone said June was a lovely time of year and the matter was settled. Poor Joe didn't even know about it till later.

Pav became a huge star and was in great demand for football matches though how a singer can referee a match is a mystery to me. Perhaps it has something to do with the way the voice carries all that emotion. It isn't an original observation but maybe opera and football aren't so different after all.

And what of Bes? She was by now feeding off her forth husband though she had been careful enough to divorce this one first. Her looks were fading and she could never do anything gracefully. Especially like growing old. She had been nipped, tucked, lifted and lipoed so many times that she was a mask. No longer the darling of the press she hides away and these days only her maniacal laughter is heard cackling over the palace walls.

But the title of this story is Tiny the Tattooed Tarantula and so far he has no tattoo. A tattoo is for life and something that has to be thought about carefully, some people don't like them and youngsters should be extra cautious. We could leave Tiny without one, the title being one of life's little enigmas. We could give Tiny one now, a small rose as a present from Joe and in honour of his lovely Rosa. …Or it could be a grain of sand on the huge beach of Storyland, made into yet another sandcastle. The important thing is stories aren't written they are told. A written story has no life until someone takes up the words and reads them for themselves or takes up the even greater challenge and reads them to children.

Goodnight and remember to brush your teeth before you go to bed.

 Frog.

2000

 
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