Kiki The Spider's New Web
It was a clear but dewy morning in the big back garden and Reg the snail had woken up early to sing to all his favourite flowers.
He munched down a gnat au chocolat for his breakfast and eased out of his shell. Reg peered across the garden at the golden forsythia by the high wooden fence, which he had always liked - and couldn't believe what he saw. He rubbed his eyes against each other (which snails can do) and ran towards the flowery bush as fast as he could, which wasn't very fast at all (snails can't run - only slide) but he got there after a few minutes.
Reg inspected closely what he had seen: from the golden forsythia to next door's high wooden fence was a big spider's web. The dew had made it look like a hammock full of diamonds, but the fact it was beautiful only made Reg angry. When he saw what was sitting in the middle of the web he became even angrier. A spider with long legs and long eyelashes over all her eight eyes sitting happily in the middle, washing her feet in a dewdrop just as if she owned the place.
"Oi!" shouted Reg as loud as he could, which wasn't very loud, but spiders have good hearing.
"Helloo?" replied Kiki, which was spider for hello.
"What do you think you're doing, making a great big cobweb on me flowers?!"
"Oh, I didn't know they were yours." began Kiki, collecting her legs and leaning forward to look down at Reg. "Who are you?"
"Don't you know who I am? I'm Reg the Snail! The very cheek of it!" puffed Reg.
"But this is my new home! I need to catch flies, so what I do is hide here-"
"Very wise, with legs as 'airy as yours!" said Reg.
"Ooh you're rude!" said Kiki. "My web isn't hurting the flowers. Do you want to come up here and see for yourself?"
Reg looked at the web way above his head. It would take him a week to climb up that far - and he thought that was why Kiki had said it.
"Right! I'm leaving." said Reg and hid himself inside his shell. He always did this, because it would take him too long to storm off.
Kiki watched Reg hiding inside his shell for a while, thinking how odd he was, until she got bored and fell asleep. She had been up all night making her web.
Reg came out of his shell later, once he was sure Kiki was asleep. He slithered off to the pond at the other end of the garden. As always, Serge the frog was sitting on his floppy lily pad, thinking deep thoughts about the clouds.
"Serge!" shouted Reg.
"Reg, it is you again." stated Serge obviously.
"Have you seen what's happened to my forsythia?" asked Reg. Serge didn't get a chance to answer. "This spider with great fat legs's gone and made a huge cobweb all over it."
"Well, everyone has to live somewhere-" began Serge, before Reg butted in again.
"Well she can live somewhere else, mon sewer! Why don't you hop up there now and have her for your tea?"
"I do not eat spiders! How revolting!" sniggered Serge snootily.
"If you don't she'll come down 'ere and make webs all over your pond!" Reg felt like no-one was taking him seriously today.
"I do not think so, monsieur Reg. The spider needs a place it can call it's own, you see; because, this is what we all want-"
"Oh get you, you just love the sound of your own voice, don't you. Right! I'm leaving." and Reg went into his shell again.
Serge had seen Reg do this many times. This time, to help him leave, Serge hopped to the edge of pond and gave him a shove down the garden path. Reg's shell rolled along the concrete slabs like a marble.
"Ow! Ouch! Ooh, I'll get you for this, you frog!" shouted Reg muffledly as he bumped and tumbled along.
When Reg came to a stop, he was at the very bottom of the garden, by the private hedge and the shed of flaming useless machines. Reg stayed inside his shell, afraid of what might happen to him, until he heard a voice singing. A sweet and lovely voice coming from inside the ancient stone temple the humans called Baa Bick Yu. Reg thought he was the best singer in the garden - but - no, he probably was; singing was the only thing Reg was really good at. The delightful voice Reg heard made him determined to find its owner: he'd never met anyone who could sing so well.
Reg headed off as fast as he could but couldn't even slide at his normal, slow speed; not with all the bumps he'd had. He tried his best but before he got near the ancient Baa Bick Yu the singing went away. Reg was so upset he lay down and started to cry.
By the end of the day Reg had made his way back to the top of the garden path. Feeling sorry for himself, he decided to tuck himself behind the big red plant pots and go to sleep, but suddenly the wind started to blow. It blew stronger and stronger: all the plants in the garden waved and shook. Reg would normally have been worried about his flowers losing their petals hither and thither, but today he wasn't at all surprised. He lay down, stuck himself firmly to the ground and gazed miserably at the garden.
"Just typical. What else can go wrong?"
As it happened, quite a few things. The wind blew gustier and gustier, and Kiki struggled to hold on to her web. She wrapped all her legs around the silky strands as it bounced up and down like a trampoline.
"This never happened at my old place!" she cried out, wishing she'd stayed on the little web she'd left behind, safely sheltered under next door's water butt.
Some of the strands broke on Kiki's web and she started to feel frightened. A beetle who had been trying to walk along the fence suddenly came tumbling into the web.
"Dear... me." said the beetle; his six legs moved very fast but he spoke very slowly. "This is... so... dangerous." He held onto the web very tightly as it swung up and down. "Hello there... I don't... believe... we've.... met." he said to Kiki.
"Helloo!" she replied over the howl of the wind. "I'm Kiki, pleased to meet you." she was surprised at how calm the beetle was. They usually panicked when they fell in her web, but this one was different.
"Hello... Kiki.... my name's.... Starchy." he said. "You didn't... ought to have... built a web... here... you know."
"I'm starting to see that!" shouted Kiki. And just then a great gust blew them both off the web and up into the air. Starchy had a soft landing on a geranium but Kiki was carried high up in the air and into a blackberry bush six whole feet away. Kiki screamed as she fell through the bush, narrowly missing thousands of thorns until she landed with a squelch on a pile of overripe berries, down on the ground, deep in the middle of the bush. She was very lucky, but didn't feel it one little bit.
Kiki checked all her legs were there by counting them twice. She got to her feet and looked around. It was dark inside the bush but she could smell that there were field mice about. Thinking that mice couldn't climb, she climbed up inside the bush as best she could, trying to avoid all the thorns. As she got nearer the top it became less dark and she could feel that the wind was at last dropping off.
Eventually Kiki climbed out onto the top of the blackberry bush and looked around the garden: she was at least five feet off the ground but heights didn't bother her - or any spider. Balancing carefully on a thick, prickly branch, she could see the whole garden: the pond, the Baa Bick Yu, the shed and the forsythia by the fence where she'd built her new home - which was still hooked onto the fence by a couple of threads.
The sun was shining now and the garden looked beautiful from up there on the bush; but just as Kiki was enjoying the view, a starling perched on a nearby tree spied her and decided to eat Kiki for his tea! The greasy-looking bird swooped down at her from behind, but she spotted it from the corner of one of her eyes and hopped back inside the bush - stamping her fifth foot on a thorn.
"Ooooh ow ow ooooow!" she shrieked.
Way down on the ground, Reg the snail heard Kiki's screams. He had good ears for a snail, although no-one knew where he kept them. Reg looked up at the bush and saw Kiki trying to spin a thread to climb down - and the starling swooping around the bush, trying to gobble her up.
"Hang about, I know that voice!" said Reg, feeling surprised, delighted and scared for Kiki at the same time. "You're the singer I heard by the Baa Bick Yu!"
"Oi, Starchy, quick, do something!" squawked Reg.
"I'll... go... and ask... Serge for help...." said Starchy very slowly, as he scuttled off very quickly towards the pond.
Serge was lying by the pond on some grass when Starchy arrived.
"Quick.... quick.... quick.... quick Serge." began Starchy "A spider... named Kiki... is in... danger."
Woozily, Serge looked at Starchy. "Danger? All life is danger, my shiny-shelled friend. Do not worry." and with that, Serge hopped off into next door's garden through a hole in the fence.
"He's... gone." said Starchy despondently. "What... will I... do.... now?"
Meanwhile at the top of the garden, Kiki was still swinging from the bush and trying not to get eaten. Dark beak open wide, the hungry starling made a dive at Kiki, but missed and bit through the thread she had spun. Kiki grabbed a leaf with a leg or two and clung on to it upside down.
"Uaaaaaaahhhhh!" she yelled.
"Ooh, all this drama! I'm exhausted just watchin' it!" Reg said to himself. "Typical: just when some new talent finally shows up it goes and gets itself eaten!"
Suddenly, something bigger than Reg landed right beside him. He swivelled his eyes and saw Serge, looking very tired. Serge hopped away immediately, half a second before something much, much bigger landed beside him. It was Cozy, next door's cat, chasing Serge!
"Oh mondieu!" croaked Serge, his cheeks puffed out and turning red, "I cannot escape this cat for much longer!"
Wherever Serge hopped, Cozy jumped right after him.
"Stay still you little green devil!" mewed Cozy. Then, he saw something much more appetising than a slippery old frog: a big juicy starling!
Cozy ran and jumped up at the blackberry bush, trying to grab the bird in his sharp claws. The startled starling flew away as fast as he could, high into the sky. Serge hopped quickly into a plant pot before Cozy noticed him again and Starchy disguised himself by standing still and pretending to be a bit of dirt.
"Ooh er! Right, I'm leaving!" said Reg and hid in his shell from Cozy, not that cats were interested in snails.
Defeatedly, Cozy leaped up onto the big fence and down the other side, back into next door's garden. Kiki breathlessly swung down from the blackberry bush and onto the ground.
In a minute or two, Reg heard a tap, tap, tap on his shell.
"Who's that?" he asked. "You can't see me without an appointment!"
"It's me." said Kiki. "Starchy told me what you did. That was very sweet of you."
Reg came out of his shell.
"Oh it's you! Look dear, I've been an udder to you, so, I'd like to say I'm sorry. I'd like to say that."
"A bit of a cow. I'm sorry I said you couldn't live here in the garden." explained Reg.
Serge hopped out of the plant pot and Starchy came over and joined the three of them.
"My friends, today has been a grand battle, but we are all survivors, non? Perhaps the beautiful Kiki will sing us a song!" said Serge triumphantly.
"It's been a long day; I don't know if I've got the music in me!" sighed Kiki.
"You can stay as long as you like - if you take good care of my forsythia flowers!" said Reg with a smile.
"Don't go breaking my web!" pleaded Kiki, starting to sing.
"I couldn't if I tried!" sang Reg, looking at how high up it was.
"Ooh-hoo! I didn't know that!" sang Kiki.
"I'd fall down, just a clown!" sang Reg.
"Don't go breaking my web!" sang Kiki again.
"I won't go breakin' your web!" sang Reg.
As they sang together, Starchy stood on his back legs and tapped out a beat with four pine needles while Serge croaked out a rhythm. All was right in the big back garden and it would soon be time for bed.
As for what tomorrow holds, we'll have to wait and see.
James Radford is a Guest Author
Copyright © James Radford - reproduced by kind permission of James Radford