Readings — From the October 2016 issue

The Pet

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By Roger Lewinter, from Story of Love in Solitude, a collection of short fiction that was published this month by New Directions. Lewinter, who lives in Switzerland, is the author of numerous literary and scholarly works. Translated from the French by Rachel Careau.

One evening in August, as I was going to bed in the northeast room, which I had decided finally to use — the connecting wall of the other apartment had been broken through two years earlier — , I noticed on the transverse edge of the alcove, obliquely above my head, a spider, black, large, and since I didn’t want to have it there above me during the night, I went into the kitchen of the other apartment — one has to cross through two rooms and a hallway forming the downstroke of a large L pointing southwest — , to look for a glass and a small plate, then, putting a cushion on the bed in order to reach the ceiling, caught the spider and returned to the kitchen to release it on the balcony.

The next evening, as I was about to go to bed, in the corner between the two windows I noticed, a little surprised by the proliferation, another spider, the same kind, which I caught in the same manner, in order to release it as I had the first; but the following day, in the same place — in the corner between the two windows — , there was a spider again, black, large, which I caught, now with a certain exasperation, asking myself whether I shouldn’t perhaps close the window in the room, which I left cracked open during the day.

The next three days, I didn’t see another spider, but on the fourth evening, in the corner to the left above the head of the bed, there was a spider, inevitably the same kind, which I caught now with the calm of routine, in order to release it on the balcony off the kitchen and return to bed afterward, only to get up again immediately, however, to go back into the kitchen to smoke a cigarette, sitting cross-legged, as usual, on the arm of the caved-in couch against the wall, noticing then, on the back of the couch, running headlong, the spider that I had just released on the balcony, which had returned through the partly open window: understanding now, I just managed to catch the spider on the floor tiles — panicked, it was skillfully dodging the glass — , in order to release it this time on the landing — thinking to disorient it that way — : I saw the spider make its way, still running, toward the stairs, where it descended the first step.

The next day, I did not see any spider, nor, indeed, for the three days that followed, but on the fifth evening, in exactly the same place as the first time — on the transverse edge of the alcove — , the spider was back again: disarmed by this obstinacy, I resolved to let the spider be; and in the morning it was out of sight — it must have slipped into some crack — , but I expected, with a certain impatience, to see the spider again in the evening, then was disappointed not to find it in the alcove, nor in the corner between the two windows, nor did I see the spider the next day, disconcerted by its disappearance just when I had accepted it — spiders, creatures of routine, of absolute punctuality, are the only animal, in practice, with whom it is possible to coexist within strictly defined, and respected, territories — ; but two days later, while vacuuming late in the afternoon — I had to straighten up a bit — , on the floor, at the edge of the rug, in the corner between the two windows, I discovered, on its back, legs curled up, dead, a spider, which I didn’t touch, leaving it there, this time, as it was.

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