Eliza Smith


I boasted I was better, so she turned me into a spider.

I laughed at her work—stripes and stripes, blocks of color. I wove faster than she did, warping and wefting pictures of faces and pictures of bodies, sometimes together and sometimes apart. She smacked my hands with the shuttle, called me a child, asked me how I dared.

She pulled back her hood to reveal something brighter underneath, an owl’s face, sharp beaked, all eyes. She glowed yellow and red, and when the crowd gathered, they took her side.

Side by side we worked.

She outwove me, breathing in my talent and brushing it out through her talonned fingers. Her tapestry filled with faces and hands, meeting and hiding and coming together and away. Bodies going down roads, bodies lying in the ground, bodies becoming trees, and trees becoming bodies again.

She’d tricked my fingers: I could not weave the faces of men, but the ungodly hides and flanks of animals, mutts and mules, twisted little birds, always mid-flight and turning away, leaving the cloth for greater sky and farther perches.

When my calluses cracked and bled, she bound off and had her laugh. She turned her loom to the crowd and they clapped. When she turned mine around, they wondered aloud why they had ever loved me.

And so she made an example of me, and turned me for my nerve.

First, my head became a spider; my lower half was still a girl’s. She strung me up by my neck, and the fat, hairy belly of my spider-head lolled this way and that. I swung and tried to choke but I was learning to use a new mouth, heavy with pincers and hair. Breath came out of my spider-gullet in gasps.

My body vanished and my dirty dress fell to the floor, fell on someone in the crowd who was looking up at me. And then the string that strung me up became a part of me, winding out of my belly and through my new little hole. I swung to the ceiling, and found I could walk there, upside-down, with my sticky, furry feet. I ran to a dark corner to escape her batting hands, and wove some more.

Eliza Smith was born in Los Angeles, but now she lives in Berkeley, which suits her better. Her work has appeared in PANK and Spork Press, and she is an editor of Story Tapes.