The Ferns | Emily Crossing

God damn eight legged freaks!

The Ferns

By Emily Crossing

For the What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Award

To keep the roadway exhaust fumes from choking out their apartment, Nelly lined their small patio with flora of all shapes and sizes. For the first few weeks they were a success, then the spring sun became simmer and most of them began to wilt and wound.

All save the ferns.

Hungry for water they grew upwards and outwards until their fronds lay over the pots of other, less successful plants. Nelly thought it was OK, as long as there was some green to protect their little home from the world outside.

Tom was not so happy.

“We’re gonna get spiders,” he said, pouring coffee from into the matching mugs. He added xylitol to his, milk to hers. “That forest out their is a breeding ground for spiders.”

“Don’t be silly, what would spiders want in our house?”

Tom placed the coffee down and kissed her on the neck. “Just a little bite,” he said.

The first one appeared two nights later, on the stairwell wall. It was 3am, Nelly was going downstairs to pee.


Tom bolted up in bed.


Nelly had left her house thongs by the side of the bed and he scooped one up and hustled to the stairwell.

“Stand back.”

“Are you going to kill it?”

Tom went quiet. He moved forward slowly, the muscles in his arm make little jerky motions, like there was something slithering around in there.


The thing’s shadow landed, but the thong missed by some margin. Nelly darted up the stairs, the spider scurried in the same direction. Tom tripped on the stairs, recovered and tried again

Thwack… Thwack… Thwack-thwack-thwack.

The slider fell off the wall and crumpled. Tom fell forward and lended on Nelly.


“It’s alright, I got it.”

The next day Nelly moved the ferns as close to the fence (and as far from the gate) as possible.

“There.” She dusted her hands and went inside to collect the daily trash bag, which contained the corpse of last night’s spider. The walk to the garbage bin was riddled with guilt. Not the kind she sometimes felt when she ate rare meat, but the kind you feel when you see a bit of roadkill.

“Sorry,” she said.

Three nights later she woke to a familiar sound.

Thwack, thwack, thwack-thwack

“Tom?” She called from the bedroom.

“It’s ok I got it.”



The following morning, on the way back from the garbage bin, Nelly found a spider’s web between two ferns. She hunted around until she found a stick and cut it down.

“Sorry,” she said.

Tom returned home with new fly screens for the doors.
“The old one has holes in them,” he said. Must be how they are getting in.”

“When did you find time to do this?”

He kissed her on the neck. “I make time,” he said.

That evening they finished dinner a little later than usual. It was a hot night and the air con was on full blast. Tom washed the dishes while Nelly scooped out the ice cream out into two cups. They had stopped using bowls because they both really liked ice cream and always ate too much.

“Tom, Tom look.”



From behind the air con unit in the ceiling an eight legged beast was squeezing its way out. It scurried along the roof into a cornice and stayed there. Nelly stopped scooping ice cream. Tom reached over for the broom.

“So that’s how they are getting in.” she said after the deed was done.

“What do we do now?”

“Well we can’t dismantle the air con,” he said. “It’s the plants. We need to get rid of the plants.”

“If we get rid of the plants then what about the smog.”

“We can keep the air con on, the doors closed.”

“All the time? That would be horrible.”

“I know.”

They say sat for a moment, while the ice cream melted in the cups. Then Nelly said.

“I’ve got a better idea.”

Four weeks later they finished moving into their new place. A house in the suburbs with a wrap around balcony and bushland on two sides. They still had a week’s rent to pay on the old place, but after that, All things told they got a pretty good deal.

Being so close to the bush brought it’s own problems. There were possums on the roof sometimes, no air conditioning and a lot of spiderwebs (and spiders)/

But for some reason that didn’t matter as much, cause in the gully just beyond the tree line, there were more ferns than Nelly could count.