In the Shelter of Each Other
Wanda found a spider in the shower one morning. No surprise; it was an old house, full of cracks, leaks, drafts, and squeaks — much like Wanda herself.
“Let’s get you out of the steam, little friend,” said Wanda. She trapped it in a Mason jar and freed it in the attic, where there were abundant insects to eat.
That winter, the house somehow felt a little warmer. The gas bill dropped and her arthritis eased.
In spring, Wanda checked the attic. Her friend had been busy. Carefully overlapped leaves wrapped in spider silk patched each hole in the roof.
Arachnoid means spider-like. In anatomy, arachnoid specifically refers to one of the three membranes that cover the brain inside the skull. The first membrane touches the skull directly and is called the dura mater, which is Latin for “tough mother”. This awesome and hilarious name came about when Greek medical words were mistranslated into Latin. The second membrane, the arachnoid mater or arachnoidea, underlays the dura mater. It’s named for its thin, weblike appearance. The third membrane covers the brain directly and is called the pia mater, or “pious mother”. Once again, that name came from a translation error by way of Greek.
Together, these three membranes protect, anchor, and cushion the brain and spinal cord so they don’t spend all day getting knocked against the inside of your skull. If you experience a head injury and the doctor puts you on concussion watch, it’s because they’re worried about bleeding in between these membranes or meninges. The disease meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes in either the brain or spinal cord due to a viral or bacterial infection.
So much relies on this delicate trio of tissues. Good thing they’re one tough mother.
This is another story I wrote for the Drabblecast’s ongoing flash fiction contest, this time on the theme “Good Samaritan”. Have you ever had a stranger do something particularly kind for you?