The Spider and the Fly

Your Final Lay

Of the free games included with Windows, none is more treacherous than Spider Solitaire. In the final installment, the master sets the apprentice free.

Dear Kevin (let’s not hide behind the false masks of monikers),

In a typical show of patience and dignity, I am going to pretend that you have not called me “totally fucked up” and a “son of a bitch.” I know you have been going through some trying times and finding yourself confused, overwhelmed, and it seems somehow erotically aroused by my mentorship. I am sorry that you feel that I “caused” your wife to leave you, that you are destitute and bankrupt in every sense (morally, personally, romantically, economically, artistically, intellectually, athletically, sexually, fashionistically, etc.), and that you seem to believe I have somehow misled you in our path to enlightenment, be it in the ways of electronic card games or in life itself, in which case perhaps it is you, Kevin, who is the totally fucked up son of a bitch. Me, I’m doing pretty well over here, what with this tall, tall glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice from fruit I just pulverized using only my fingernails, which I have let grow to the length of daggers. The pulp is everywhere; it is freedom.

Would you shut up, though, for one minute and think how far we’ve come? We began this communiqué as two strangers, one wise and one stupid, although even then my sagacity was limited. It would be disingenuous to say that I have not learned from you, Kevin, albeit by your shoddy example. Please do not take this as an insult. It is the best teacher who informs without knowing—for example, the retarded child who blunders headlong into the apple orchard and comes out covered in bees.

Have you never watched Kung-Fu: The Legend Continues? Kwai Chang is a Shambhala Master and Peter a lowly beat cop, sure, but their relationship is reciprocal and symbiotic, such as the pollinating flower to the bee, or the retarded child to me, as I urinate upon his bee stings—or, yes, even you to me, Hyperion, I mean Kevin. And think, also, how Kwai Chang “pushes the lesson in”—not gently, but with a quick smack to the face of his student.

So I have struck you, yes, but for a reason: so that this experience will stick. You have suffered and will emerge a better man. You began staring at your computer and have been left gazing into the infinite cosmos. The stars are within reach, you coward! Now quit blaming me for your troubles and show some fucking gratitude.

Master Pasha


* * *

Dear Pasha-Who-Is-Still-and-Ever-Shall-Be-Pigeon-to-Me,

Have you never felt despair? Have you never stared blankly at the mirror on your wall (or any highly reflective surface, for that matter) and felt disgust at the image staring back at you? In times such as those, one can say and do and think and smell of things well outside the norm.

I was in such a state when I wrote to you.

That being said, I would like to specify that I didn’t actually call you “totally fucked up” nor did I label you a “son of a bitch.” I merely raised the possibility that you were one or the other or both. I see now that you are neither, as you have clearly explained that, unlike a truly fucked up son of a bitch, your motivations are pure as untrammelled snow, driven only by the urge for symbiosis (or something along those lines, if I have understood you correctly). As such, it would seem that my “possibility number three” was accurate—like Kwai Chang, you are indeed a sage, wise enough even to admit that your sagacity was limited. You have, via a typical show of patience and (slightly testy) dignity, once again taught me a valuable lesson having something to do with…patience and dignity, I suppose.

Why was I plunged into such despair? Because you seemed to have laid aside SpiSo just when it had become the central focus of my life. My whole being was engaged in those little piles of virtual cards, I had abandoned all else: my life, my wife, my work, my bottlecap collection…all had been sacrificed at the altar of SpiSo. And then you sent me an email saying, in essence, that there were other things in life.

Well there weren’t, not any more.

It was then that I wrote you back and raised the possibility that you were a fucked up son of a bitch. Now, though, the true depths of your sagacity have hit me with a wallop unlike any that have ever walloped me in the past. I realize now that SpiSo was an excuse, it was a cleansing agent, much like the medical tape my mother used to affix to my forehead in order to draw out my adolescent blackheads. SpiSo absorbed all of the superficial, worldly occupations with which I had cluttered my existence. When you yanked it away from me, so too were they all yanked from my life.

I did indeed stare into my computer to try to find the cosmos and as I did, my hand automatically started to open and play SpiSo. My spirit was calmed, a soft chanting filled my head, and I clicked without thinking, finally realizing that PRUNES is a verb as well as a noun. I did not save my game, I did not think about consulting with you on it, it wasn’t until I was finally faced with tiny fireworks that I understood that I had won.

I did not care.

I am indeed left a better man, alone here in my studio apartment with my ex-dog’s nail clippers and a battered computer. I am grateful to you for having so thoroughly transformed me, for having plowed the soil of my soul so that now it can be planted.

I need now only find some seeds.

Kevin Dolgin is originally from New York and has lived in Paris for more than 20 years. He has published numerous works of short fiction and writes a regular travel feature for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. A book of his travel writing, The Third Tower Up From the Road, was released in June 2009 by Santa Monica Press.TMN Contributing Writer Pasha Malla is the author of two books: The Withdrawal Method (stories) and All Our Grandfathers Are Ghosts (poems). More by Kevin Dolgin & Pasha Malla