Nurture by Jan StinchcombMy daughter calls me. She doesn’t know how to deal with her spider silk when she’s giving a handjob. I pretend to be mute. She insists. I tell her she should use her spidey sense to tackle intimacy issues. No, Mom, listen. This is serious. I don’t want to hurt him.

In the background I hear her boyfriend’s panic giving way to screams that scale the walls.


Next she corners me with questions about female friendship.

I lament the toxicity of the famous bride, her hair piled high in a tower of self-loathing and sexual envy. She threw a lipstick-stained coffee cup at me on the morning I knew we could no longer share secrets. The vampire queen wasn’t much better, guarding the entrance of her haunted hotel, kissing me on the neck, always, in greeting or farewell.

So you’re saying we can never have friends? Mom?


Before her wedding, as I help her spin her own dress, my daughter wants to know about real estate. I tell her the right place will hit her in the heart like a stake. It will ping like a silver bullet from the one she loves. I offer her my mansion in the hills. I can live in the greenhouse or the pond.

She tells me she needs high ceilings and warm corners. The occasional draft. Scattered crumbs. The suggestion of moisture. That’s easy, I say. A Victorian. You absolutely have to find a Victorian. Mom, what about the neighbors? You know it’s always about the neighbors.

I think of the scattered statuary in my garden, and smile. The snakes sizzle under my turban.


She asks about her father and I can’t answer.

So how did I come into being?

I sing from my black heart, spewing tales of rage and vengeance, longing and hunger. Every kind of hunger.

My beautiful daughter, a true humanitarian, cannot accept this. It is perverse. Unfair. It has nothing to do with her. The black hairs begin to stand up, one by one, a forest on her bone-white skin. The silk pushes from her palms. She claims she is nothing like me but then wants to know if all the women in our family are this way.

It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? A sweet girl like her coming from such a terrible place. I stroke one of her eight long legs.


I’m worried about my eggs.

She can’t stop checking on the sack and imagining terrible things. It’s the first time she has felt like killing people, even the most innocent passersby. Her mate, the new love of her life, has run far away.

She’s troubled because she doesn’t think she’s bonding with her children. When she imagines their birth, all she sees are little versions of herself scattering in every direction.

I convince her not to worry. You can’t force the maternal bond.

As she sleeps I whisper fantasies of child murder and then I tell her I love her.

Photo used under CC.