Aggie kept Tamarind for one hundred and sixty eight days. They played Candyland and Hide and Seek with Poo. They ate a lot of Nutter Butters and saltine cracker sandwiches. Aggie fed Tamarind nectar from a honeysuckle plant so she wouldn’t have to eat bugs (which made Aggie cry). Instead of spinning her webs for traps, Tam spun them for fun. Over six days in November, she spun a kid-sized badminton net between a clothes line pole and a jacaranda tree. Tamarind would sit on the top edge of the web-net and watch Poo and Aggie play. Eight days before Christmas, while Poo was trying to bat a birdie, she accidently whacked Tamarind and she died.
“Maybe she’ll be happier in heaven and her leg won’t be extra crooked anymore.” The girls’ mom, Stel, told Aggie, trying to cheer her up.
“But I’m her family.” Aggie cried, certain that family is all the happiness anyone ever needs. “God will bring her back.”
“I don’t think God has time for a little girl’s spider.” Stel told her, putting it to rest. She didn’t have time for one of Aggie’s God talks. The Porter family was in the Swap Meet business and it was their busiest week of the year. They sold painted tin Christmas ornaments, wind-up toys, string lights of the apostles; Virgin Mary and Rudolph the Reindeer glow-in-the-dark figurines and baby Jesus night lights – which were their biggest seller. But they only had two left. Steve Porter decided he’d drive down to his supplier Renaldo’s store in the morning. If he left early, he could get to Ensenada by ten or eleven, pick up four cases of night lights and be back in LaMirada in time for that night’s holiday swap meet at the drive-in. He’d take the girls along… Aggie liked road trips and Rhea loved the food.
They went to bed early. “Bless Mom and Dad and Rhea and Aggie and Poo and grandma and grandpa in heaven.” Aggie and Rhea prayed as they knelt at the bottom of their twin beds. “And Please God,” Aggie added, “If you have time, send Tamarind back to me.”
Rhea watched Aggie wrap Tamarind’s body in a piece of crumpled tissue paper and lay it next to her pillow. They both got into their beds. Stel came in to say goodnight to her girls. Aggie was already asleep. Rhea pretended to be. Stel picked three and a half pairs of socks off the floor and two used Kleenexes. Thinking the crumpled tissue paper by Aggie’s pillow was just another Kleenex, she picked it up too. She turned out the light and closed the door.
Stel threw the socks in the dirty clothes hamper and the tissues into the kitchen trash can. The can was full. She squished it down then pulled out the bag and loo tied it shut. Steve took the bag out to the trash bins which were on the street, ready for the morning collection.
Still awake, Rhea listened to the sounds of her house quieting down for the night. Ten minutes after she heard her parents’ muffled voices fade as they fell asleep, she got out of bed. She took off her nightgown; underneath she was wearing tights and a sweatshirt. Quietly, she took the screen off the side bedroom window, stood on Aggie’s toy box and climbed out.