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Family Constitutional

Maya Dworsky-Rocha is a lecturer in anthropology at Babson College, a doctoral candidate at Brandeis University, and a Fellow at the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies. She studies childhood and whiteness in Israel, and like most anthropologists, Maya is a nerd who considers Science Fiction to be the vanguard of transformational thought. When not in the field, Maya lives in Eugene, OR with her wife and collection of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novelizations.
Sarai watched the murder from her roof.
She tried to figure out what kind of group they were by their movements--tourists usually didn't wander too far, the rich twenty-somethings got rowdy... no, this looked like a family trip. Two of the larger crows seemed to be herding the other three. A family out for a Constitutional, for some sunshine and fresh air, what a treat for the little ones!
Sarai allowed one of her long legs to gently rub against her web and the pattern thrummed through her. She went through phases of being web-proud, though not lately. The last five years had been particularly hard. It was her own fault.
Sarai had been a child the first and only time she was taken out for a Constitutional, just like those scruffy young crows. This was before it was mandated annually. The wealthy and recreationally-minded took theirs more often, of course, often with flashy choices like eagles or leopards.
Sarai's mother had decided on a small family of spiders. Something cheap, but fun, that would allow Sarai and her brother to explore the outside world. Sarai still remembered the sudden, sheer joy of it--the fresh air, the unfettered movement. The urge to let the spidermind take over. After a childhood spent entirely in climate controlled bunkers, little Sarai enjoyed being wafted along by the wind, scuttling over the rampant tree roots that laced across the broken asphalt, investigating the lush internal world of a fallen Jacaranda blossom.
It was no surprise she'd run off and missed check in.
The technology had still been new, and there were many complications she couldn't begin to understand, for reasons that had to do with time and neurons and plasticity and who knows what else. But the choice had come down to a questionably successful return to her little sun-starved child body--her mind might return, they said, but who knows if her body would accept it--or life in the fresh air, climbing trees, exploring the world that was. It had taken some work, but Sarai had managed to convince her mother.
That had been more than ten years ago. Sarai had built her web in the broken window frame of a dusty attic in an empty house in a row of empty houses, and her greatest amusement was watching her fellow creatures and guessing which were Constitutionals.
A loud cawing called Sarai's attention back to the murder-family. The mother-crow was clearly upset at one of the younglings, who had clumsily flown away from the group. Sarai watched as he landed awkwardly on the mossy roof tiles near her attic window.
He snapped his beak experimentally and chattered low in the back of his throat.
Sarai knew how he felt--the temptation to allow the bird brain to take over--and closed her many eyes. Her web thrummed as the child-crow hopped nearer, and Sarai took one, last, tiny lungful of fresh air.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, November 16th, 2020


The idea for this story came to me through the experience of resenting a spider for its ability to leave my apartment. It was sometime around the third or fourth month of lockdown, as sanity ebbed, that I found myself jealously watching a spider hang in the sunshine outside my window. I couldn't help asking myself whether I'd be willing to become a spider if it meant I could go outside. The answer changes daily.

- Maya Dworsky-Rocha
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