The spiders on the ceiling were hungry.
Rich huddled over the counter, whisking his pancake batter to smooth out the few remaining lumps of flour. Keeping one eye on the ceiling to track the spiders’ movements, he dipped a finger into the bowl, then licked it clean. Mmmm; it was ready.
Bowl still in hand, he walked over to the hob, took out a pan and turned on the heat. He placed the pan on the gas, dropped in a thick wodge of butter, then glanced up again. The spiders were gone.
He panicked, hugged the mixing bowl closer. There they were! Three black spiders scurrying across the ceiling towards him. One of them—skinny, malnourished—lagged behind the others, as if it could not quite keep up. Rick scowled at them warningly. His wife would have hoovered them up by now, but she was out for dinner and he did not know where the hoover was.
The spiders came to a halt directly above his head. Rich squinted up at them, then grabbed a tea towel and waved it ineffectually in their direction. The spiders did not move. He glanced down, noticed the butter had melted and begun to foam. The spiders could wait; his pancakes were more important.
Rich set the mixing bowl down by the hob, then paused. No ladles. He hadn’t thought that far ahead. He shrugged, grabbed a mug from the cupboard and dipped it into the bowl, filling it to the very brim.
The batter barely sizzled as it hit the pan, creeping out towards the edges slowly but inexorably. Damn, he’d forgotten to check the pan temperature first. Rich raised the heat a notch, tilting the pan back and forth to spread the batter evenly, but there was too much liquid and his supposed delicate crepe was turning into a cake. Exasperated, Rich tried to flip the pancake with a jerky wrist movement. It was a half-hearted flip at best: the pancake folded in half and proceeded to stick together.
“Double damn!” Rich tried to prise the two halves apart, but it was too late. Defeated, he tipped the pancake onto his plate. The half-moon of dough smiled winningly back at him. He munched on a corner thoughtfully and ignored the spiders. They were mocking him; he was sure of it.
Take 2. Pan at the right temperature, check. Enough oil, check. Mug half-full of batter, check. And pour.
This time it sizzled, it spread thinly and evenly, and when the top began to bubble, Rich lifted up the pan and flicked his wrist with extra flourish. The pancake soared into the air, then back down, landing neatly in the pan. Victory!
He flipped the pancake again, higher this time, letting out a cheer when he caught it. And again, higher! And again! Rich completely forgot about the spiders, so intent was he on his newly discovered manly talent.
Then it happened: his golf club swing sent the pancake soaring up, and up, and up, until SPLAT! It came to a rest on the ceiling, and did not come back down. Rich waved the pan enticingly, but the pancake did not move.
The spiders huddled together, conferring. Then, as the seconds passed and the pancake remained securely on the ceiling, they began their advance, circling the pancake, drawing in for the kill. The skinny one struck first, scurrying straight across the dough to the centre.
Later, when his wife came back home, all that remained was a circle of grease.
She stared up at it, incredulous. “Darling, what on earth happened?”
Rich shrugged. “The spiders on the ceiling were hungry.”