Home > Anansi Boys (American Gods #2)(10)

Anansi Boys (American Gods #2)(10)
Author: Neil Gaiman

"It is you, and it is also your brother."

"I never had a brother."

"Sure you did. I don't miss him. You were always the good one, you know. He was a handful when he was here." And before Fat Charlie could say anything else she added, "He went away, when you are just a little boy."

Fat Charlie leaned over. He put his big hand on Mrs. Higgler's bony hand, the one that wasn't holding the coffee mug. "It's not true," he said.

"Louella Dunwiddy made him go," she said. "He was scared of her. But he still came back, from time to time. He could be charming when he wanted to be." She finished her coffee.

"I always wanted a brother," said Fat Charlie. "Somebody to play with."

Mrs. Higgler got up. "This place isn't going to clean itself up," she said. "I've got garbage bags in the car. I figure we'll need a lot of garbage bags."

"Yes," said Fat Charlie.

He stayed in a motel that night. In the morning, he and Mrs. Higgler met, back at his father's house, and they put garbage into big black garbage bags. They assembled bags of objects to be donated to Goodwill. They also filled a box with things Fat Charlie wanted to hold on to for sentimental reasons, mostly photographs from his childhood and before he was born.

There was an old trunk, like a small pirate's treasure chest, filled with documents and old papers. Fat Charlie sat on the floor going through them. Mrs. Higgler came in from the bedroom with another black garbage bag filled with moth-eaten clothes.

"It's your brother give him that trunk," said Mrs. Higgler, out of the blue. It was the first time she had mentioned any of her fantasies of the previous night.

"I wish I did have a brother," said Fat Charlie, and he did not realize he had said it aloud until Mrs. Higgler said, "I already told you. You do have a brother."

"So," he said. "Where would I find this mythical brother of mine?" Later, he would wonder why he had asked her this. Was he humoring her? Teasing her? Was it just that he had to say something to fill the void? Whatever the reason, he said it. And she was chewing her lower lip, and nodding.

"You got to know. It's your heritage. It's your bloodline." She walked over to him and crooked her finger. Fat Charlie bent down. The old woman's lips brushed his ear as she whispered, "- need him- tell a-"


"I say," she said, in her normal voice, "if you need him, just tell a spider. He'll come running."

"Tell a spider?"

"That's what I said. You think I just talkin' for my health? Exercisin' my lungs? You never hear of talkin' to the bees? When I was a girl in Saint Andrews, before my folks came here, you would go tell the bees all your good news. Well, this is just like that. Talk to spider. It was how I used to send messages to your father, when he would vanish off."

"- right."

"Don't you say 'right' like that."

"Like what?"

"Like I'm a crazy old lady who don't know the price of fish. You think I don't know which way is up?"

"Um. I'm quite sure you do. Honestly."

Mrs. Higgler was not mollified. She was far from gruntled. She picked up her coffee mug from the table and cradled it, disapprovingly. Fat Charlie had done it now, and Mrs. Higgler was determined to make sure that he knew it.

"I don't got to do this, you know," she said. "I don't got to help you. I'm only doing it because your father, he was special, and because your mother, she was a fine woman. I'm telling you big things. I'm telling you important things. You should listen to me. You should believe me."

"I do believe you," said Fat Charlie, as convincingly as he could.

"Now you're just humoring an old woman."

"No," he lied. "I'm not. Honestly I'm not." His words rang with honesty, sincerity and truth. He was thousands of miles from home, in his late father's house, with a crazy old woman on the verge of an apoplectic seizure. He would have told her that the moon was just some kind of unusual tropical fruit if it would have calmed her down, and meant it, as best he could.

She sniffed.

"That's the trouble with you young people," she said. "You think because you ain't been here long, you know everything. In my life I already forget more than you ever know. You don't know nothin' about your father, you don't know nothin' about your family. I tell you your father is a god, you don't even ask me what god I talking about."

Fat Charlie tried to remember the names of some gods. "Zeus?" he suggested.

Mrs. Higgler made a noise like a kettle suppressing the urge to boil. Fat Charlie was fairly sure that Zeus had been the wrong answer. "Cupid?"

She made another noise, which began as a sputter and ended in a giggle. "I can just picture your dad wearing nothin' but one of them fluffy diapers, with a big bow and arrow." She giggled some more. Then she swallowed some coffee.

"Back when he was a god," she told him. "Back then, they called him Anansi."

Now, probably you know some Anansi stories. Probably there's no one in the whole wide world doesn't know some Anansi stories.

Anansi was a spider, when the world was young, and all the stories were being told for the first time. He used to get himself into trouble, and he used to get himself out of trouble. The story of the Tar-Baby, the one they tell about Bre'r Rabbit? That was Anansi's story first. Some people thinks he was a rabbit. But that's their mistake. He wasn't a rabbit. He was a spider.

Anansi stories go back as long as people been telling each other stories. Back in Africa, where everything began, even before people were painting cave lions and bears on rock walls, even then they were telling stories, about monkeys and lions and buffalo: big dream stories. People always had those proclivities. That was how they made sense of their worlds. Everything that ran or crawled or swung or snaked got to walk through those stories, and different tribes of people would venerate different creatures.

Lion was the king of beasts, even then, and Gazelle was the fleetest of foot, and Monkey was the most foolish, and Tiger was the most terrible, but it wasn't stories about them people wanted to hear.

Anansi gave his name to stories. Every story is Anansi's. Once, before the stories were Anansi's, they all belonged to Tiger (which is the name the people of the islands call all the big cats), and the tales were dark and evil, and filled with pain, and none of them ended happily. But that was a long time ago. These days, the stories are Anansi's.

Seeing we were just at a funeral, let me tell you a story about Anansi, the time his grandmother died. (It's okay: she was a very old woman, and she went in her sleep. It happens.) She died a long way from home, so Anansi, he goes across the island with his handcart, and he gets his grandmother's body, and puts it on the handcart, and he wheels it home. He's going to bury her by the banyan tree out the back of his hut, you see.

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