True story: my daughter Amelia was born with eleven toes, at Emanuel.
The first thing we did was count, and as soon as we discovered the eleventh, some thought and consideration was put into our next steps.
Soon this debate coalesced into two camps.
On one hand: cut the toe? GROSS!
On the other hand, if we cut the extra toe, she could someday become a pretty good swimmer, we reasoned, although admittedly we were concerned she’s end up swimming in circles.
This concern was not without justification.
Having grown up in Astoria, among the people of Finland, this is a concern not without merit. Finns die all the time because almost half of them have six toes on one foot. They just swim in circles and eventually drown. It’s super sad. Look it up.
We agreed to have the eleventh severed, and the process, while gruesome, went mercifully quick. The eleventh, which we later named Evelyn, was placed on the nurse’s rolling stainless steel table.
Evelyn was crushed, heartbroken to find herself taken from the company of her many sisters, and in her grief, she arched and wriggled and launched herself from the tray onto the floor.
Miserable and blinded by self-pity, at the time without a name and split from her sisters, she wriggled into a dark corner and watched from the shadows as her sisters received their first bath.
So absorbed in her sadness that she belatedly realized she herself was being watched.
Off to the left, peeking at her from the shadows, were twelve eyes, which upon closer examination reflected to Evelyn both sadness and understanding.
As Evelyn looked closer, more deeply into the shadows, and as her eyes adjusted, she realized that the spider was standing strangely. Almost self-consciously hiding something of shame.
Evelyn was never the shy toe, and simply said “why are you standing that way?” The spider started, and then backed even more deeply into the corner, eyes downcast.
Evelyn edged closer, and in soothing tones asked the spider’s name. “Diablo”, said the spider. In a very quiet voice, Diablo told Evelyn that he was “standing funny” because he only had seven legs.
“Seven legs!” shouted Evelyn. “Who has seven legs!”, and Evelyn erupted into laughter, because she’d never before heard of such a thing. “Seven legs!”
Diablo, misunderstanding Evelyn, was crushed, and Evelyn asked “what’s wrong? I’ve only heard of two legs. Of course, I don’t have legs, because I’m just a toe, so.”
Diablo, suddenly understanding, also laughed, because let’s face it: two legs has ALWAYS struck our spider brethren as hilariously simple.
So Evelyn and Diablo laughed, and in each passing second, the texture of their mirth changed as they wordless found themselves understanding one another’s shared predicament. A seven-legged spider meets the eleventh toe. Shazam.
From the perspective of an observing third party, their laughter lasted only minutes, but within those minutes contained a concentrated lifetime of connection and empathy.
“Here,” Diablo said: “let me patch you up.” He disinfected her with his saliva, and wrapped her wound in silk. This made Evelyn giggle, and they discussed the design of a smooth and soft saddle upon which Evelyn could ride on Diablo’s back.
No sooner had they created the mount, when they realized they needed to create a plan for keeping Evelyn near her beloved sisters. “Quick!” shouted Diablo. “With the lights down low, nobody will see us hide in Grandma’s purse.”
So into her purse they hid, and within this purse they made the journey from hospital to home. During the days Evelyn and Diablo watched her sisters from the ceiling and the walls, and each night Diablo carefully carried Evelyn to her sisters, where they both slept in blissful coziness: ten sister toes, all cuddled with Evelyn and her friend Diablo the spider.
Naturally, her sisters came to view Evelyn as something of a hero, out there running hither thither on her friend Diablo, the seven-legged spider, and their adventures were many, bringing great entertainment to the girls.
And as the girls and their family moved to Texas, the adventures of Evelyn the Eleventh and Diablo the Seven-Legged Spider grew to encompass the state’s vast size.