April 04, 2020

Charlotte’s Web site spins dreams for some

Early one morning Wilbur peered up at the corner of the hayloft. He was accustomed to seeing his friend Charlotte, the large gray spider the size of a gumdrop, presiding over her tidy circular web. Today it looked different. The words “Some Pig — FAQ” were woven across the center of the web in 14 point Palatino type, but Charlotte was nowhere to be seen.

“Charlotte’s gone virtual,” observed Templeton the rat, as he sidled through the straw toward Wilbur. Noticing Wilbur’s consternation he added, “She joined the arachnidigerati — cyberspiders.”

“What does this mean?” asked Wilbur.

“It means that from now on she’ll be making `info-webs.’ See that long strand of web?” Templeton pointed to the gossamer thread leading from the letters `FAQ’ to another corner of the loft.

“What does FAQ stand for?” asked Wilbur.

“Frequently Asked Questions,” said Templeton, peering up to the connecting web across which Charlotte had woven: `Pork Futures,’ `Year of the Pig,’ `County Fair.’ Each phrase linked by a web leading towards another corner of the barn.

“Who’s asking those questions freqently? They aren’t my questions,” said Wilbur, “and I don’t know what to do with all of these other webs. What are `pork futures?’ I’ve already been to the County Fair. And every year is the `Year of the Pig’ for me.”

“Charlotte’s into data information,” replied Templeton.

“The wind is blowing through Charlotte’s data. I just feel like talking to Charlotte,” sighed Wilbur earnestly.

“Her new web saves us the trouble of talking,” said Templeton, showing some irritation with Wilbur’s reticence about improved webs. “Now she can answer lots of questions at once. Much simpler. More efficient.”

“Will data help me make contact with other pigs?” asked Wilbur.

“Perhaps,” said Templeton. “Let’s search the web.” They peered along the web links, from corner to corner in the big gloomy barn. `County Fair’ was wired to `Livestock’ which was linked to `Sheep,’ `Chickens,’ and `Pigs.’ There they found a small tidy web embroidered with: `Zuckerman’s Amazing Pig — Wilbur (New!).’

“That’s me!” exclaimed Wilbur. “But that’s just telling me what happened at the fair. There were other pigs at the real fair. Real ones who would talk to me. The web isn’t as good as actually going there. Just because she’s such a good web spinner doesn’t mean everything she knows belongs on the web.”

“You’ve got a good point, Wilbur!” mumbled Templeton, recalling fondly his day on the fairgrounds, foraging amid the splendor of discarded popcorn, cotton candy, hot dogs and pizza crusts.

“This pigs-on-webs leaves a lot to be desired,” sighed Wilbur. “I really just wanted to hear Charlotte’s voice. `Some Pig’ sounds better than it looks. I wish she was available for conversation. I have some not-frequently-asked-questions for her.”

Templeton was dreaming of other things. “I’m going back to look for the `corn dog’ link on the `County Fair’ web. I`d rather think about eating than thing about talking.” Wilbur contented himself with burrowing back into his nest in the hay and breathing comforting, `wonderful sweet smell of patient, (real) cows.’

Todd R. Nelson lives in Castine.

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