What you’re about to read just might save your life . . .
My daughter loves creepy crawly things. And she’ll take them anywhere she can get them. Under rocks. On trees. In garden sheds. Attached to lawn chairs. Six legs, ten legs, a hundred legs, no matter. She loves them all.
She even loves spiders. Now this is where I draw the line on her affection. I do not like spiders. I do not like them in a box. I do not like them with a fox. I do not like them in a house. I do not like them with a mouse. I do not like them here or there. I do not like them anywhere.
Please don’t get all “save the whales” on me. I get that they need to be kicking around here in order to prevent a cricket infestation. And, truly, I mean them no harm. I’m a pacifist. If I could, I’d catch them in a jar with an extended mechanical Go-Go Gadget arm that would allow me some distance. I would then place them safely outside, reunite them with loved ones, buy them a beer, say “no hard feelings,” and go about the rest of my day.
But instead I just squash them dead.
The other day I was vacuuming out the hallway closet and disrupted a spider lurking inside our communal shoe basket. He came right out to yell at me about all the racket I was making. And while I was at it, get off his lawn! Scared the June Cleaver right out of me. I swear it. So freaked out my workday pearls popped right off my neck.
For starters, he was the size of a large rodent. Only hairier. And then, an unsettling realization crept over me – he had probably been squatting there for ages, our family’s own shoe basket Kato Kaelin. Here I’d been feeling all contented in my spider-free life, and all the while he had been living in there, scheming to descend upon me at some vulnerable moment when I least expected it. Maybe while I was unconscious in my bed at night? Perhaps he’d burrow under the rim of the toilet where my scrub brush doesn’t reach?
Poor spider didn’t know who he was messing with. Because, guess what? I had a vacuum. Bye-bye, Mr. Spider. Yep, sucked him right up like a Looney Tunes Acme pest control service. I could actually see his hair fly up and his body slant to the right while he dug his little grippers into the rug. A second later it was all over and done with. Nothing to see here, folks.
Only then, another second later, I stepped barefooted onto a miniscule prickly something in the vicinity of Mr. Spider’s Last Stand. A rational person would assume it was just a stray piece of cat litter dropped from Matilda’s furry foot pad. I, on the other hand, was convinced it was an amputated spider fang. Sure, a final middle finger to me, courtesy of Mr. Spider. And with that, I leapt up in the air yelping, howling and frantically flinging toes around like I was completely off-my-rocker insane. My daughter ran into the room to investigate.
Margot: Mommy, what happened?
Me: I just stepped on a furry spider fang.
Margot: A what?
Me: Nothing. I just saw a spider.
Margot: Where is he? (Eyes wide and sparkling like dewdrops on honeysuckle leaves.) Can I go get the bug jar?
Me: Oh, no. He’s gone now. He ran away.
Margot: Let’s go look for him. What’d he look like? I bet he’s hiding in that basket!
Me: (What the…what are you, some kind of sleuthing spider bounty hunter?) Nope, he’s gone now. He probably went to find his friends outside.
Margot: Awww. Okay. Tell me if you see him again.
Me: Okay, sweetie. I love you. Now please go back to that creatively-stimulating art project I’ve facilitated for you on our uncluttered kitchen table. A delicious, nutritious dinner will be ready in five minutes.*
This all might make more sense to you if I explained one thing. I suffer from spider-induced post-traumatic stress disorder. This is a fact. Yes, if I get any indication that a spider or some part of a spider has grazed my flesh, or that he appears to be a pole vault jumper, I go into full-on ape-crazy mode.
It all started like this. It was a summer evening in 1989. I just finished 7th grade. All summer I would stay up until nearly four o’clock in the morning watching old reruns on Nick at Night. Then I’d sleep until noon the next day. Yesiree, my parents were mighty proud.
So in closing out that night with my favorite rerun, The Patty Duke Show, I briefly glanced upward to see what appeared to be a dark stain on our ceiling. But then it moved. And that’s when I locked eyes (at least six of them) with the largest spider ever to have inhabited the continental United States. I figure it came over on a boat from South America, hopped a ride on some boxes shipped to my dad’s hardware store, and then it hitched its way to my house.
Without anyone awake to help out, it was up to me to do something. Quickly, so as not to lose him forever into a ceiling crevice, I grabbed the first shoe I spotted. Standing on a chair, shoe in hand, I assumed the bludgeoning position. Closer…closer…almost near him…almost ready to slam him into my Reebok treads…any moment now…shoe is just about to make contact… And that’s when he fell! RIGHT ONTO MY HEAD. More specifically, RIGHT INTO MY BANGS.*
(*Side note: In 1989, in order to achieve the “lift” desired by mall bangs enthusiasts, I had to curl my bangs into three descending rows, which were then teased and sprayed to form a ball resembling a kitchen scouring pad. Quite possibly this also resembled a spider’s lair.)
So, naturally, I was screaming at this point. Blood-curling-campy-1970s-horror-film screaming. I was also running around the room like I was on fire. I finally employed the lifesaving maneuver “stop, drop, and rake-fingernails-ferociously-across-the-scalp.” How will I ever know if he’s dead? A brilliant idea flashed through my mind. I will drown him. I ran to the bathroom and threw my head under the faucet, screaming throughout the process. By then, my dad had gotten out of bed, mad as holy hell. And there he finds me. Three in the morning. Drenched hair. Screaming my lungs out. Head stuck under the sink. A spider is stuck in my hair, Dad. The biggest one you’ve ever seen in your life. For God’s sake, don’t just stand there! Grab the dog clippers and shave my head!
You won’t believe this, but nothing I said convinced my dad of the dire situation I was in. Or that my reaction was justified.
Disturbingly, I was never able to certify a Spider Proof of Death. And my dad insisted my up-all-night rerun marathoning come to a screeching halt. I have to wonder, in a pickle like I was in, what would Patty have done? She would’ve deferred to her calm, sensible cousin Kathy, that’s what! For future spider run-ins, I’ll try to defer to my calm, sensible daughter Margot. Although, I promise you, I would not have stuck my head in a bug jar. Because that’s what she would’ve done.