Tuesday, November 13, 2012

In Which I am Not a Fan of Spiders

Have I mentioned that I’m terrified of spiders? I'm getting a little braver as I get older, but only under certain conditions. I have endless spider stories I could tell, including one literal nightmare in which I realized that octopuses are just giant ocean spiders. But here is a nice little story that will some up my fears.
One summer when my children were small, a big black hairy spider found its way into our house and was crawling above the windows in my living room. It was the middle of the day, both kids were awake, and it was hours before my husband would be home. Now if my husband would be coming home in a half hour, or even an hour, I would have just kept an eye on the thing and as soon as he walked in the door I would have brought him over and had him do the deed. It isn’t so much that I don’t want to kill them — you have to get them before they crawl off somewhere and breed more! — but it meant that I had to get close enough to them to kill them.

I got out my fly swatter and waited for it to crawl out on a flat surface away from the curtains so I could get a clean smack at it. The kids had not seen the spider at first, but now that they saw me poised in the middle of the living room with swatter in hand, they knew something was up.

“What are you doing, Mommy?” Kaden asked.

“I have to get that spider up there,” I told Kaden.

Lucy came up to take a look. I had to shoo her away. “Don’t get too close!” I warned. “Back away!” She didn’t seem to understand that just standing near a spider was a bad, creepy thing to be avoided at all costs. What if it jumped onto her? I would have had to use my swatter to smack it off her.

As I was ushering Lucy back, the spider made his move. He crawled from the curtains toward the painting on the wall above the fireplace. Now was my chance! I raised my hand to strike it … and froze. It was high on the wall and if I hit it, it could tumble down and land on me.

My swatter was frozen about five inches from him and he sensed my presence. His body squashed itself smaller and his little knees were bent into a crouch as if he were perched to jump. I backed off. This could be an ugly scene. I went into the dining room to fetch a chair. When I got back, he was gone.

“Where did the spider go?” I cried to the kids in dismay.

“He’s behind the painting, Mommy,” Kaden revealed. My good little watchdog!

“Okay, keep an eye out, Kaden, he could come out on any side of that thing.” I sat in the chair and tried to calm down. The muscles in my shoulders were taut.

“Wait a second!” I yelled. “Is that him there? See that dark spot on the top of the frame?”

“Oh boy!” Kaden yelled. He was getting pretty excited now too. Fortunately, he was excited in a four-year-old thrilled kind of way. So far I was doing a pretty good job of hiding my fear, I thought.

The spider crawled an inch above the picture frame and moved along the top. I still couldn’t do anything — he wasn’t on a flat enough surface to make a good swat.

Lucy started laughing and squealing. “Isn’t he cute? I love him! I want to hug him.” She was killing me.

“You don’t hug spiders, Lucy,” Kaden says with matter-of-fact knowledge gleaned from his years of living with me.

“Isn’t the bug cute, Mommy?” she insisted.

I couldn’t reply.

By now at least fifteen minutes had passed as I watched this spider make a slow crawl across ten feet of my living room. Any normal person would have smashed this disgusting thing with a shoe the minute they saw it. But not me, I had to prolong my torture.

The spider kept heading in the same direction, where it would soon come out from the picture and reach a large flat stretch of wall before the sliding glass door. It would be do or die time. He started to make his move. I stayed back at first, to keep from frightening me, uh, I mean him, and let him think it was safe to go.

“Stay back!” I shouted at the kids, as if it were an escaped tiger from the zoo. I climbed on my chair and moved my hand up again to strike. But again, he saw me coming and assumed his flattened position with half of his body close to the wall, the other half ready to dive.

Finally, I took a deep breath and struck. I think before I even hit him he had leapt to the carpet. The kids surged forward and I shoved them backward with my free arm, screaming, “Get away! Get away!”

Where was he? “Kaden, where is the spider?” I cried. “I don’t see him!” He moved to come forward and look but I pushed him back again. I instructed him to stand up on the raised fireplace hearth and help me look.

There was only one place he could be. There is a tall, heavy lamp with a large square black base that sits on the floor right next to where he dropped. He had to be hiding along the edge of the lamp. I moved my chair over to the lamp, but first I looked all over the upper regions of the lamp. I was planning to touch the lamp and wanted to be sure he was down at the bottom and nowhere near where I might grab.

I gripped the body of the lamp and started rocking it, back and forth, back and forth on the carpet. I thought I saw a dark spot so I shifted the lamp and then started smushing it and grinding it into the carpet. I carried on like this for approximately two minutes until I was sure that I had finished him off.

“I think I got it, you guys!” I exclaimed. “Okay, now stand back, I’m going to have to look.” And vacuum up its mashed remains from my carpet. At least the lamp can permanently sit over that spot.

I pulled the chair away and got down while the kids crowded around me to see what was left of the spider. I still had my swatter in my right hand as I slid the lamp away.

“AHHHHHH!” I screamed. The spider was alive! It took off like an Olympic athlete and raced across the carpet. I grabbed my swatter with both hands and started pounding on it as it ran. I lifted the swatter back up about three feet high with every thrust before slamming it back down onto the quarter-sized hairy monster. The house was filled with a trio unnerving sounds: the THWACK, THWACK, THWACK as I pummeled the now spidery carpet, a screeching noise coming from somewhere within my clenched mouth, and the kids howling with laughter behind me.

So that’s what I mean when I say I’m terrified of spiders.

Did you really think I was going to use a picture of a spider? No. No, I was not.

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