A short time ago Pietro di Beetley, AKA Beetley Pete put up a post entitled “Spider Night” describing the chaos caused at home by the invasion of a spider, his wife’s fear and dread and the expectation that he, as the man of the house must take up arms and kill it.
It gave me a good laugh because all through my married life I lived with a woman who HATED and feared bugs of any sort and would throw me to the wolves, so to speak to so she could escape and leave me to wage war on my own.
As a teen a dragon fly once flew into her bouffant hair-do, got stuck in there for awhile causing her to perform a wild, screaming bug dance to get rid of it! The first time I experienced her terrors we were making love in Massachusetts when a dragon fly got into our bedroom through an open window. She screamed, immediately fled the room naked, hollering “Kill it! Kill it! locking the door behind her leaving me naked to fight the terror. Passion forgotten. Quickly.
When we bought a new home in Maryland we went to inspect the empty house before moving in. She saw a water bug in the laundry room For the next decade I was paying an exterminator monthly to come visit.
One Spring there were swarms of bugs on the sunny side of my house. I sprayed enough insecticide to kill birds but they came back a few days later. The bug man told me it was a certain specie that lived in a particular kind of female tree – a large one of which was of course standing in the middle of my yard.
Within days the tree was gone.
While we lived in Maryland we had a nasty season of the 17 year cicada bugs, which made a horrendous racket during the day. My wife, when she had to go out, would leave the house holding a can of insect spray as she fled to the safety of her car. Her sister visited during cicada season and while they stayed indoors, my brother in law and I sat out back and killed a nice bottle of scotch as the bugs buzzed around us, occasionally falling into our glass. No big deal. Take them out and continue sipping.
A neighbor commented later that “I saw you two drunks outside with the bugs!”
But on to the subject of this post. The spider.
We had bought our first house in Pleasant Plains on Staten Island in 1966, before I was out of the Army. It’s style was called a “raised ranch;” one entered a foyer on ground level and to your left were two short staircases, one up to the living level and one down to a basement. This basement was only partially underground. It had windows at eye level, a place for a washer and dryer but was otherwise completely unfinished and ready for expansion.
Around the house was lawn for which we bought a mower and began applying fertilizer which we stored in the basement. We wanted nice grass.
So its a nice quiet Sunday afternoon and we are relaxing. She decides to do laundry. She collects the clothes to be washed and heads down the steps to the foyer from which point she can see the basement door down the lower steps.
She freezes. Stands frozen. Starts making sounds.
I am watching TV and not paying much attention.
Frank! A somewhat unusual tone. I ignore it for a moment until the second more frantic cry.
What honey! “There’s a spider on the door!”
“So kill it!” comes the sarcastic response. “You’re a big girl!”
“You better see this!” Rising tones ow approaching soprano. So Toritto gets out of his comfy chair and heads down to the landing. He looks down at the basement door.
On the lower part of the door is the biggest goddamn spider he has ever seen. Definitely not native to anywhere in New York. A Tarantula!
“Kill it! Kill it!” came the cry from the young damsel as she fled up the stairs leaving her prince to fight and kill the beast. The Prince knew that if he didn’t kill this thing she would never sleep in this house again.
Now our prince is not particularly afraid of bugs. Normally he acts quickly and efficiently to eliminate the threat. I saw plenty of bugs in Africa. During the season one couldn’t see through the window screens as they were literally covered in bugs drawn by the light. But this, as they say, was a horse of a different color. This would require a weapon – the trusty, heavy Sunday New York Times! He grabs the paper and returns to face the beast.
The basement door is cut a tad high from the concrete floor of the basement for clearance, allowing for flooring to be installed without replacement of the door. As I approach the spider it immediately dashes under the door into the bare concrete basement. I follow him, my wife completely abandoning me to my fate.
The damn beast is so big I can hear him scampering over the concrete floor, the sounds of his many jointed hairy legs echoing like scratches in the empty basement. I can see him moving into a darkened corner; I must keep it in sight. If I lose him in the darkness life here will be over.
Beast scampers quickly to a corner – I have him. Or does he have me? In the corner is his former home -the fertilizer bag! Its come down to him or me!
Beast stops – and turns toward me! Shit! It’s coming toward me! Almost but not quite panicked I drop the heavy thick Times on him and stomp! Gotcha! I do the Tarantella on the tarantula!
Victorious, I return upstairs to Princess Bride. “Is it dead?” is the first question, The second it “Where did it come from!!”
I don’t really know to this day but my bet is the fertilizer bag from Alabama. And to think I was sticking my hand gingerly in there! I threw the bag away to convince the Princess.
Then of course there is the story about my room mate in Eritrea who was bitten by a scorpion on the ankle while in the shower and came out naked screaming like a girl.
But that’s another post.