Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Broken Peace Treaty

We have a problem in our house.   It's like the beginning of a bad horror movie.  The spiders are hatching and somehow, somewhere, they've gotten inside the house.  I can't see them.  I've searched, and can't find them.  Yet, I have more than a dozen spider bites.

Now, I have a long and complicated history with spiders.  When I was a kid in Indiana, I would occasionally come across a really big spider.  People used to call them wolf spiders.  For about three weeks one summer, this wolf set up his web between the eaves of the house and the clothes line.  He was huge.  To my memory, he was at least four inches from toe to toe.   I got quite adept at running a jagged loop around that spot in the yard so that I was never, ever directly underneath the web or the spot at the edge where old Wolfie held court.  We had a solid agreement, Wolfie and I.  He wouldn't drop down on my head unexpectedly to bite me and I wouldn't take a long stick and mess up his web.  We did fine together, for a while.  I even enjoyed some time looking at Wolfie from a distance, well out of spider-leaping distance. 

Then he disappeared. 

I don't think I slept for a week.  Around the same time, there was a story in the newspaper about the brown recluse spider including a picture of the effects of necrosis from an untended bite.  I don't think I ever explained what I was doing by folding back my sheets all the way to look for brown furry scurrying creatures.  I don't think anyone ever asked me what I was doing either.  The only one who just might have noticed was my sister, who occupied the same room, but she probably just put it down to my being ten and she couldn't be bothered since she was already sixteen and much too preoccupied with her transistor radio to ask what crazy plan I had developed this time.

Eventually, I got back to sleeping, but I was no less cautious around spiders.  For a while, I had a reasonable comfort with grand daddy long legs,or Opiliones, until my brother told me they'd be deadly if they could just get their mouths open wide enough to bite.  It turns out that he was wrong.  They don't have venom or the ability to make a web.  They aren't even officially spiders, though my instincts to jump and run when I came across one told me they were a damn sight close enough. 

Later, when I'd matured a bit, I managed a bit better.  A bunch of us were going camping and had to hike in about five miles to camp.  I wasn't very adept at packing light yet, so I ended up carrying a gallon jug of water in each hand the whole way.  None of them were too happy with me when, after getting a spider web wrapped around my face, both jugs seemed to inexplicably be flung high into the air and come crashing down and bursting on the ground as I danced around trying to see if the spider had clung to her web, and me, or if she'd swung clear to save her life.  What that crew didn't realize was that I managed to keep my clothes on, despite my impromptu dance, thus indicating a leap forward in my ability to manage my fear. 

I back-slid a bit the next year, when I crashed my car into the rear of a semi truck trying to keep a small black spider from dropping into my lap while at a stop light on my way to meet a guy for a date on his sail boat.  I never made it to the boat, but had an emergency visit to the dentist to fix the two broken teeth from French kissing my steering wheel.  After that, all treaties were broken.  I used anything I could find to smack a wayward spider if I found him in my house, newspapers, fly swatters, even the tiny heel of a pair of tall black pumps I used to wear.  Not that was good aim.

When we moved into this house in the woods twenty-one years ago, I called Orkin to see if we needed to take care of any pests.  The man carefully inspected our house, inside and out. 

"Ma'am, you don't have anything but spiders here.  You have quite a lot of spiders, but I'd hazard a guess that this is why you don't have any of the other potentially damaging pests," he said.  "To be honest, I don't think I'd do anything about them as long as there aren't a lot of them inside the house."

On that day, I made a treaty with my new neighbors.  They could stay outside and I wouldn't take a broom and tear down their webs.  We have lived by that treaty since then.  I've even managed to learn a new habit of catching a wayward spider in a jar and taking it back outside where it belongs.  Nick, when he finds a spider in the house, actually calls me to come get it!  Now that's progress.  Once, we had a very large spider up in the skylight and I managed to get her down and outside in one piece.  She had a toe-span of about three inches.  When I looked her up on the Internet, it turned out that she was a house spider and totally harmless.  I'm sorry.  I'm just not advanced enough to have taken her in like a house cat and made a pet of her.  Just one surprise visit from her in the linen closet and she would have been road pizza.  I'd have been grabbing for my shoes again.  I didn't want any back-sliding like the car accident to happen, but I told her she was welcome in the garage or the shed. 

When the spiders hatched in the yard and some of them spanned a walkway, I'd patiently broken a corner of their webs and moved it, leaving the rest of the webs intact.  I even tried to encourage the little white spider that liked to live inside my cinnamon-flavored rose buds. 

But now, in one week, I've been bitten at least a dozen times.  It's like a horror movie.  Picture the sleeping woman with a spider in her bedding.  You've seen that movie.  She turns over at the wrong time and gets bitten.  That was me!  Three times, I've actually found spiders crawling on my clothes while I was working around the house and had to jump up, undress, and throw the clothes into the dryer.  I've even gone back to looking between my sheets before I get into bed. Some of these spiders were really small so Mike figures it was a wayward hatch. I don't care if they're babies.  I've had enough!  They've broken our treaty.  I'm calling Orkin.

Thank you for listening, jb

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