Saturday, August 20, 2011

Man Versus Spider

We had a lovely date. Dinner and a movie. Making out in the theater. A pleasant drive home with the top down.

It’s nice that our marriage is still great after all these years, I thought to myself. I am SO going to make a move when we get home.

But when we pulled into the garage, something else was moving.

“Holy crap! That spider’s huge!!” Matt said.

I had been wistfully planning the next hour’s entertainment – which did not include spiders – and was brought up short as my mind tried to change gears. “What spider?” I said.

“How can you not see that?” He pointed at the stair rail.

I saw it ringed by one of the headlights, like the spotlit star of a Grand-Guignol. “Oh my god,” I said. It was truly the most horrific thing I’d seen all week. I needed to remember it forever. “Don’t startle it. I’m getting a picture.”

I crept closer to snap a few shots with my phone, all the while expecting it to leap at me, baring ichorous fangs.

“Put your hand by it for scale,” Matt said from the safety of the car.

“Like hell,” I said. But, no, he was right: the shots needed scale. I raised my hand to it slowly. Ichorous fangs continued to be absent.

“What kind is it?” Matt said. Ever since I took up bird watching, he’s always asking me the nature questions.

Of course, insects are not birds, so I had no idea, but I assumed if Kansas hosted a venomous spider that large, I would have heard stories about it, frightful tales whispered in the break room at work. Dredging my memory for the name of a harmless arachnid, I said, “Texas Cotton Spider.” Congratulations, whatever you are. I dub thee Sir Texas Cotton Spider, and so you shall henceforth be known for all your days.

“Is it dangerous?” Matt asked.

“No,” I said, which was probably true. Satisfied with the photos, I put my phone away and looked over at my husband. Damn, but he sure looked good in his fancy sports car. “Anyway, we were going inside, yes?”

Matt, still focused on the spider, ventured forth from the car, grabbing a metal garden stake from a nearby shelf. “I’m just going to relocate it first,” he said, using the stake to scoot the spider down the stair rail and along the garage floor.

“That’s not necessary,” I said edging toward the door (and the bedroom beyond). “I’m sure it’s fine.”

“No, I’d rather not think about it making a home in my tool box.”

I sighed and sat on the steps to watch.

Sir Cotton Spider, who had apparently been quite content on the stair railing, rebelled against this forced march outside, waving its hairy little legs at Matt in a manner that suggested ichorous fangs were not far off. “Harmless, right?” Matt asked.

“Totally,” I said from my seat on the stairs.

Matt poked it with the stake. “Go on,” he said gently, but the spider was having none of it. With astonishing speed, the spider dashed to the left and made a break for the stairs. I shrieked, but Matt headed it off with the garden stake, simultaneously facing down the spider and cringing back from it.

“My hero,” I said.

Matt smiled briefly before the spider regrouped for a second charge. The spider was everywhere. If Matt stepped left, the spider went right. Uttering colorful curses, Matt wielded the garden stake like a weapon, poking and stabbing toward the spider in the time-honored duel of man versus beast, making slow progress.

When he finally reached the edge of the garage, he seemed to be losing patience. Taking aim at the spider, he swung the stake like a golf club, connecting with a muted “thwock”.

The spider sailed up into the night.

And came back down again.

We know not where.

Matt turned to me, eyes wide, the question plainly writ on his face.

“I didn’t see it land,” I said.

He jerked into motion, arms flailing. “Is it on my back?” he said, rapidly turning in circles.

“I can’t tell,” I said, leaping to my feet. “Hold still.”

Instead, he rushed past me into the house, still thrashing. “Must take clothes off!” he called back over his shoulder. “Now!”

I smiled. It had taken longer than I expected, but it seemed the evening would turn out as I had hoped after all. I hit the button for the garage door, watching to be sure it closed before I went inside. As I looked over the garage, I might have seen movement in the area of the toolbox, but I didn’t investigate. I had other things to do.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A day in my life: Psychoanalysis at the Craft Store

The contents of the craft closet had disgorged themselves across the whole house and the ribbon I desperately needed for the project currently at hand had not presented itself. Fists were shaken heavenward but the gods were pitiless and cruel.

I would have to go to the craft store.

Unfortunately, craft stores and I do not mix well. In fact, ever since the notorious Photo-Box Incident of ’07, I am outright forbidden to set foot in craft stores. But I needed ribbon. The need was undeniable. If I put it off too long, the inspiration for the project would dissipate and I would be left with yet another three-quarters-completed project, nicely folded in one of many decorative photo-boxes in the craft closet, waiting for inspiration to strike again.

Taking many deep breaths to steel myself, I set forth.

Oh, I was focused. I was a champion focuser. I was there for ribbon. I would leave the store with ribbon and nothing else. “Ribbon, ribbon, ribbon,” I chanted to myself in the parking lot. We would not have another Photo-Box Incident on our hands.

“Ribbon, ribbon, ribbon,” I continued to chant to myself in the store.

“Can I help you find anything today?” a helpful woman in a blue apron asked.

“Ribbon?” I said.

“Oh, sure,” she said. “What kind of ribbon did you need?”

“Ribbon ribbon?” I said, clinging to my wavering focus.

“Well, let’s see, there’s wire ribbon, satin ribbon, curling ribbon, sequined ribbon… I’m sure if you visit each department you’ll find something that’ll work.”

Visit each department in the craft store? I wondered if, somewhere across town, my husband had sensed a disturbance in the Force. “Ribbon,” I said to her as I walked away.

“Your welcome!” she said.

I started in the floral department. Having never actively pursued floristry, I sailed elegantly through the department, gazing with cool disdain over the sprigs and sprays of dried and artificial flowers that presumably have names. They would not distract me from my goal. “Ribbon,” I continued to chant. “Ribbon, ribbon, ribb- ooh! Feathers!”

And then, my Super Ego apparently decided it was time for a break. I felt my psychic apparatus fracture into distinct and separately functioning pieces. There was Id-Tori, blissfully tossing handfuls of product she did not need into her shopping basket, and there was Ego-Tori, thinking, “What happened to focus and control? ‘Ribbon, ribbon, ribbon,’ remember?”

As Id-Tori pleasure-principled her way through half a paycheck, Ego-Tori marveled at the ingenious organization of the craft store:

For example, she mused, there is no “ribbon” section in the craft store. One finds ribbon in the floral department, the sewing department, the craft department, and the scrapbook department. The same goes for stickers, paints, feathers, and photo-boxes. These and a dozen other products besides are scattered and duplicated across the store, in every department. To find the perfect product, the shopper is forced to search the entire facility, encountering hundreds of unplanned purchases along the way.

One could argue, cleverly and well, that it makes sense for the store to be organized by hobby, whereby the scrapbookers can find all their supplies in the scrapbook section without searching the entire store, and seamstresses needn’t sully their creative energies with, say, knitting yarns. The florist need only concern herself with flowers; the artist, with paints and brushes.

One could say it may not occur to the aforementioned scrapbooker, who works primarily in paper products, that she could use ribbon in her layouts. By keeping the ribbon in the scrapbook aisle, the craft store is, in fact, selling more ribbon by planting ideas in the heads of these grossly uncreative people. “Oh, my! Look here! It never occurred to me to use ribbon in my pages before. My eyes are opened!”

Craft stores, Ego-Tori observed, are ironically the only stores where the managers are creative for you. They don’t do this sort of thing at Walmart, for example. They don’t keep the eggs in the baking aisle, no matter how logical it may seem to do so. They don’t keep the hamburger with the hamburger helper. They don’t keep the honey and whipped cream in the women’s underwear section. Shoppers are expected to make these clever connections on their own.

Id-Tori smiled and nodded through Ego-Tori’s economics lecture. With a cart full of lovely things that were not ribbon, she continued her search, visiting each aisle in each department, checking all the ribbon, finding none suitable for the project du jour. She didn’t care. She’d found scrapbook paper, stone beads, quilt fabric, and a decorative photo box. She was past the checkout lane and halfway to the car before Super Ego slunk back into the room, soliciting a “Where the hell have you been?” from Ego.

At home, I unloaded the car. No longer motivated to work on the three-quarters-completed ribbon project, I folded it nicely into the new decorative photo box and stacked it in the craft closet with the others from the notorious Photo Box Incident of ’07.

“What now?” I wondered.

“Maybe,” said the Id, “we could make something out of all this lovely new scrapbook paper.”

“Good idea,” I said.

Outnumbered and largely ignored, Ego protested, but it was no use.