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.

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