spider bites

            I saw a spider when I got in the shower this morning.

            It was crouched in the corner behind my strawberry-scented shampoo bottle. It froze when I stepped in, and me and the spider, we stared at each other for a while. I wondered if it was just as surprised to see me as I was to see it, or if it was in shock at seeing a naked human towering above it. Then, after a moment, it twitched and started crawling up the wall, reaching toward the temperature dial.

            I turned the water on, musing over how I should react to this creature invading my privacy. As the steam from the hot water rose, the smoky tang from last nightÕs bonfire lifted off my hair. I felt myself smile and decided to let the spider live.

            Starting with my hair, I reluctantly allowed strawberries to replace the rustic fire scent, and I kept an eye on the spider. It was brown in color, pretty small and spindly, not quite like a daddy long-leg, but not cursed with the threatening build of a wolf spider either. I thought maybe it was a young spider, an adolescent spider, if there is such a thing.

 

            The night before, weÕd stood on the lake shore with the fire crackling and sparking behind us, and we caught a fish. It was a little bass, not even enough for a meal, heÕd said. Not that you could eat the fish out of that lake anyway. Then heÕd laughed and thrown it back in the water, and we chased each other across his lawn till he finally caught me by my waist and I wrestled to free myself, our hands clasped and his arms relentless. When I got in my car to leave, he smiled gently and told me to call him when I made it home.

 

            While I was in the shower, I remembered a news article IÕd read a week before about a new invasive spider. It was originally from Florida, or somewhere tropical, and had somehow made its way to good olÕ upstate New York. It was discovered when three people died suddenly, raging with high fevers and tremors and vomiting; their conditions escalated so rapidly that nothing could be done for them. The doctors were at a loss until they found a link between the three – theyÕd all been to an Olive Garden restaurant within the past week. One woman worked as a waitress and hadnÕt eaten during the day, so that eliminated food contamination, but she had used the restroom. ThatÕs where they found it, hiding under the toilet seat, in the cool, water-condensed porcelain, a tiny spider. A poisonous spider, with venom so lethal that after one nearly undetectable bite, its victim was dead in a matter of days. There it was, hiding in a toilet because it thrived in moisture, the cause of three premature deaths.

            A little brown spider.

            Suddenly that tiny thing in the corner of my shower, frozen on the wall again as I stared at it, no longer seemed so benign. I shoved back the shower curtain, and dripping all over the bathroom floor, tore off some toilet paper from the roll, reached in and killed the spider in one swift movement. Then I threw it in the trash.

 

            HeÕd told me he had a two-year-old son, and that his sonÕs mama was one of the worst people heÕd ever met. That she didnÕt even call him when his baby boy was born; her own mother had, and they hadnÕt spoken since.

            ÒIf I move,Ó heÕd said, a grin slowly illuminating his face as he stared out across the lake, ÒIÕll only be an hour away. I can stop and see my son, and she canÕt do a damn thing about it.Ó Then he turned and looked down at me, sitting there on his lawn. ÒThatÕs what my lawyer said, you know. That the only way I can see my boy is if I go there and knock on the damn door.Ó

 

            I didnÕt feel one ounce of remorse for ending that spiderÕs life so quickly and callously. I wasnÕt about to get bit. Not like those four. I wasnÕt about to be a victim.  

 

© anna pollack clandestinepiano@aol.com