Spider Season by Sherri Frank Mazzotta

Spider season is coming. Spring, summer, fall:  Every time the weather changes, those 8-legged predators appear. Clinging to the kitchen ceiling. Scuttling over counters. Rappelling down walls in the shower like….well, like Spiderman. I’m not one of those shrieking, jump-on-a-chair girly-girls. I don’t mind cockroaches and I love mice. But spiders scare the bejesus out of me.

We have a variety of breeds in our house. True, these are not the spiders of my Jersey youth; those baseball-sized “beauties” that lurked in our toothbrush drawer and under garbage bags in the garage. But they’re just as evil.  With their segmented bodies. Multiple eyes. Spindly legs stretched like claws. Waiting-sometimes hours at a time, I’m sure-to catch me alone.

Spiders are intimidating, and they know it. They have motive. They mean harm.

I get up before my husband each day, when it’s still dark. Nervously, I turn on the kitchen light but don’t step into the room until I’ve scanned the ceiling.

“If you hear me scream, it’s always a spider,” I tell him. “So come quickly.”

I don’t care that they eat flies and ants and other insects-I want them out of the house. I want them dead. Though I sign the execution orders, my husband is usually the one who kills them. He uses a wet paper towel to squash them with his bare hands. If they’re too high to reach, he grabs a mop and crushes them into the plaster. That’s what I call an action hero.

At one point he bought an expensive bug vacuum that was marketed as a “keep your distance” way to capture pests. It touted a telescoping nozzle and a 22,400-rpm motor that sucked insects into a tube and stunned them on an electric grid. According to the catalog copy, the stunned bugs could then be dumped outdoors. “Screw that,” I said. No spiders would be set free as long as I manned the vacuum.

It worked beautifully the first time we used it. Steve positioned the nozzle over a quarter-sized beast and turned on the power. The spider whooshed backwards into the plastic tube and we heard a sizzle. I smiled.

A few days later and alone-once again-in the early morning hours, I was confronted by those creepy legs. Confidently, I grabbed the vacuum  I placed the nozzle over the spider and hit the switch, but nothing happened. There was a sucking sound but no sucking. The spider began to move, so I pressed harder on the tube. I turned the vacuum off then on again, but the spider still clung to the wall. It was a terrifying moment of face-to-fangs intimacy, but I was losing confidence and the spider knew it. Finally, I dropped the vacuum and backed out of the room. I woke up my husband.

The “Keep Your Distance” vacuum hasn’t been used since.

Arachnophobia is one of the most common fears in the world. According to the website, Celebrities with Diseases (http://www.celebrities-with-diseases.com/), Andre Agassi, J.K Rowling, Jessica Simpson, Rupert Grint, and Justin Timberlake all have an aversion to spiders. Johnny Depp, Emma Watson, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and Woody Allen….the list goes on. Perhaps the real question is, who isn’t afraid of spiders?

“Various therapies and self-help groups can work wonders to overcome arachnophobia,” the Celebrities site claims. “Gradual exposure to spider’s pictures or even touching the spiders can be of great help in beating arachnophobia.”

I’m not interested in beating arachnophobia. I think it’s wise to avoid anything that has fangs, injects venom, and liquefies its prey. But spiders seem hell bent on making my acquaintance. I’ve had spiders appear on the inside of my windshield while driving. Skitter across my table at a coffee shop. And parachute onto my salad while eating al fresco. Charlotte’s Web be damned, I’m not going to pet them!

One summer, I walked into our bedroom and found hundreds of spiderlings crawling over the walls and ceiling. Of course I screamed. It was my personal Nightmare on Elm Street. I’ve read that a female spider can deliver as many as 3,000 eggs-and judging by the number of tiny creatures scrambling over the walls, that sounded about right.

Steve and I grabbed wet paper towels and started crushing the seething mass. In the face of such an invasion, I was suddenly brave. Fueled by fear and anger, I dabbed hard at the walls. It took more than an hour to kill the ones we could see, and afterwards, I still imagined I felt them crawling on my scalp. Lice, I wouldn’t have minded.  But spiders?  I’d have to set my head on fire.

The only place in the world that doesn’t have spiders is Antarctica. But since the job market is especially tough in that neck of the woods, I’m resigned to fighting these seasonal battles. Sometimes I wonder if the spiders are keeping track of how many of their relatives I’ve killed. I wonder if they’re plotting revenge and just waiting for Steve to take an extended business trip. Then they’ll corner me in the basement and ensnare me in their silky webs. Descend upon me with thousands of fangs….It’s a horrifying thought.  And one reason why I’m thankful that my husband doesn’t travel much these days.

 “Naturalists have pondered this for years: there are spiders whose bite can cause the place bitten to rot and to die, sometimes more than a year after it was bitten. As to why spiders do this, the answer is simple. It’s because spiders think this is funny, and they don’t want you ever to forget them.”   – Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

6 thoughts on “Spider Season by Sherri Frank Mazzotta

  1. Sherri, never go to Australia. Everything there slithers or creeps and bites and is venomous. A recent National Geographic magazine told of a spider they have with fangs capable of biting through a heavy leather work boot. It’s one of the most venomous spiders in the world. They have an antidote for the poison, but you’d better have a helicopter handy if you’re in the outback when bitten.

    Closer to home, when my wife and I lived in Indianapolis we had a decorative bush that died in our yard. It was about chest-high and seemed to die suddenly in the early fall. All winter long I threatened to go out and dig the unsightly thing up, but was always busy with something else. The next spring while doing yardwork, my wife and I looked at this bush and I said, “You know, I think I can simply pull this thing up out of the ground…”

    She didn’t think I could, so I grabbed it by the base near the ground and pulled. After two or three good yanks on the thing, it popped up out of the ground. As it did, I stood erect again and the top of the bush was 2 or 3 feet over my head.

    And it *rained* spiders on me. I mean like a blizzard.

    I hadn’t seen them on the bush. They were young, apparently just hatched, and exactly the same color as the dead bush. Hundreds of them fell on me. I could feel them crawling through my hair, on my ears, *in* my ears, several were scampering about on the inside and outside of my glasses, they went down the front and back of my tee shirt. They were all just under a half-inch in diameter, little things, but an astonishing number of them.

    I stood there for a moment, trying to realize what just happened. My wife looked at me, covered with an uncountable number of little spiders crawling all over my body and without one word, one peep, she turned and ran back into the house, banging the door shut behind her.

    I don’t know what kind of spiders they were, but at least they didn’t bite. Maybe they weren’t the biting kind, or were too young. And (very fortunately) I am not afraid of spiders. But having several hundred of them running around inside your shirt and on your face, neck and arms was a bit much, even for me. I tossed the bush aside then spent the next several minutes pulling off my shirt and using it to brush most of them off me. I pulled out my comb and was reasonably certain I got them all out of my hair, then blew them off my glasses (inside and out) and continued to use my shirt to brush them off my body as I walked towards our house.

    My wife called out the window, “Don’t you come in here!”

    A strange conversation followed, and she eventually came out armed with a broom. As I stood on the patio, she kept as far away as possible, swiping me with that broom with great gusto. The neighbors probably thought she was beating me with it. It felt like she was beating me, anyway.

    Only when we were both convinced I was spider-free did she allow me in the house. As soon as the door shut behind me, I peeled off the rest of my clothes and killed a few sneaky ones which had crawled inside my pants, my wife still swinging the broom like the fist of God and spraying bug killer on me, my clothing, and the whole area where I was standing. Thank heavens she didn’t have a flamethrower.

    After the commotion died down and I got out of the shower, I teased her mercilessly about her reaction. Not once did she make any attempt to help me outside, she just turned and ran leaving me to be eaten alive, apparently. I said, “Well, thanks a lot for nothing, babe. You just abandoned me out there. Now I know who I can trust if I’m ever attacked by anything. You’ll just leave me to die.”

    She swore if it had been a bear or a pack of wolves or any other life form, she’d have waded in heroically and fought tooth and nail to help. But these were spiders.

    “Yeah, I noticed. So what?”

    She blinked at me and simply repeated, “Spiders. Thousands of them, too.” As if that made all the sense in the world. And to her, it probably did. Today when we tell friends about my little misadventure, all the men laugh and all the women get the creeps and swear they’d have done the same. Even to this day, when she calls me to go to battle with a vicious, killer granddaddy long-legs which has invaded our kitchen, I tell her it may be a trap and to hand me the shotgun so I can take it out from a distance. She finds no humor in this. But I can’t help but laugh when eliminating spiders for her anymore.

    Your blog makes perfect sense to her, too. After all, it’s spiders we’re talking about here…


  2. Kent, that is the most horrible story I’ve ever heard!! And you told it so wonderfully!! I get heart palpitations just seeing a spider in my house – I would surely have a stroke and die if thousands of spiders were crawling on me. Thanks for reading the piece and for offering up your own Nightmare on Elm Street!

  3. Wonderful writing Sherri, as always. Steve takes on spiders with just a flimsy bit of paper towel? Oh man! He can come to my place any day. Speaking of which, I was going to say the opposite to Kent – come to Australia! Sure, a lot more of our spiders are poisonous, but they don’t come after us at home the way yours seem to! Hundreds of ceiling spiders? Ewwww! You have to live in Melbourne though, not Sydney – up there they have funnelwebs who build their webs in the shape of a – well, you guessed it – and then lurk at the bottom. And they DO come inside. Hmmm, may have to stop there before epically defeating my own argument!

    • Hi, Anna! Thanks for stopping by. Glad you liked the piece. I nearly forgot that you and James deal with Australian spiders every day!! When I visited, I don’t recall seeing any, but then I stayed in hotels. If I were crazy enough to live in Australia with all of those spiders, I’d choose Melbourne over Sydney any day! It has a much better feel to it. – Sherri

  4. I’m not interested in overcoming my fear either. I have no problems with spiders OUTSIDE of my house, but trespassers face the death penalty. Fortunately, I have a personal assassin who kills on my command.

    Kent, I would have either done what your wife did or drowned you with the hose.

  5. Cindy, glad you can relate! Although I’d be very happy if spiders didn’t exist any where, period. Thanks for reading and for commenting. – Sherri

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