Lazarus, Our Undead Housepest

The other day, Ethan brushed a dead fly off the windowsill while cleaning. It fell a few inches, then turned right-side-up and buzzed away happily. The thing just straight-up rose from the dead. We named him Lazarus.

A few days later, I found a fly (the same fly?) lying dead in the kitchen. I joked with Ethan that it was going to fly away when I cleaned it up. I picked it up with a napkin to put it in the trash, but when I opened the napkin, it was gone. Like, half a second later. I hadn’t moved. It hadn’t moved. It wasn’t on the counter, or the floor, or flying in the air, or anywhere. It was just gone. Lazarus had disappeared.

Then yesterday, I found a super-creepy dead spider under the vanity in the bathroom. It was all curled up, but it was still right-side-up, so I wasn’t sure if it was dead. I was concerned it might just be waiting to scare the living daylights out of me. I blew on it to see if it would move. It didn’t. I blew harder. It looked pretty dead. So I went about my business. Suddenly, something on the floor caught my eye. The spider had suddenly flipped upside-down, extended its legs (which were twice as long as I’d thought they were), and was having a little many-legged seizure all over the floor. Upside-down. It twitched its way two inches toward me, while upside-down. I might have peed my pants a little.

Moral of the story: don’t let anything dead come into this house. Especially if it’s a thing you don’t want to see undead. ♦

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The Death of a Spider

I was in the bathtub the other night, when I suddenly realized I had seen a spider in the bathroom earlier that day. A really creepy spider. I cast my eyes around, trying to make sure it wasn’t, say, right behind me, or in the bathwater, or dangling above my head. I was clear.

I don’t consider myself arachnophobic. In fact, I feel much the same way about spiders as I do about sharks: if it’s nowhere near me, I’m just fine. As long as it’s not in any of the movies I’m watching. And I’m not in any water that might potentially have sharks in it. Or any smaller fish…. I might have a small phobia of fish and/or spiders. But it’s not generally a crippling fear – just a jolt and a typical found-a-spider dance.

So as I lay naked and vulnerable in the bathtub, I took comfort when I saw no big, brown house spider anywhere near me. And then something caught my eye, just under the sink, on the handle of the water valve. I saw a long, thin, delicate black leg extend like a ballerina’s and slowly creep forward, followed by another spindly leg. I couldn’t see the body, but the legs were long, and the whole operation just seemed too sneaky for my taste. I yelled for Ethan.

Ethan compassionately came to my rescue, first bringing a shoe, and then realizing that the spider had chosen a very difficult spot to reach. As Ethan pondered the best means of killing the spider, the fiend slowly crept up the pipe and hid underneath the sink. After ratcheting about a bit to get at the thing, Ethan left the bathroom and returned with a cigarette lighter and a can of cooking spray.

With a few well-aimed puffs from his improvised flamethrower, Ethan cleverly toasted the fiend. The smell of hot, burning oil filled the air. The remains of the spider flew up, then floated to the ground, still intact but delicately roasted. The bathroom smelled a little like a Chinese restaurant. Ethan puffed out his chest, proud to announce that until he grew a mustache, he had never before killed a spider with a flamethrower. Clearly, his mustache was enhancing his raw manliness.

Upon further inspection, Ethan found red markings on the spider’s front and back. This was no ordinary spider. This was a black widow – a deadly spider! Ethan’s chest swelled yet again. He had saved his naked, helpless wife from a venomous fate by rushing to the rescue and torching the beast! And all thanks to his new mustache.

He burned the body outside as a warning to the rest of its kind. Then he came back inside to groom his ‘stache. Happy Movember, everyone. ♦

Sounds in the Night

Last night, in the wee hours of the morning, I was having a weird and terrifying dream.

I was dreaming that somebody had sent me “100 things that will make you happy” or something like that, Buzzfeed-style. I was just kind of going from picture to picture, finding cute things like puppies and stuff. And for some reason, every time I went through one of those pictures, I was actually experiencing something similar…in my shower. I mean, I was fully clothed, just looking at things depicted in a shower.

For example, there was one picture that went something like, “Did you know that…” and it started talking about the world’s biggest spider, or jumpingest spider, or something like that. And I was sitting there in the shower, holding an enormous, spooky-looking rubber spider that was hanging from a rubber cement line on the shower ceiling. And while I was pondering the enormity of this spider, a voice was narrating, telling me how far these spiders could swing on this line of webbing. The object lesson in my hands just made the point more clearly.

As I pondered this hideous rubber spider, I got a little nervous about the rest of the post I was going to wade through. The narrator’s voice was soothing enough, but before I started “reading”(?) the post, I had scanned through some of the pictures, and there were some Australian-and-trying-to-kill-you spiders down toward the bottom. And I wasn’t too thrilled to see anything that looked like that – rubber or not – on my shower wall.

Maybe I’m just prejudiced against ugly animals. Sue me.

So I went forward with a few more “posts,” learning things about whatever I was learning about. Sometimes things would show up in the shower,sometimes they wouldn’t. The narrator was pretty constant. A few posts later, a little jar appeared on the shelf in the shower, and as I opened the lid a bit to look inside, a tiny spider poked its head out, crawled out of the jar, and plopped onto the shelf. It moved forward an inch or so, then stopped.

Now, when I say that this spider was tiny, I’m lying. It was tiny compared with the Brazilian eat-your-face-off rubber monstrosity I had been dealing with earlier. This”tiny” spider, by all normal North American non-tarantula standards, was actually pretty sizable. It was about the size of an un-shelled peanut. In fact, it kind of looked like a peanut. A yellow, fuzzy peanut with legs and eight eyes. And little fangs. It was actually kind of cute and kind of terrifying at the same time.

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“Oh, hi there!”

By this, I mean that when it was moving really slowly, I thought it was kind of cute. It also seemed cute because I assumed it was robotic. Given that all the object lessons previously had been rubber or in some other way synthetic, I thought this was reasonable. It also moved rather slowly and mechanically.

Until, of course, my heart stopped racing from the surprise and I said, “Wow, what a great robot!” At that point, spidery hell broke loose.

I don’t remember how the thing got from the shelf to the floor, but the next thing I knew, I was backed up against the toilet while the thing kind of hid under the bathroom rug, deciding on its next move. It darted here and there, but slowly weaving its way toward me. By this point, I was pretty certain the thing was not a robot.

The narrator had been prattling this whole time, but I hadn’t been paying attention. I came in as his calm, soothing voice said, “…very aggressive, and has been known to sexually assault sheep.”

What? What?! I’m standing in my bathroom on tiptoes, and in order to get through the door to safety, I have to get past an aggressive spider that could not only kill me, but has somehow figured out a way to violate a mammal a million times its size. Fantastic. How is that even possible?

It was about this point that the spider decided to take a noted interest in my toes. It rushed me, and I danced the international dance of the heebie-jeebies. I screeched – I would call it a scream, but it came out more as a high-pitched ghost moan.

“Whoooooooooaaaaaaaa! WHOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!”

Meanwhile, Ethan was having a rather pleasant dream about jumping off a tall building into the arms of a man who was simultaneously Richard Hammond from Top Gear and Robert Downey, Jr.

ImageImageI can kind of see it…

After landing safely on the ground, he came into the hallway to give me his computer. He didn’t want it getting wet during the water fight that was about to start. He heard me screaming, and ran to my rescue.

He woke up to me actually screaming and kicking frantically at the covers. Mercifully, he woke me up as well. I thanked him.

I don’t think either of us should be allowed to eat that much Easter candy again. All I know is, after I finally let myself go back to sleep (after about ten minutes, just to be sure the peanut-spider didn’t return), I was really glad my dreams were less terrifying.

I’m also really glad the narrator never made it down to those Australian spiders at the end. Ick. ♦

Musings on a Spider

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I gained a new-found respect for spiders today.

It all started as I found a little yellow-green spider walking along the edge of the bath towel hanging near the shower. My first thought was to kill it. Then I suddenly thought of how strange and surreal it must be for a spider – accustomed to the great outdoors, trees, leaves, dirt, bugs, birds – to suddenly encounter a bath towel. I watched its long, spindly legs trying desperately to grab hold of something as it walked along the fluff. It must have thought it was walking on a sheep.

Imagine walking through a wilderness, a vast wasteland of white, where the entire ground is made of stacks and stacks of marshmallows. Would you fare well? I dare say, this spider is much more adaptable than I am. It would take me a lot longer to figure out how to walk on such a strange surface. The little guy was actually picking it up rather well.

My respect must not have been increased that much, though, because I killed it. I’m not really sure what this says about me as a person. Perhaps I don’t appreciate perseverance as much as I claim to. Perhaps I just assume I’m a higher life form than all things small and creepy, and that my life has more value. Maybe I just couldn’t stand the thought of wrapping a small, yellow-green spider around my naked body after I got out of the shower.

On second thought, it was definitely that. I never want to wrap a small, yellow-green spider around my naked body in any context. Bon voyage, little guy. ♦

Birthday Wedding Cake?

My brother Andrew has Down Syndrome and Autism. He speaks using mostly broken sign language and English combined – when he feels like talking, that is. We met him today to give him a birthday present (happy birthday!) and he got a little worried. We gave him 3 1/2 pounds of Swedish fish. He immediately panicked, signing, “throw up” and “full”. He suggested we give them to Dad, because Dad wouldn’t throw them up.

While Mom and I were off paying for a train ticket, Andrew and Ethan chatted a bit. IT went something like this: “What did you get for your birthday?” Smiles. “Did you get anything?” Yes. “What did you get?” Smiling again. “You have to tell me what you got!” Cake. “Cake?” Yes. “What kind of cake?” Rachel. Wedding cake. “For your birthday?” Rachel’s wedding cake. All smiles.

After further consideration, we’ve noticed a pattern in Andrew’s storytelling. It doesn’t follow a chronological order; it follows a topic. Instead of telling a story about his birthday cake, he tells about all the cakes he’s ever enjoyed. Instead of talking about his visit to the hospital, he talks about all the things that doctors do. So, in light of this pattern, here are a few of the topics Andrew most frequently talks about:

  • Cakes I have eaten
  • Pizza I have eaten
  • Times when Rachel got married/will get married… still…again?
  • Times I have thrown up
  • Temples my sister has and has not gotten married in
  • Things I can put spiders on
  • People I know who have gotten an IV at the hospital
  • Times I have been bitten by the dog
  • Bad things the lawnmower can do
  • The price of Swedish fish
  • Anything that has ever happened with Alvina present

The list is growing slowly, but these are his favorite conversation topics. I recommend shaking things up at your dinner table by spending the entire time talking only about the creepiest spiders you’ve met, just as an example. And no chronological story-telling allowed – you have to follow up each spider with another spider. All spiders become the same. Let me know how it goes. So far, we like the style. ♦

A Treatise on Spiders

As Halloween approaches, there are a lot of scary things you may find out there – some of them man-made, and some of them quite natural. Spiders, as it is commonly known, exploit the month of October to put some fun into their small, short lives. This usually results in innocent humans having the heebie-jeebies scared out of them. In preparation for the rest of the month, I suggest you study up on your more common spider varieties:

The Bedroom Spider

 This is the spider that waits until you’re just about to turn off the light, then makes its creepy appearance. Usually found on ceilings, directly above your pillow.

The Bathroom Spider

 

With the possible exception of the drain spider, this is the creepiest variety on the face of the planet. Usually consisting of a violin-shaped body with disproportionately long legs, the bathroom spider will wait until you are vulnerably devoid of pants, and then proceed to scurry across your feet.

The Office Spider

This is one of the more mundane varieties of spider, because it is generally made of rubber. Before you pick it up to throw at someone, however, you might want to poke it with a stick just to make sure it’s a fake.

The Drain Spider

God’s science experiment gone horribly wrong, drain spiders are usually long, thin, and weirdly reddish. They are rare and shy, and very slow-moving. They usually only venture out in public around near-sighted persons, in the morning, before glasses or contact lenses reveal their presence.

The Hobo Spider

We’re not talking brown recluse here – this hobo spider is thus named because of behavior patterns. This is the traveling spider you saw in the bathroom on Tuesday, but then it disappeared when you threw your shoe at it. By Thursday, it had gotten its way downstairs, and hid under the couch when you went for a rolled-up newspaper. Chances are, you’ve seen one. Chances are, you still have one.

The Dropping Spider

You know him. He thinks he’s a riot.

The Possum Spider

This spider has been lurking in the same corner since your older brother’s kindergarten graduation, playing dead. But when you finally get the ambition to sweep all the cobwebs off the front porch, he pulls out a miracle and comes back from the dead just long enough to make you pee yourself when he bolts from the corner.

Happy Halloween, everybody! ♦