I have been afraid of spiders since childhood. I don’t really know when it started. I distinctly remember, at the age of five or so, putting my hand under a picnic table and into a sticky mass of cobwebs. I screamed, grabbed some napkins, and tried frantically to clean the mess off my hand. Everyone was staring at me.
A few years later, I found myself cleaning out the hot tub in my dad’s backyard, as I did every summer. The hot tub was set into a deck a short distance above the patio bricks. Chopped logs served as makeshift seats on the patio.
As usual, the hot tub was a mess of dead bugs, leaves, and dirt blown in over the fall and winter. I was using an underwater vacuum of sorts when I felt a light tickling on my arm. I ignored it, thinking it was my hair, but it persisted. Finally, I looked down.
A daddy longlegs was scurrying up my arm. I screamed, brushed it off, and fell off the deck in a panic. I hit my head on the edge of a log.
My dad, hearing the scream and fall, had come to investigate. He noticed the growing swelling on my forehead. Without bothering to explain, I told him a spider had caused the bump and ran to the bathroom to check the damage.
A huge purple bruise was blooming prominently on my forehead. Blood trickled from a small cut in the middle. It looked really awful, and much worse than it actually was. I was feeling very sorry for myself when my dad came looking for me again.
When I told him what had happened, he laughed. He said my fear of the spider had caused more damage than the spider ever would have.
This was not what I wanted to hear. I wanted sympathy. I wanted every single spider in the house and yard to be hunted and stomped out. Instead, I went to school with my new bruise and explained that I had fallen off my deck. I only told good friends about the spider’s role in the fall.
Almost a year ago, I was moving into residence for my fourth year of university. My room had been uninhabited for four months, and was in need of a good cleaning. As I moved a desk, a spider hurried from underneath. Predictably, I screamed. A passing girl poked her head into my room.
I pointed out the spider. Shuddering slightly, she left, and returned with a black stiletto in hand. She quickly smashed the spider, picked it up neatly with a tissue, and flushed it.
That’s how I met my neighbour that year.
The spiders here in Sylvan Lake are obnoxious. During the summer, I awoke every morning to find several fresh webs spun on my front porch. Some spiders were so bold as to spin webs across my doorway. They were flawless and silvery in the morning sun, and almost too nice to destroy with a swing of my bag.
Recently, my roommate, Raina, warned me about a group of huge spiders that had taken up residence on our back porch. There were five or so, she said, each hovering in its own web. I’ll take her word for it.
She also showed me a picture of a spider she took Saturday on our back porch. It was a wolf spider, she said. It was enormous, hairy, and chewing on what looked to be a wood splinter. Looking closer, I saw it was a moth – a big moth completely dwarfed by the spider.
The weather is getting cooler now. All the little creatures outside will try to find their way into buildings to stay warm, but they will not be welcome in my house. If they dare to enter, I am armed with a roommate braver than myself, and best of all, a house duck who finds them tasty. Spiders, you have been warned.