I’ve lived alone both pre-marriage and children and post-divorce long enough to know how to do stuff like get the Christmas tree lights working, re-wire a plug and successfully hang shelves using a drill and a spirit level. Also, I’m proud to say I am not all that afraid when it comes to dealing with small creatures of the wild when necessary. This is pretty fortunate, because having two sons does not naturally guarantee a claim to having a ‘man around the house’ to bravely deal with such things. For example, immediately after moving out of suburbia and into a house closer to nature, I had to chase away a family of porcupines who kept coming down the mountain in the dead of night to thieve and pilfer from my rubbish bins, thus by daybreak turning my garden into a colossal wasteland of chewed cardboard and rotting food. My elderly neighbours did not take kindly to this regular morning sight, and a letter of utmost indignance was shakily hand written and delivered to my post box, informing me that photographs had been taken and the Town Council (gasp!) notified of my most unhygienic habit of tossing my refuse onto the lawn which was then blown in their general direction. It took weeks of puzzlement and speculation as to whom/what on earth could be responsible for the mess I was being so unfairly blamed for, until one night I was woken by my eldest sons breathless panic at having heard a noise, looked out of his window to see where it had come from, to discover an enormous porcupine just on the other side of the ‘very thin piece of glass’ (as it was described for visual effect) separating the two of them. With delight at being given the opportunity to reciprocate the neighbourly communications, I tried to get him to obtain photographic evidence of my innocence. At my suggestion of opening the window, he went pale and insisted that porcupines had the aiming skills of a sniper when it came to their ‘deadly spikes’, and he refused to risk death by being impaled by one, not even to help clear his mother’s good name. Admittedly, porcupines aren’t exactly cute. Father porcupine was the size of a fully grown Labrador, the mother wasn’t much smaller, and the baby, well, was a baby still but had a back of very sharp quills that I’m quite sure it already knew how to use. Fortunately we discovered during our scuffle with the camera and the window latch that night, that they are extremely sensitive to sound, so really all it took was our raised voices and some bricks on top of the bins the next day to put a stop to their midnight scavenging (and neighbourly threats of town council visits). Just because I didn’t actually have to wrestle them to the ground and threaten to report them to the neighbours to get rid of them, in my view it still counts as an encounter with wildlife.
A few weeks after the porcupine episode, I had to remove the remains of a loaf-of-bread-sized rat that our cat had caught, brought inside and decimated on my bedroom floor. The carnage was brought to my attention by the exaggerated vomiting noises made by my youngest son that discovered the body, but whose disgust quickly turned to delight at the National Geographic documentary style predator (our cat) and its prey scenario spread out (literally) before his very eyes, and in true filmmaker style went around attempting to identify the bits of anatomy still attached to the rat, as well as the bits spread across the room. My eldest, who had one brief glance at the ‘CSI-like murder scene’ went straight to his room, locked himself in and switched up the music to drown out his brothers commentary, and the noise of my sensitive gag reflex in between my wails of horror at the unfairness of having to come home to something so grisly instead of just my usual glass of wine.
Out of all my small creature dealings though, there is one thing that would not have me think twice about using my own children as human shields in order to escape it if it came down to it. And that is a spider. A spider of any sort, colour or size. I can throw a giant live cockroach out of a window by its feeler, I have rescued a filthy sopping mole from a drain without as much as a pair of gloves and I have had a dead mouse dropped into my lap when the offer of a close inspection was fumbled, and I hardly flinched. But anyone who knows about it, knows that my spider fear can not even be used for teasing for entertainment or otherwise because I become maniacal if you even so much as pretend. As a child, with morbid fascination I would draw them on every piece of paper I could get my hands on. Huge bodies filling the page, leaving just enough space on the perimeter for eight hairy legs pinned onto it’s sides and shooting off the page. The pictures would include two eyes (before my fear was completely cemented with the knowledge that they in fact have eight) and a mouth with vampire style incisors sticking out of either side. Like this:
As an adult I have recurring nightmares about them. Friends have researched the meaning of these dreams and come up with the message that they represent a ‘strong female force’ in my life. Bullshit psychobabble tosh. Those things have eight legs and eight eyes, which in my opinion are far too many needed to survive on this planet. This leads me to believe that they’re not from this planet. And that there is the stuff of nightmares. No Google required.
So a couple of weeks ago, I arrived home after a rare night out with the girls while my sons slept over at their grandparents, to the sight of a gargantuan rain-spider spread across my bathroom ceiling. As I remember it now, its legs were at least a metre each in length and its body was the diameter of a Frisbee. Immediately, I felt the prickle of sweat and rising nausea associated with a spider sighting. Breathless, and knowing all eight of its eyes were on me, I backed out and tried to calm myself before the smell of my fear reached its (eight?) nostrils and there was an attack. I thought my best bet was to just close the door quietly and rock myself to sleep, but fear feeds imagination, and I knew that sooner or later I would need to open it again. The vision I had of opening the door was of finding the monster blocking the doorway with four legs on the door frame and the other four on the door, thus opening of the door would cause it to do the splits, fall on the floor and then eat me alive. Now, I was nauseous, sweaty AND light headed and I desperately needed to lie down. I resigned myself to the fact that my only option was to leave the door only slightly open to discourage it from actually leaving the bathroom and wandering around the house, but also allow me a relatively easy view of its whereabouts the following morning. After a night of little sleep due to having to leave the light on, as well as dozing off and then jerking awake thinking I would open my eyes to the sight of it in the room with me, I stumbled through and squinted from a safe distance through the crack in the door feeling a teensy bit braver in the cold light of day. At that moment, I realised that there is something more terrifying than going to bed knowing that you are sharing the house with an alien species of your nightmares, and that is waking up to find it not where you left it. That meant it was in one of two places. Very far away. Or on my back. I’m fuzzy on exactly what happened during that next moment of extreme hysteria, or how I eventually got from the passage to the kitchen, also on the details of where I found the mallet I didn’t know I had. It’s been two weeks with no further sightings though, but I’m still on extremely high alert. I can sense it’s just biding it’s time. The only saving grace was that my sons weren’t around to witness all that. I like to think they feel safe with me around, and heaven knows the sight of me being scared close enough to actual death would’ve caused them to panic and possibly join in the screaming, which would definitely have gotten the neighbours excited enough to take ink to parchment again, which HAS be avoided. It would be just my luck that the WDH (world domination headquarters) of those spiders is run by the Town Council now wouldn’t it?