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It seems I was wrong about the previous tenants of this house leaving because of the smell in the laundry room. That turned out to be an inconvenient but manageable problem. (The waste water from the showers, dishwasher, washing machine, etc. is filtered under the floor of the laundry room. Periodically, we have to pour hot water into a small opening in the floor to clean the filter. Viola! Problem solved!) The most disturbing thing I’ve encountered so far in the house, and surely the reason for the move by the family before us, is the numerous co-tenants: what some would call spiders but I call monsters.
The first time we saw one was in the heating room. The older kids and I were attempting to get the heat running by jiggling switches, turning knobs and verbally coaxing the pipes and wires to heat our home. Suddenly Kristine was squeaking and pointing wildly at the window above our heads. Perched upside down above the window was a huge brown spider. Kristine and I ran from the room, but Sean was glued to the spot. Keep in mind, Sean is the guy who slept three feet from the top edge of his bed with the covers pulled tightly around his head in our last house because of the imaginary spiders he was certain were lurking between the wall and the head of his bed. In this moment all his worst fears were realized as he stood waiting for the monster to leap onto his head and devour it whole. His only defensive action: shrieking “Mom, help me! Mom, help me! Mom, help me!”
I reached into the room and yanked him out.
Once he was calm he exacted his revenge by arming himself and his sister with ladders, flashlights, helmets, gloves, a Mason jar, and a lid and catching it. He forced it to live out the rest of his life in a jar on the window sill by the guest bathroom. Before the end came he was joined by a distant cousin who had lived near the bottom of the stairs until it made the fatal mistake of showing itself to Tim.
I avoided Spider Death Row, hoping those two were the last of the monsters to be found in our house.
Then one quiet morning after the older two had left for school but before the younger two woke up, I was enjoying some welcome time to myself. I entered the living room and immediately had the eerie sense that I was not alone. There was a definite Presence there; I could sense not only a body, but its soul. Slowly, I turned my head toward the Presence and my eyes locked onto the largest spider I have ever seen outside an exhibit. It was frozen to the wall above the rocking chair, probably praying to God that its huge brown self would somehow blend into the creamy wall. I ran to the kitchen, grabbed a glass and a postcard from Italy, and captured it before it could get away. Thankfully, these monsters don’t appear to be very fast and they don’t jump at you as you approach. I put it on Death Row while I considered its fate.
Yesterday I decided to let it go in the middle of the courtyard with our Jack Russell Terrier Gretchen near by. Even after two weeks of fasting on the window sill, this guy was huge. It ran wildly around for a bit, then high-tailed it toward the front lawn. Zach and I began yelping “Gretchen! Gretchen! Get it!” She ran around, excited but oblivious. She eventually found it, licking at it, then chewing it like bubble gum and letting it fall out of her mouth. It ran for its life, but hadn’t a chance with Gretchen ready to lap it up again and chew gingerly at it, a leg falling out of her mouth. That was the end of the menacing Presence.
I’d like to live in EB White’s world, where a kind spider would perch itself in our home and dazzle us by spinning complimentary words into its webs that allowed us to be admitted into the Guinness Book of World Records and to charge a fee for visitors to see the wonder of it all. I expect instead to come into a room one day to find a massive brown spider sitting in an arm chair, tapping the tips of its hairy brown legs together and saying in a low, sinister voice, “I’ve been waiting for you…”