When I was growing up, we had this book entitled, “Be Nice to Spiders.” Its narrative suggested that taking a spider to the zoo was a compassionate alternative to smashing it. Spiders kill and eat a lot of the truly nasty bugs that you don’t want in your house. And can’t we all just get along?
I had generally subscribed to this philosophy in the past, until I encountered three nasty spiders in two days. The third, I smashed, within one minute of identifying it, with a tennis shoe, on my front door. Three spiders in two days doesn’t inspire compassion. I was afraid I might need to take out a restraining order, actually.
The first spider I ran into while I was preparing to do the dishes. There I was, staunchly facing a domestic challenge, and under my dirty plates was a huge brown arachnid with legs long enough to choke me. Of course I screamed and ran out of the room.
I happened to have ordered “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse” from Netflix this day, so I soothed myself by putting it on, creating a nice wall of denial about the spider’s presence. I hadn’t seen “Pee-Wee” since it was on television. I wondered how it would strike me as an adult. I liked Mr. Kite, all alone up there, ready to give warnings, and I remembered the sliding, winking sphinx. (He doesn’t do anything.) I like the genie, although he is scary-looking all turquoise tin man makeup. I pondered the wisdom and prevalence of the deus ex machina scheme in a television show.
Pee Wee popped out the kind of random, snappy ideas that adults find totally stupid unless they’ve been drinking heavily (“Let’s make ice cream soup!” “Let’s dance!” “Let’s put on my crazy glasses!”). But it is perfect for kids, and my sisters and I liked it, back in the day. It was part of our Saturday morning lineup, along with Gummi Bears and Muppet Babies.
After all that distraction, unfortunately Mr. Spider was still waiting for me in the sink. He stayed in the sink, patiently waiting, while I left for a birthday party. At this birthday party, I swear on the Genie, I was telling the story of Spider 1, my boyfriend was agreeing to come over and kill him, and immediately I turned around to see another spider on the wall behind me. A little one this time, but still. I left that spider alone, I mean, it wasn’t my house, or my spider to kill.
My boyfriend bravely killed Spider 1 the next day. He acted disoriented and didn’t even run away (the spider, not the boyfriend). Squash.
Being a spiritual sort, and an artist, after I myself squashed Spider 3, I walked upstairs thinking, what do all these spiders represent? What part of my nature? What part of my experience? And what could it all say to me about the human condition?
I was stumped. I now believe the three spiders were mid-century French spiders, who may or may not stand for anything.