The spider beside me, with apologies to Ann Rule

The spider beside me, with apologies to Ann Rule

I came in to work this morning, arms full of stuff—lunch bag, work bag stuffed with papers, two bags full of office supplies, a coffee cup, my purse, and an umbrella. I have no problem carrying all this stuff anymore because I’ve been working out. I just have to remember to wear a short sleeved shirt so everyone can see my rippling muscles. But I digress.

I started dumping bags on a table and my desk in that dramatic, breathless way I behave when no one is looking. Quick look at the clock told me I needed to gather things for class.

I opened up my work bag to pull out my writing notebook with my lesson plans and calendar, and as I did a spider popped out with the paper. Much later I looked at Illinois spiders online for as long as I could stomach, trying to identify it. I’m pretty sure it was a “jumping spider.” This would be because it jumped.

I responded to the spider in my age old way with a work-appropriate, muffled, hand-over-mouth screech. I don’t “do” spiders, being the cliche that I am. I would quickly go insane in a room full of spiders (not that it would be a long process mind you).

I had to get to class, but I would no way go back to that bag. So, I went in search of a savior. I quickly found Merri, our administrative assistant who keeps the world spinning, and asked how she felt about spiders. It was clear to me that Merri isn’t the biggest fan of spiders, but she’s always been fond of me.

She got a wad of napkins, flexed her muscles and said, “I’ll protect you.”

She marched down to my office, and I told her where I’d last seen the spider as I huddled in the doorway, halfway to a fetal position.

“Which pocket was it in?” she said, as she pulled open the spider’s lair. She jumped because it revealed itself with its own dramatic jump. She kept trying to grab it in her napkins and it kept jumping.

My entire body cringed each time that sucker jumped.

But Merri won, as I had every confidence she would. The spider is dead, dead, dead. I prefer that my rescuers escort spiders outside, but I wasn’t really in a position to complain.

I kept shuddering as I retrieved the papers I needed, reliving every step from my house to the car, fretting about when the damned thing got into my bag and imagining the nest of baby jumping spiders it left behind.

I saw a tarantula once when I was five. I was alone in my house and one presented itself to me in my bedroom. They also jump. Well, it’s more like a hop. Actually it’s hard to tell when you’re standing on a bed screaming at the top of your lungs.

I was once driving with my husband and daughter. A spider bungeed down from the ceiling in front of my face. I slammed on the brakes (we were close to a stop sign) and yelled, “Spider!” and then proceeded to attempt to crawl into my husband’s lap in the seat next to me. My daughter was laughing so hard that I’m sure the spider was very confused.

My husband, a long time spider rescuer, got the car in park and walked around to the driver’s seat and helped the spider outside.

I have days every now at then in my mid-fifties where I feel like a grownup, together, focused, tiptoeing to the edge of wise.

Today was not one of those days.

I used to have an obsession with serial killers and my all-time favorite true crime book is Anne Rule’s “The Stranger Beside Me.” For those of you not well informed about serial killers, you should know that Rule worked at a crisis hotline with Ted Bundy at the same period when he was murdering young girls who looked just like her daughter. He once walked her to the car at night to make sure the killer wouldn’t get her.

It tool Rule quite a while to accept that he was a killer and she kept in touch with him as he killed and was arrested in the Northwest and then in Utah and Colorado and, eventually, in Florida. Bundy got the death penalty, and I’m not sure how Rule felt about that.

So, I’m trying to compare my spider experience to her serial killer experience. Except my spider didn’t kill anyone or even bite anyone. It was never charming either, luring a victim in. But it was beside me all morning until Merri smashed it.

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