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(Not so) itsy bitsy spider

Eileen Duffy | Thursday, April 6, 2006

As I was settling into my bed a little after midnight last night, arranging my blankets just so, a slight movement on the ceiling caught my attention.

It was a spider.

“Classic,” you might say. “Quaint,” even. “Why, those aren’t scary! There’s that darling children’s book about a wise old dame of a spider and … and that song about the silly little one who, poor little thing, just can’t make it up that spout! Oh, they’re harmless, they’re just funny little creatures and-“

Wrong. Not this one. This was a mean-faced one from the wrong side of the arachnids. He looked like he might rip up Charlotte’s web, kick her in the face, and then use the waterspout to clobber that itsy-bitsy wimp.

His menacing eyes, nestled in a thick, sturdy shell, flashed at me. He inched closer.

I leapt from my bed and crouched in the corner, sobbing, praying for deliverance, and bursting anew into tears every time I glanced up.

Just kidding.

I brought my teddy bear, too, and clutched it as I prayed for death. I even thought, had the devil appeared and offered to cast me into the eternal fires of damnation, I would have wrapped my arms lovingly around his neck and cried, “Onward ho, kemosabe!”

He never showed, the little devil. I was trapped. My host family was asleep; my friends live 20 minutes away; my father lives 2,000 miles away.

Just as images of spider-free Angers hotels and my emergency-only credit card were dancing in my head, the spider cackled evilly and whipped out a machine gun. Well, either that or he moved a centimeter to the left. The details are a little hazy. In any case, he reminded me that he’d still be here when I came back the next day.

Eventually I came to my senses and grabbed my cell phone to call the United States (at the very sensible price of five dollars a minute). Between choking wails I managed to explain that no, there was not a robber in the home, that the situation was much graver than that indeed.

My arachnid expert advised me to cover my entire body to prevent skin-to-spider contact and, when I was ready, crush it with a mighty tennis shoe.

Socks on my hands, a ski hat on my head, barely an inch of skin showing, I stood alone in my room in France clutching a broom and my cell phone and sized up my opponent.

I took a swipe. And another.

He emerged unharmed, laughing at my attempts. “I laugh in the face of danger!” he cried.

My third swipe sent him flying to the ground. With all my might I stomped on that villain, stomped his evil shell and cruel black eyes, stomped for Charlotte and the itsy-bitsy spiders of the world, stomped for myself.

And then it was all over, and I had won, and in a daze I unraveled the equivalent of two redwoods in paper towels and gathered the remains of my prey.

Then I ate his liver with a side of fava beans – and a nice Chianti.

No, let’s not get carried away. I put the basketball-sized wad of paper in the garbage, took the bag outside, and returned to spend the entire night awake watching for my victim’s family members.

But I did have a nice Chianti. I’m in France, after all.