I dug this one out of the vault because it’s one of my favorites. I was reading the blog of my dear friend, Temper, who was the inspiration for the story and was hit with a sudden wave of nostalgia. So I figured I’d drag you all down memory lane with me. Enjoy!
“Why did you do all this for me?” he asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.”
“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die… By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heavens knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”
If there’s a downside to living in Southern California it’s got to be the lack of seasons. I don’t mean to imply that we don’t have seasons, only that it’s nearly impossible to tell one from the next. I’ve never raked up a big pile of fire-colored leaves in the fall, spent a winter day building a snowman in my yard nor waited for the spring thaw to plant a garden. Hell, if it weren’t for earthquakes, fires and the occasional mud slide we wouldn’t have any weather at all!
One “winter” morning, after seeing a weather spokesmodel gleefully detailing the weather the rest of the country was experiencing, I turned off the TV in disgust, threw on a pair of shorts and took my laptop out to the patio to catch up on blogs and lament this perpetual summer monotony. Upon my arrival in the great outdoors I was greeted by another drawback of seasonal deficiency: spiders.
In the shrubbery, just behind the best place to sit to avoid the sun’s glare on my screen, was a rather large web which I could only assume was built by an equally large spider. I’m not an arachnophobe (no perspiration, palpitations or paralysis), I just intensely dislike and mistrust spiders. Unfortunately, they seem to thrive in warm, sunny climes like the one in which I reside so I’m forced to deal with them year-round. Having never lived in a place that gets particularly cold, I don’t know what happens to spiders in the winter. But based on their conspicuous lack of insulating fat or frost-fighting fur, I doubt they’d fare too well (I know there are a few hairy spiders, but they’re typically found in places like deserts and tropical rain forests. Given that they’re also of the large and extra-large variety, the only purpose fur seems to serve is making them look more like small, mutant animals rather than terrifyingly huge bugs. And maybe it’s just me, but putting cold-weather essentials on your robust, heat-dwelling models while leaving the smaller, spindly-legged ones all naked and unprotected seems like an inherent design flaw. Not judging, just saying . . .) Obviously they don’t all just freeze to death during the first cold snap or there’d be no baby spiders in the spring. Perhaps they hibernate or migrate down to Sarasota with the snow birds as soon as sweater weather arrives.
I know my spider thing is not unique. Many people hate them for many different reasons (all of them valid as far as I’m concerned). Then there are the assorted few who claim to like spiders. I don’t believe them. I think they just say that to fuck with the rest of us. I mean, I’m an animal lover, but rabid PETA people make me want to slip into a kitten-fur bikini and dance the Cha-Cha just to piss them off.
My anti-arachnid stance starts with my distaste for the way they locomote. Any creature whose primary method of getting from here to there is scuttling can’t be up to anything good. They always appear to be trying to make their move when no one’s looking (and considering the “squoosh first, ask questions later” impulse they trigger in most people, that’s probably exactly what they are doing). I don’t have a problem with animals that move in a less furtive, creepy, sneaky way. For instance, if a roly-poly trundles into my domicile, I practice catch-and-release with the little guy; or, if I find a ladybug tiptoeing up my arm, I’ll relocate her to a nearby flower or shrub. I also don’t mind the way that grasshoppers (duh!) hop, bees bumble, puppies scamper (when they’re not frolicking), June bugs blunder (Seriously, they make an appearance once a year and spend the entire time crashing into porch lights and screen doors. Also, they have six legs and not one of them know what any of the others are up to. But they’re very adept at falling over for no reason), butterflies flutter by, cats saunter, caterpillars inch, snakes undulate, postmen perambulate or Hindus ululate. But I divagate, so back to spiders.
I’m also a bit freaked me out that something that tiny can be so much faster than me. How many times have you grabbed a shoe or a magazine to splatter a spider scuttling up the wall only to find no pulverized remains on the wall or your weapon of choice after you were sure you hit your target? And no spidey-guts means either A) spiders have perfected teleportation and your intended victim is now scuttling around in some other room, or B) the little bastard got away and dropped down between the wall and the bed where you can find or reach him . . . which means you’ll be sleeping on the couch that night.
I don’t have a problem with the fact that they catch, kill and eat other (and generally more pleasant) bugs. But I do find it disturbing that if they snare something when they’re not hungry, or not in the mood for moth or fly or wasp or whatever, they just wrap it up for later and store the bodies in the corner of their web. Seriously, who keeps dead bodies laying around the house? Well, there was John Wayne Gacy, Jeffery Dahmer and Ed Gein just to name a few. Spiders are just like serial killers, only smaller and with more legs . . . and fangs . . . oh, and webs. If there’s anything I am phobic about (and oddly obsessed with), it’s serial killers. So when spiders insist on behaving like them they shouldn’t be surprised I don’t care to be around them.
Finally, either it’s intentional or they simply don’t give a second thought to building their webs across walkways right at face level. One minute you’re strolling along, minding your own business, sipping a double-caff, no foam latte and the next minute you’re doing the cobweb panic dance to the delight of those around you (and relief of those behind you). Then you spend the rest of the day nursing coffee burns, convinced that every itch and tickle you feel is the thoughtless web builder hitching a ride on you.
So, needless to say (but saying it anyway), I was less than thrilled at being in such close proximity to a rude, sociopathic little scuttler. But upon careful inspection it appeared that the spider was off running errands or terrorizing pedestrians, so I sat down to read the latest posts on Tantrum, Interrupted.
Have you been to Temper’s blog? If not, I really must insist that you do so . . . and sooner rather than later. The girl is a fucking GENIUS and we’re all fortunate to share space with such talent (even if she does fuck up the curve a bit for the rest of us). Her stream of consciousness style makes you feel like you’re walking around in her head. She flows like a meandering stream and you never know from the first paragraph where you’ll end up on the last. But you’re drawn in and compelled to follow where ever she leads. And while I enjoy everything she writes, this is one of my favorite passages:
“I was laying in bed, waiting for 14 hours to pass cos of a boy. I woke up and rolled over and felt for the fat cat but found the tiny one instead. I gave her a lickle cuddle and told her she was a bird. Then I started to tell her a story. I said, once upon a time there was a beautiful cat that was petite. She was a fish. She was the smallest fish that ever walked the earth. We laughed a bit at that.”
It’s wonderful and whimsical all on it’s own; but, knowing the entire heartbreaking story of the tiny cat, I find the way she captured this small, precious moment in time so sweet and beautiful and touching, and it makes me smile just before I feel like I’m going to cry.
Lest you think Temper’s blog is strictly a bittersweet, tear-inducement zone, know that she’s also brilliantly funny, doesn’t censor herself or feel limited to using words that exist in the dictionary (any dictionary . . . anywhere) and is awfully fond of ‘cunt’ . . . the word, not the body-part (unfortunately, because she’s also quite the tasty little biscuit).
I was enjoying my perusal of Temper’s blog so much that I lost track of time and forgot to check and see if the body-stasher had returned from his outing. Bracing myself for the very real possibility of discovering a giant killer spider lurking a couple of feet behind my head, I slowly turned around. To say I was surprised by what I saw would be an understatement of epic proportion. Not only had my uninvited garden guest returned, he’d also been busy. The large orb web I’d discovered earlier was still there, but it had been enhanced and I found myself looking at the web as it appears here.
Convinced that at best I was in the middle of an extremely vivid lucid dream or at worst was experiencing non-chemically aided hallucinations, I squeezed my eyes shut and shook my head in an attempt to either wake up or reboot whatever neurotransmitters were currently misfiring in my brain. But when I opened my eyes again it was still there in big, block webby letters: SOME BLOG. So I leaned a little closer to the web (but not too close . . . this could just be some elaborate trap orchestrated by a particularly devious arachnid, after all) and whispered, “Charlotte?” I supposed that auditory hallucinations might very well follow quickly on the heels of the visual variety, but I was pretty sure I heard something. I glanced around to make sure no neighbors were peering over the fence and witnessing what was surely the onset of an utter and complete mental collapse before saying, “I didn’t catch that. Can you speak up a bit?” And there it was again, an impossibly small voice, but just loud enough for me to hear, “I said that if I get called Charlotte one more fucking time I am seriously going to bitch slap someone’s ass!”
I followed the sound of the tiny voice over to about the 9 o’clock position of the web and there, a bit hidden by the foliage, was the owner of the voice: a plump, orangey-brown orb weaver, the same kind I’d seen and feared and stomped and sprayed countless times right here in this yard. Somehow, the fact that it was obviously an intelligent creature with the ability to write and speak did very little to reduce its inherent spidery creepiness and I had to consciously fight the urge to shudder whenever I looked directly at him. He gave me the most advanced-stage willies I’d ever had, but still, I didn’t want to be rude.
“I’m sorry,” I began. “I didn’t mean to assume, it just that . . .”
He cut me off. “Yeah. I know. The only spider you ever heard of that could talk or write was the wonderful one-and-only Miss Charlotte A. Cavatica, and she was just a story in a children’s book. Jesus . . . do you people have any idea what the expected lifespan of the average spider is? Even if we remove you blood-thirsty, murderous barbarians from the equation, we’re lucky if we hit 18 months. E.B. White published that book in 1952, but the actual events happened around 1946! What?! Just because it seems unbelievable doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Anyway, that’s like 65 years ago! Do you honestly think I might actually be her? And duh, spoiler alert, she fucking dies at the end!”
Hmm. It seems that spiders not only have distasteful locomotive, behavioral and appearance characteristics; apparently they’re also overly-sensitive assholes.
“I didn’t mean to offend you,” I said, “I thought Charlotte was cool. It’s just that this is the first time I’ve seen any of you write in your web or heard any of you talk.”
“Oh gee,” he replied mockingly, “My bad. Let me put striking up a conversation with a paranoid giant hell-bent on wiping out my entire species at the top of my to-do list.”
Two thoughts entered my mind simultaneously: 1} What a fucking asshole! and 2) No one is going to believe this. I wasn’t quite sure that I believed it myself. So I picked up my phone from the table and touched the “camera” icon figuring that I would either capture the most amazing picture EVER or I’d wake up and find nothing in my photo gallery but the usual random pics that were there when I fell asleep.
“Say cheese, Charlotte!” I teased as I snapped a few pics of the web.
“Fuck off!” replied the spider. “In the first place I’m a guy, secondly consider your dumb ass bitch slapped times eight and lastly my name’s not Charlotte! It’s Rexx.”
“No,” he said. “Not Rex. Rexx, with two Xes … the second one is silent. Do I need to spell everything out for you?”
“Oh! Well la-dee-dah! Pardon me, Mr. Fancy Pants,” I said. “I know we just met, but you’re kinda being a dick Rex-ex. If you hate us so much and my ignorance of spider names is soooo annoying, why’d you go showing off your web-slinging skills to me in the first place?”
“Oh please! Get over yourself,” Rexx scoffed. “I’m not showing off for you. I liked that blog you were looking at and was just sending a message about it to my friend on the other side of the yard. It’s so typical of your kind to completely ignore the skill and effort it takes to tear down and re-build a web like this every day, but pee your pants over something totally basic and assume it’s all done for your benefit.”
“Jeez . . . hostile much?” I said as I took a few more pictures. “Y’know, you’re lucky I want some other people to see this, because the last I heard the maximum penalty for spidercide is an indifferent yawn.”
“Go ahead, take all the pictures you want,” he said. “Everyone will just think they’re Photo Shopped anyway. It’s not nineteen fucking forty-six anymore, Wilbur.”
And as much as I hated to admit it, I knew the little shit was right. Pictures weren’t enough, I needed a witness. So I grabbed a couple of things off the table and headed inside to call the local paper. If hundreds of people pilgrimaged to see an oil stain on a driveway in Bumfuct Mississippi that kind of slightly resembled an image of Jesus if you squinted just right, I was sure there’d be at least a few interested in seeing Rexx, The Amazing Douche-bag Spelling Spider. It wasn’t easy convincing anyone to schlep down to South Orange County to see a bug; but, eventually I found a reporter from the Life section of the paper who probably figured that the web might be one of those “if you squint right” things and he’d get a couple of cool photos or, at the very least, the crazy lady with the magic arachnid would provide enough material for a funny piece about “The Spider Whisperer.”
I can only assume that as I picked up my stuff to go inside, I must have brushed the touch-pad on my laptop or somehow inadvertently clicked a link. Because by the time the reporter (Dave . . . one “V”) arrived, Rexx was no where to be found, my browser was open to an advertisement reading ‘Meet hot, horny singles in your area TONIGHT!!’ and there was a new message in the web: WANNA FUK?
Dave did get some cool pictures, but citing their “family friendly” policy the paper declined to run the story. I’m 99% sure that Rexx decided he was by no means going to be portrayed as my trick spider and was hiding under a leaf laughing at me when I brought Dave into the backyard. But, it’s also possible that his friend across the yard is a girl and her reply to his second web-message was “Yes,” meaning there was also a distinct possibility my garden would be over-run by baby fucktard spiders in the Spring.
I made another phone call. The exterminator came out at the end of that month.