Ever since I was a little kid, I had an agreement with the spiders in my room: “If I need to get a stepstool to kill you,” I told them. “Then I’m not gonna kill you.”
This was a very fair arrangement. The spiders had the entire ceiling and a perimeter of about two feet of upper wall space on which to putter about. The spiders had more navigable square footage in my room than I did. All they had to do was stay up there — and much to my surprise, that’s exactly what they did. I don’t know if spiders understand English or what, but they always kept out of reach, spending their days weaving web hammocks the size of industrial fishing nets.
I liked the webs. I was fascinated by them. Late at night when I was unable to sleep, I would sometimes flop on my back, turn on the reading lamp clamped to my headboard, and puff a lungful of air skyward to watch the webs dance in the breeze. It was a serene and pleasant way to wait for sleep to overtake me.
I liked my spiders.
“Oh, my GOD, what is going on up there?” she announced one Saturday morning.
Saturday was cleaning day in the Allegra house. Every week without fail Mom would scrub the house from top to bottom. The only room she didn’t scrub was mine. That was my job. She might sometimes check to make sure I didn’t shirk this responsibility, but she didn’t have to worry about me much. I was a tidy kid and she knew it, so her snap inspections were largely ceremonial. She’d only glance to make sure the carpet was lint free and the bureaus wore a lemon-scented Pledge shine.
Until that day she looked up.
“Why didn’t you tell me you had all these webs up there?!”
When Mom took this kind of tone with me, my first instinct was to play dumb. “Hm?” I looked up and feigned surprise. “Oh. I… I never noticed.”
“Never noticed? You spend all day every day farting around in this room and you never, not once, looked up?”
As usual, Mom’s BS detector struck me mute.
“There’s more web than ceiling!”
Without another word she tromped down the hall, off to get her canister vacuum. Mom’s vacuum was an amazing machine. I have no idea where she had bought it, but it was a weapons grade force of nature, loud as a Harley and armed with enough suction to rip a hole in the fabric of space and time. Like Excalibur or Thor’s Hammer, I always had the sense that Mom was the only person on earth capable of wielding it.
And wield it she did. In an instant, the spiders with whom I had shared such a cordial cohabitation were sucked into oblivion.
I wasn’t exactly sad to see the spiders meet this fate — they weren’t my friends or anything — but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it all felt terribly unfair.
Now I’m a homeowner. Mom and her vacuum no longer hold sway over my life. But my views on spiders have hardened over the years. I kill them now. Often and with extreme prejudice.
I don’t exactly know when or how I changed. Maybe it has something to do with me getting older and crankier. Maybe it’s because I am no longer charmed by the entertainment value of a web hanging over my bed. Or maybe it’s because — like my Mom before me — I do most of the housecleaning. Those webs really do make a house look filthy, don’t they?
But that’s a pretty shallow reason to commit murder, really.
Maybe someday my views will shift back to where they once were. My eyes are getting worse; maybe the webs won’t bother me so much if I can no longer see them so well. Maybe I will rediscover my childlike sense of wonder. Or maybe, with a little work and a little patience, I can learn to follow the philosophy of Live and Let Live.
It’s a nice thought.
But in the meantime, spiders take note: I have a stepstool and I’m prepared to use it.