Yesterday I took advantage of my annual leave days and the great weather and decided to donate some of my time to helping a friend with some housework. Since I don't have a house (a cinderblock room that's small enough to spit across doesn't count!) and since I've been absolutely craving working with my hands lately, a fall cleaning of the back deck of a house sounded perfect. Off I went.
The big chore that I wanted to get done was to clean the 4 panels of windows - sliding glass doors that open in the middle with two panels of sliding screens on the external side. There's a lovely rose garden in the backyard that looks heaps better through clear glass doors.
So I took my wet towels, dry towels and bottle of Windex and got outside, ready to clean. The first things I noticed were the cobwebs that had taken up residence in the lower corners of the doors. It's been a bit cooler here and opening the doors hasn't happened in a while. No problem, I thought.
Something in my mind reminded me that this country, Australia, is known for having all kinds of creepy crawlies that are better left alone. I thought that my bare hand with just a terrycloth towel for a barrier might not be the best thing to stick anywhere near where there might be a little spider, so I fetched a stick from the brush and began to clean up the webs.
Man, I thought, these webs are really tough! I actually had to exert a fair amount of force to get the strands of silk to come off the door. That weirded me out at first. No worries, I thought, I got this.
Then I saw legs.
Immediately I sucked in my breath and pulled my hand and the stick back. I was expecting small brown spider-like things in the strands, not long, needle-ish pointy black things reminiscent of some dark Disney villainess. I felt tingly all over.
Right. This is a spider, and I need to get it out of there. What if someone opened this door and Malevolent the Spider crawled out, disturbed, and decided to bite? If I am going to clean, I'm going to clean PROPERLY. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, and this was no exception.
With determination, and probably audibly talking to myself to bolster my resolve and chase away my arachnophobia, I plunged the stick into the depths of the sliding door track, pushing the web and its detritus and everything else away from me with quick and purposeful movements.
Then, out from the track and onto the deck in front of me, came a black globe about the size of a small grape. The grape was striking ebony with a large, vibrant red stripe and long black segmented needlelike appendages.
Again, I felt my arm shoot back toward my body as if I had sucked it into my torso, dropping the stick at the same time, and it fell clattering to the floor. Again, the air I sucked into my lungs was the whoosh of a freight train, and again, the tingling was back.
The ebony grape moved its appendages for a moment, and then pulled them in toward itself. The needles weren't folded up like you'd expect to see, out-then-in as a dead insect looks - this was almost as if a wall of sticks was covering the place where the grape might have had a head or a face, as if in fear.
I gathered my stick back up from the ground, and used the side of it to sweep the grape away, careful not to pierce or actively hurt it. I recognized the grape as a potentially dangerous spider, but still, I have an issue with hurting any kind of animal, and although I recognized that I had probably already mortally wounded it, I'm not the kind of person to stick something in a wound just to see what happens. The ebony grape with the collected needles and red stripe rolled about six inches farther onto the ceramic tile, now about two feet from me. I stood, and waited. It remained where I had rolled it to, motionless. My tingling stopped.
I watched the grape for a minute, and thought about what to do. Do I leave it there? Do I put it in a container to show my friend? Do I have to squish it? God, it's so BIG. I don't have shoes on. What would I squish it with? Ewww, it's so big, that's gonna be gross. Maybe I'll just brush it off the edge of the deck?...oh, I have Windex drying on the glass, I should wipe that up.
I turned to the Windex-covered window, arching up on my toes and then bending over and crouching low as I got to the bottom of the window and moved my hand in circles, polishing the glass to a clear shine. I got to the bottom of the frame where the webs had been and my mind flitted to the grape again. What AM I going to do with it?
I turned, crouched at the base of the glass door, looking at the ebony grape with the red stripe and needly legs and kept thinking for a minute.
Then, as if on cue, the grape popped itself off of its back, stretched out its needlelike legs to their full extension and balanced, lightly and gingerly on the ceramic tile just inches from where my bare toes now were.
I screamed, and the combination of the large ebony spider seemingly coming back from the dead and my own screaming frightened me even more, and I staggered back, trying to catch my breath and my wits at the same time.
The spider then began to crawl away on its needles, at an even pace, seemingly uninjured, away from me and toward the edge of the deck. I stood there, bewildered that the thing was indeed alive, and calming down a little, thinking about what to do.
It's running away from me, it's not going to hurt me, I should let it live, it's got no home now-- then I thought of my friend coming out on the ceramic deck one day to Malevolent hiding around a corner, getting spooked and sinking her fangs into him. No, she's gotta go.
I picked up the Windex, crossing the deck in four strides, and soaked her in 6-8 squirts of blue acrid ammonia. Malevolent lost her grip on the wooden railing she was trying to climb, and I turned to grab something to scoop her up with, a thick wad of paper towel or something to dispose of her carcass.
I turned back around with paper towel in hand to see Malevolent was gone. Rushing to the railing, I got there just in time to see her deftly lowering herself to the garden below on a perfectly spun strand of silk. It was almost as if she were sticking her middle needle up at me.
I left the rest of the cobwebs where they were on the deck. To hell with that.