By: Gabriella Balcom
Beth-Ann felt something on her arm and brushed at the spot without looking at it. Stupid flies! She probably shouldn't have left the door open, but today was such a perfect summer day. Her comfy lawn chair and the cheerful birdsong she heard tempted her to go relax outside, but she had work to do on her computer. Resentment flared inside her as she thought about it.
Rod, her boss, had told her to create a company flyer on her own time. But it wasn't for her. Didn't she do enough while she was at work without being asked to give up her personal time, too? He was lazy as all get-out, did nothing on a good day, and always made unfair demands of employees.
She’d love to tell him to kiss her butt, but she needed the job. And, if she said that, he might actually try to plant his bulbous, repeatedly licked, super-red lips on her. Ick!
After retrieving her laptop from the bedroom, she sat on the floor by the door so she could enjoy the benefits of being both inside and outside. The battery no longer held a charge, so the computer had to be kept plugged in.
She felt movement on her left shoulder about twenty minutes later, glanced that way and saw a spider there. Screaming blood-curdling murder for all she was worth, she leaped up, dislodging the creature, and dumping her laptop in the process. Scrambling back, she almost fell over her own feet, but righted herself, only to trip over the coffee table. Once she straightened up, she backed up against the wall, struggling to catch her breath.
The spider crouched, motionless, for a few seconds, then scuttled toward the door, turning around at the threshold, and speeding back in her direction.
Beth-Ann involuntarily tensed, her eyes widening, another scream on her lips, but the arachnid paused a short distance away, as if it was watching her.
She was fascinated and horrified at the same time. Those eight hairy legs mesmerized her, and she swallowed hard as they inched forward one teensy smidgeon at a time, until the thing was only twelve inches away from her right foot. Her heart pounded faster. Was it going to come closer? Could spiders jump? More importantly, would it pounce on her? She wouldn't put it past the sneaky thing.
Spiders had some depths-of-hell evil about them. The way their legs twitched and slinked — one spindly appendage, then another and another, those nasty bristles sticking out. The way they darted. The way they vanished without warning. They were hidden one second, then scurrying around the next, or reappearing on her. Darned if they didn’t seem to know where she was all the time, and they often came straight at her. Could spiders sense fear? Were they plotting against her?
Nah, I’m being paranoid, she told herself, but memories flooded her mind.
When Beth-Ann was eight, a spider had bitten her leg. She remembered the excruciating pain as if it had just happened. The wound had seemed okay at first, just pink with a spot of blood at the center, but it soon turned angry red and purple, spreading and cratering. Her flesh had looked like it was rotting. She’d never forgotten it or the doctor warning her and her parents about brown recluse spiders.
She flinched, focusing on the present again, when the nearby spider crept forward, those horrific legs moving closer. She pressed her back hard against the wall, breathing faster, on the verge of hyperventilating. Trying to relax, she visualized quiet forests and serene breezes. She forced herself to breathe slow and steady, then lunged for the fly swatter hanging from a nail on the wall beside her.
Beth-Ann brought the swatter down with a whap, then frowned. The miserable hell-bugger had moved just before it would’ve been toast — smashed, squished, splattered, so-long-farewell-goodbye toast. She tried again, but the darned thing seemed to sense her hatred or intent. That or it might’ve been warned by her shadow falling across its body.
After evading annihilation, the creature ran off, just out of reach. She breathed a bit easier, knowing it wasn't as close, but somehow couldn't help wondering if it was taunting her.
Thinking of the long-ago bite, she plotted stark, unadulterated death. "I want you dead, dead, dead,” she muttered. Am I taking this too far? She mused, then imagined those hairy legs creeping up on her and a tiny but devious mind plotting her destruction. Nope, she concluded. Of course not!
Her third whack at the thing was no more successful than the others. The skitterer skittered. Disgusted to the nth degree, both with it and herself, Beth-Ann wondered how in the world she’d missed the thing so many times. Aiming wrong and missing once was reasonable, twice possible, but three times? Considering possibilities, she checked the swatter for holes, found one, and stared at the ceiling, counting through her teeth. “One, two, three —.”
She shrieked when something scurried up her leg. Stomping a couple times — or maybe a couple dozen — she saw the spider drop and dart under the coffee table. Her eyes felt like they'd pop out of her head. That thing deliberately came for her. What idiot said spiders didn’t think and plot?
WhatdoIdowhatdoIdowhatdoIdo? Beth-Ann gasped for air, but the answer popped into her mind, and she immediately began to relax. Racing to her closet, she grabbed the solution and dashed back to the front room.
Bang! The gun's report made her ears ring, but she still yelled, “Take that!” Bang! “And that!”
Where was it? She bent over, peering this way and that, and saw holes in the floor, but no arachnid. It couldn’t have gone too far. Tensed and ready for action, she kept her new spider-killing weapon trained on the floor and waited for what felt like an eternity.
The fiend reappeared to her left. “I'm going to get you!” she yelled triumphantly. Bang! “Stop moving, you eight-legged devil.” Bang!
Hands grabbed her from behind and divested her of the firearm. She saw Nate put it on safety before laying it behind him on her couch and wondered what he’d do if she lunged for it.
His eyes narrowed and he warned, “You’ll be sorry if you try.” Scowling at her, he put his hands on his hips. "I distinctly remember talking with you about this."
Not only was her next-door neighbor quite skilled at wrangling a gun from her hands, but he was a police officer.
Nate reported in to Dispatch a few minutes later. “Yup. The gunshots were Beth-Ann again... No, it wasn’t a possum this time. Fool woman shot up her floor trying to get a spider.” He listened a moment. “Nah, she didn’t do much damage. Just made a few small holes. She was using a peashooter. The small caliber didn't have much punch to it at all.” His voice rose as he answered the next question. “Of course I took the gun away! You take me for an idiot?”
That evening, Beth-Ann watched the exterminator climb into his truck. “Thank you, Butch!” she called.
He waved goodbye before driving away, and she waved back.
BethAnn stepped back into her living room, gloating. Problem solved.
Three days later, Beth-Ann sat at her kitchen table, munching on toast with grape jelly between bites of fried egg and hash browns. She’d decided to cook breakfast instead of having her customary cereal with milk, since she had the day off work, and relaxed in shorts and her rattiest tank top.
She sucked in a sharp breath when she felt something on her left hand. Seeing a fly, rubbing its back legs together, she relaxed.
“Shoo,” she told it, shaking her hand.
A couple minutes later, something touched her right knee. She raised it a bit to make the fly leave, but the sensation returned within seconds.
“You just gotta bug me, huh?” She pushed her chair back, squealing involuntarily and jumping when she spied a small spider clinging to her knee.
The arachnid tumbled to the floor and Beth-Ann stomped it repeatedly. She studied the goo on her right sock with a groan of disgust. “Oh, well.” A dirty sock was a small price to pay.
The exterminator had advised her to have the place sprayed every four months, but it had only been about three weeks since his visit. No spider should’ve been in her home, much less crawling up her leg.
After throwing her socks in the trash, she scrubbed both feet like crazy since she kept thinking she felt something on her left foot, too.
That evening, she moaned with pleasure as she sank into a steamy lavender bubble bath, complete with bath bombs and candles. She luxuriated in bliss until the first hint of coolness hit her toes. She leaned forward to add extra hot water and noticed a tiny spider on the edge of the tub. One moment it was motionless, but the next it was running straight toward her.
Screeching, Beth-Ann scrambled to get out of the tub. She slipped on the slick edge, managed to catch herself, and raced — dripping, half-scared, half-furious, and bare-ass naked — to the kitchen, skidding a couple times. After grabbing her new swatter, she charged back to the bathroom, but the intruder was nowhere to be seen.
She called her brother and groused, “Martin, I paid an exterminator, but I’ve still got spiders here.”
“I got some stuff that'll work,” he offered.
He made the ten-mile drive in eight minutes, vanishing into her home with a plastic bag and a canister with an attached hose and sprayer, while Beth-Ann waited in the garden, wringing her hands, and stepping restlessly from foot to foot.
When he came out, he reported, “One had crawled into a crack in the bathroom where the wall paneling meets the ceiling. I pried the trim off and found a small family of spiders. They were in a nest — a mother and babies, probably. I sprayed them and all around that spot real good. You wanna see the bodies?”
Martin held out a paper towel with webbing and several small spiders lying on their backs, their shriveled legs sticking up in the air.
Beth-Ann took a step back and shivered, almost expecting them to get up and jump on her. “Behind the trim, huh? Can you go through and remove all of it? You know, check behind it and spray there, too?”
“I guess, but I don’t think that’s needed. Nothing should come at you in the bathroom now, not with me killing the spiders and spraying like I did.”
“Yeah, but one was in the kitchen, too.”
“Okay. You want it done; I’ll do it.”
“Now?” she asked, biting her lip.
“You're all droopy-eyed. Like a dog whose bone was stolen. Yeah, I'll do it now.”
(End of first portion of story)