I originally posted this in 2006, but have resurrected it for Dale.
When I was young, I really liked spiders. I used to let them walk all over me; up and down my arms and hands…all kinds of spiders. I lived in a place with a lot of spiders; big ones, small ones, ugly ones, and beautiful ones. And none of them ever bothered me.
But then something happened. It was a switch in my mind. Suddenly, they scared the Bejesus out of me. I couldn’t go anywhere near them. And then I was in Taiwan, in a room with the biggest spider I had ever seen.
I was upstairs and heard a noise in the back room on the first floor. I couldn’t have really heard anything, because when I went down there, all that was down there was a huge spider. That room has a back door that leads outside, so I had thought maybe some kids had got in. I put on my hiking books and went downstairs to see. I opened the door and there it was, as big as a grown man’s hand, right in the middle of the room.
I have lived among the Buddhists for a long time, and their ethos does brush off on you. Besides, I’ve never much liked killing things. I went and got a broom, opened the back door, and sweep it outside.
Then I got an idea; we had a cockroach problem in the house. If I killed some of the roaches and left their carcasses in the room, the spiders would come back and wipe out all the roaches in the house. So I did it. And one day, I looked in the room and the roach bodies were all gone.
Bad move. At least it was only roaches. Now there were man-sized spiders in the house. I had to tell my roommates, but first I had to go to work. I came home and found Ann to warn her about the spiders.
“It’s too late,” she said. “We already found them.” And this is the story she told me.
She had come home, and there it was, the biggest spider she had ever seen on the living room wall. She called Ray, our gigantic Mexican-American roommate, to kill it. I guess they don’t have spiders like that in LA because Ray tried to kill it with a broom. He whacked the thing. But instead of dying, when it hit the floor out popped a small ball made of something that looked like tape. Thousands of baby spiders poured out of the thing, all over the floor.
They were everywhere. And the mama spider was still alive. On she crawled. On toward Ray. He turned and tried to climb the stairs. That’s when the web wrapped around him like something from a horror movie. And on the mama spider crawled.
Really, his life was never in the danger that he feared, but he sure was scared. He ran to the kitchen, grabbed the Raid, and started spraying for all he was worth.
But the mama spider crawled on, refusing to die. On she crawled. Pulling herself through the lake of poison. Fighting for the lives of her babies; for the future of her species. But finally, this was too much even for the biggest spider in the world, and she died.
There are no movie spiders as big as a house, with the power to destroy a truck. The biggest spiders in the world aren’t much bigger than your hand. For all I know, that was the biggest spider in the world, or the biggest spider of its kind. And so, Ray may have slain the biggest spider in the world on that day. No one will ever know the truth of that gargantuan battle fought in the heart of Yung-ho. It wasn’t recorded by a movie or by a book. There was just death and then it was forgotten.
And while movies end neatly with a conclusion that finishes the danger or sets the story up for a squeal, reality is never so neatly organized. Mama spider, baby spiders, what’s missing? We searched the house for days looking for the daddy spider. Finally we found him, and we found him much as you’d expect, dead for ages, sucked dry like an old sponge. A sorry end to this story of mythical battle for survival.