A Spider Spotting

Last week, my family and I went on a hike. But this is not a story about that hike.

It was an average-length hike, up part of a mountain to a lookout point from which we beheld miles of beautiful Pennsylvanian landscape heavily peppered with autumnal hues. But this is not a story about that mountain.

I was wearing blue jeans and a green baseball hat. But this is not a story about those blue jeans and baseball hat.

The hike lets out to a road that cuts through the state park, and so upon encountering it, we followed it back to our headquarters. There is a possibility that this is a story about that journey back. You know what they say: it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey (of course, that’s what people who are dissatisfied with their destination say).

I’m actually not sure what this story is about.

Oh right, now I remember.

So we were walking. My parents were hanging back because they’re older and therefore slower than my brother and I are (I can say this and live to see another day because it’s simply not true– my dad could school anyone I know at basketball and also my mom and I have very similar physical capabilities). In reality they were trailing behind because my dad was scoping for acorns and I think my mom has a crush on him so she was keeping him company. My brother and I kind of just wanted to get back to the cabin so he could eat and I could nap. (I’m a very nap-oriented person, although they are elusive little buggers these days.)

Eventually my parents caught up to us (ah, yes: my parents, not our parents– is this a bad time to mention I think my brother is adopted?) and we were traveling as a pack of hobbits or some shit, except we all had boots on.

I don’t really remember what happened–it was all a blur, but all the sudden my brother was screaming.

While you’re all tense and curious as to why he was screaming (as though the title isn’t indicator enough), this seems like a good time to toy with your emotions and delay answers while I expound on some necessary background information.

My mother hates spiders. I don’t know why or how this fear developed, but she hates and fears spiders as much as an animal-lover can. (Some, such as my brother, may argue that spiders do not qualify as animals or even as creations of God.) Consequently, my brother and I have been raised with this fear and loathing of spiders, kind of like how if your mom is Catholic, she probably raised you Catholic, or like how if your dad is a king, he probably raised you as a prince.

Fortunately, the arachnophobic gene skipped my dad or something, so we could always rely on him to kill menacing spiders as big and intimidating as an entire grain of salt. One time when Dad was out of town though, a spider invaded our home and we got so desperate that we called up the neighbor and had him come over and eliminate the culprit. (He was the bravest 5-year-old I’ve ever met.)

Over the years, I’ve somehow managed to overcome my deathly fear of spiders. I guess having the meaning drain out of life by the cold realities of adult life really make you apathetic to a lot of things that once scared you. Once you taste true horror (bills, cooking), smaller horrors (spiders, waking up before 10 am) aren’t as treacherous as they once appeared. So I’m better now, but still leery. Spiders just always have such a “surprise attack” technique; they startle me. I mean, I’m perfectly content to coexist with spiders so long as I don’t know they’re there.

Anyway, so my brother started screaming and it was a blur of bodies and panic. “It’s the ANTI-CHRIST!” he cried. Eventually the chaos settled and we all beheld the cause of it all.

On the side of the road, strolling right along, was a big, fat, hairy, meaty spider. That thing had leg hair thicker than my dad has. It had a longer stride than my brother has. It had bigger feet than my mom has. It looked almost as mean and unfriendly as my resting face does.

And the best part was, it was walking down the road. No, it wasn’t crossing the road, or walking in some zig-zag helter-skelter path, it was walking down the road as if it had a clearly-defined route it was following like it was using Google Maps to get to its destination. As we were shrieking in disgust at it, it completely ignored us and kept true to its mission, probably on its way to Grandma’s house or had to make it back home from the ball before it turned back into a piece of dung, or maybe it had a list of innocent people to terrorize by randomly popping in for a few minutes and then leaving (so that they’d think it lived there).

It was a pretty gruesome sight. I didn’t want to know that spiders that large existed in the world, much less North America. It was probably as big as the sun, but that’s just my rough assessment– my ballpark estimate, if you will. Anyway, my family was like the damn paparazzi trying to photograph this monstrosity so that they could show it off like some giant fish they caught– “Hey, let me put my hand next to it so you can see how big it is!”

I kind of felt bad for the spider because we were all going on about how creepy it was, but he kept on marching along with his beady little head held high, like the haters couldn’t bother him. (He was probably crying on the inside though like most mature adults do.)

Then my dad got the bright idea of putting his walking stick in front of the spider so it’d climb up on it so we could all get a better picture. Well, after a couple attempts (that spider had a mean power walk) it finally took the bait and Dad held up the ol’ walking stick at us (causing a gut reaction shriek from me when he waved it in my face– yup, that’s my dad). We could probably make a whole scrapbook out of how many pictures we took.

So then he put it back down on the road so it could continue its journey, but then a car came so we all got off the road– EXCEPT, my mom felt bad because she has some sort of conscience and feels some responsibility to animals (even ungodly animals apparently) and didn’t want the car to run over the spider so she stood by it to protect it. (Damn saint.) Well then my mom didn’t want to LEAVE the spider in the road if it was gonna get hit, so now we had a DUTY to get the spider to “safety.” Dad tried the whole “lure the spider onto my walking stick” bit again, which the spider had wizened up to apparently because he wasn’t buying it this time.

My brother and I kept walking because frankly we couldn’t care one way or the other if the spider got smashed in his own natural habitat by a man-made vehicle when the spider was the one without enough sense to get off the road when a car drove by in the first place. Eventually success must have ensued because my parents cheered and I saw my dad graciously FLICK his walking stick so that the spider FLUNG into the woods.

“After all that, you launch the spider into the woods so it could ‘Tarzan’ into a tree and die,” I said.

“He’s fine,” my dad said, which is my dad’s response to practically any concern my family ever has. (“Sure your car will make it to Toledo on 1/4 tank of gas?” “It’s fine.” “Dad I think I have a concussion.” “It’s fine.” “Is Brother okay? He’s unconscious.” “He’s fine; he was griping about a concussion but I see he’s just napping that off.”)

So as far as a conclusion goes, that spider is “fine” somewhere in the woods.

Did we learn from that spider that all creatures serve a purpose, even ugly ones? No. But did we get closer to accepting spiders and overcoming our hatred even just a little bit? Also no. (They are the anti-Christ, after all.)

Who knows if he ever got to his destination. Who knows where his destination was. Who knows what awful deity conjured him into existence. All I know is that the next day, I evacuated the entire state just to make sure I wasn’t near him (in order for this joke to be effective, you need to recall that all this transpired in Pennsylvania). In any case, I really hope he didn’t make it to our car.

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