I wrote/experienced this my last evening at the farm in August. I forgot it was sitting in my draft folder.
Scene of the incident:
I was washing dishes at the sink and could hear the steady buzz of a fly but stronger, louder, more frantic. I looked to my right on the stainless steel counter and there’s a big, furry grey/black jumping spider, pinning a fly on it’s back.The fly was- screaming. A second fly was watching from an inch away. I lazily continued cleaning plastic rehearsal cups, wondering why a fly would stand so close to a gruesome scene- is it like humans driving past an accident and why the spider’s poison hadn’t sedated the fly- I assume all spiders have that ability.
Suddenly, the fly standing watch attacked the spider once, then twice and on the third round the spider let go of the fly’s belly and it flew off. The fighter fly charged the spider one more time, made contact with the spider’s face and took off leaving the spider with nothing.
I lost my shit. Hands soapy and dripping I hollered “Kate! Kate! Oh my God! I can’t believe it! Kaaaate!!” I’d reverted to being six years old, too excited to find my words. I found her in the mudroom, standing in front of the commercial fridge holding a bunch of parsley, smiling but I could see in her eyes she was questioning my solidarity. Working in the kitchen at the farm, Kate, has zero tolerance for flies which have been rampant this summer. If I had to do her job, I would go crazy from flies landing on me every second too. Lisa walked in and I was only more worked up. I took her over to the counter where the fight had occurred and gave an in depth play by play, “And then it hit it in the face- in the eyes! Like fuck you take this too! and flew off to be with it’s buddy. The spider was stunned. Seriously!!” Lisa was impressed or amused, maybe both.
The dull sounds from the fly tape all over the kitchen took on a different meaning. I felt sick. I’m sorry Kate.
It’s made me question consciousness in insects. I’ve appreciated spiders ever since I was four years old and my nana in Australia took me out on her deck to show me the huge huntsman spider that had taken up residence in the top corner of a fisherman net she had decoratively hung. ‘See. It thinks this is it’s web.’ Huntsman are like tarantulas but the net made it look tiny. The absurdity of it, in my mind, gave the huntsman personality I could relate to. Whether or not the spider was actually surveying it’s impressive kingdom, I was smitten.
I have been bitten twice by black widows. Once on my lower abdomen. I was sick for weeks, as if I had the worst menstrual cramps. The scar from that spider bite was later covered by a larger scar left from a piece of plywood that kicked back on the table saw and cut me. I was alone, shaken up but it was just a flesh wound. That experience I consider myself lucky. When a table saw kicks back the projectile can move at 100 kms an hour. I was painting in a scene shop on the coast while one of the carpenters was using the table saw. I heard a high pitch machine shrill then a loud ping. When I looked up I saw Brad standing then drop like a stone. The wood had hit him right in the guts and caused internal bleeding. He was off work for six weeks.
The second time I was bit was on a construction site infested with black widows. It either crawled up my leg or down my pants when I used the outhouse. It must have panicked when it felt trapped against my thigh. By the afternoon, I had to take the rest of the day off. The nausea and cramping in my pelvis was so intense. I couldn’t stand straight much less function. Four years later the spot is about the size of a quarter and dull brown. I think it’s fortunate both times I was bit on fleshier parts of my body, possibly preventing the venom from circulating into my blood stream quickly. I never saw a doctor about it- though I don’t recommend that. I just rode it out with charcoal tablets, tons of water and pain suppressants. I’m fine with black widows. They’re not an aggressive spider. In both instances the bite was a defense before being inadvertently crushed. One of my old snowboards is a black widow Nitro. The design of it is fucking awesome, slick, great for big powder days.
I never want to encounter a brown recluse- it’s alleged a bite precipitated Jeff Hanneman’s tragic early death. There’s a guy in the Shuswap who lost his hand from a recluse bite. I never want to see a wolf spider crawling around with the babies on it’s back, eating away at it’s body- gahhh!- that’s a horror straight out of Lovecraft! A morbid metaphor for the sacrifice of parenthood.
Why did the fly rescue the fly? Were they family, lovers, comrades? Was it a game between the spider and the flies, is that why the spider hadn’t sunk it’s venom? I haven’t included any pictures of spiders cause my middle sister is arachnophobic. Spider in the title possibly prevented her from reading this anyway. If you got this far, Juliana, here’s your reward for being braver than your phobia:
The August full moon cabaret, my seventy-four year old friend wrote: Love Our Children with a sharpie on this dirty, kitchen saran wrap box, as part of his drag act. His show usually involves stumbling around in heels; throwing flour, water and glitter at the audience; teaching an incoherent lesson- I think this one had to do with taking care of each other; puppetry; cursing; scattering toys, marbles, feathers all over the stage- which sends the stage manager in me into an absolute safety panic. He always finishes with ripping his clothes off, then out of modesty puts a thong back on, or if it cools down a kimono for the rest of the night. I love him so much.
Think about that instead of arachnids and I’ll think of this instead of coming to terms with how much I still loathe stink bugs… they’re just gross. It would take a profound incident to feel compassion for stink bugs. Hear that universe? Pro-fou-nd!