On the Cynthia Nixon episode of Law & Order: SVU, her character remarks, “You’re never more than six feet away from a spider.” I really didn’t care to know that, true statement of fact or not. As bugs go, spiders are not my worst enemy. That mantle goes to the disease-spreading cockroach. Fortunately I haven’t spied any of those since moving away from the nation’s capitol. Out in DC broad flat roaches skitter across the sidewalk in the summer months, sensing oncoming foot traffic. It’s like a creepy, disgusting version of the parting of the Red Sea, except there’s nothing approximating divine intervention going on.
But if Walla Walla is free from mosquitos and cockroaches, both of which love humidity, then it has more than its fair share of spiders, some of them extremely poisonous. We’ve got rattlesnakes out here too, because we’re in dry tumbleweed territory. The snakes, however, don’t hang out in corners of our home—other than a friend’s dog who got bit during a hike on a low ridge, I haven’t heard of any rattlesnake encounters since I moved out here.
Spiders are another story. They’ve totally taken over the stand-alone garage, which from the outside appears cute and appealing, like maybe it’s not a garage but some kind of outbuilding, a writer’s studio, even. Just opening the side door makes that dream dissipate like a fart in the wind, for every surface inside is dusty, and strewn with old webbing. From the old concrete floor to the visible rafters, it’s like a 1950s B horror flick. Or perhaps a scene from an Indiana Jones movie.
I can look at the garage—which I use sparingly, mostly when I perceive inclement weather is on the approach and want to protect the family car—and see that this is what they want from our house. Every week I break out the vacuum cleaner and suck new webs out from their homes on the crown moulding. Out from the track lighting in the kitchen, the picture windows in the living room, the 1940s-era heat duct grates. From behind picture frames and underneath the entertainment center, I find myself on a mission against the arachnoids who would quietly encase us in sticky silk. I’m not afraid of spiders per se (it’s those city roaches that give me the heebee jeebees), but I’d rather they do their insect-eating work outdoors.
What am I saying? Our porch is full of webbing, only the porch webs are caked with desert dust. It’s no wonder they’d rather set up shop in a protected environment.
I realize that the spiders are onto me and my mission of living web free. No sooner do I suck a room clean than I return, after putting all of the vacuum parts back together and storing the machine away, than I see a tiny speck on the ceiling, dangling from a couple of inches of freshly made thread. I imagine that it’s sighing at me, thinking, This house sucks. I’m just trying to get some dinner and that fat guy keeps destroying my net.