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by Vicky Chapman, NSW, Australia


Spiders. I hate them. I know there's no real reason to be scared of the critters, besides that I live in the part of Australia that has the three most venomous spiders, but even if they couldn't kill me, just the look of them, the way they move, just creeps me out. I put this irrational fear down to an experience when I was younger. I was lifting my younger sister out of the pool when a Huntsman spider (Australia's version of the tarantula) decided that it wanted to take shelter in my shorts. Up my leg it went, looking for a nice place to nest. I knew that there was a spider crawling up my leg, I could even see the bastard, but to do anything about it would have meant I'd have to drop my sister back into the pool, and she couldn't swim yet. I did the brave thing of getting my sister fully out of the pool, and then had the largest hissy fit of my life, trying to extract the spider from the leg of my shorts. It didn't bite me (they're not a very aggressive spider) but just the feel of it on my thigh...just the thought still makes my skin crawl.

The house I bought is surrounded by black meleuca trees. They are rare, and can't be cut down without both council and some greenie organisation's approval. I like trees, and in general have no problem with them, but black meleuca trees are also known as spider trees. Its summer, and the windows are open. We discovered very quickly that spiders just love our place. We got fly screens eventually, and this slowed them down, but hasn't stopped their quest for spider Nirvana - my house.

Its Joel's job to either kill them or extract them to a place outside the house. I don't care if he's arachnophobic too - I'm quite willing to give up 20 years of feminist reform providing that he is of the understanding that because he's the man its his job to get rid of them.

Joel was out on Saturday, and I had already killed two spiders that had the audacity to enter my abode. We've even sprayed the house with seriously toxic stuff, but it doesn't help. They come through the roof where we can't spray for the sake of our own health. I had been brave, and had fought off the evil monsters by smashing them into a pulp with something heavy. Although our nice new walls have now got two spots of mashed spider guts on them, surrounded by the extra impart marks of the something heavy, I don't care, I still think I was being brave without my Knight In Shining Armour to save me from such vicious beasts.

I was taking a pit-stop from the battlefield, pants and underwear dangling inelegantly around my ankles. As one would expect, Shmogg wandered in to see whether he could score a bit of loving and attention while I couldn't escape and both hands were free. The attention of a Shmogg whilst I am "minding my own business" hasn't bothered me in a long time (although it did put me off the "job at hand" when he first started visiting me in the small room) but I find it reassuring that Shmogg's obsession with people using the commode isn't an unusual behaviour for cats.

But instead of wandering in and flopping over to deposit cat fur in my most private of underclothes (and damn that stuff gets itchy) he stopped as he approached my suspended attire. He took on step back, and hissed at them. His hackles slowly rose and he got into the "Halloween kitty" position, ears back, tail like a dunny brush, lips curled in a snarl.

He hissed some wore, and swatted right in the middle of my dangling shorts, right at the spot that if I was properly dressed would be smack next to the interesting bits. Hiss! Spit! Swat!

This often Shmogg's way of warning me of a spider. A SPIDER! Oh-mi-gawd! There's a spider in my undies! Oh Dear Lord! What do I do? The next part is the rantings of a person pleading temporary insanity. Please do not judge me harshly.

OK, there's a big, nay, huge spider somewhere in the clothing heap between my ankles. I can't see it, but it must be there, coz the cat's gone nuts. Ok, I'll extract my legs from the offending clothes. This is difficult, because to extract your legs from jeans when you are sitting down and cannot use your hands (not knowing where the spider is hiding) leaves very little useful leverage to actually get the jeans off. However, the body compensates in times of crisis by giving you a rush of adrenalin - the flight or flight reaction.

So now I have my legs out of the jeans & underwear. The crumpled pile of clothing plus spider is on the floor of the toilet, in between me and the door. The door is only ajar by a cat-width. Shmogg is still lurking, giving the spider menacing looks. My bare legs are now out in front of me, off the floor, in case its a jumping spider and can reach from jeans to leg in one single bound. If I open the door any further, the door would push the jeans inwards and hence bring the huge hairy monster towards me,. I could at a pinch step over the jeans and squeeze through the door, but that would mean actually putting bare foot on the spider infested floor. And then there's the question of how to apply toilet paper correctly while having both legs straight out in front of you, hovering some 2 feet from the floor.

Shmogg, getting bored with impressing spiders how much of a tiger he is, goes back out, giving me my window of opportunity. Bugger the loo paper and the flushing, I jump out of the room, opening the door and leaping over the hideously infested attire all at once. Blast Joel! Why isn't he here to rescue me?

I get my secret super spider splatter - the broom - and push at the crumpled heap that is now home to all the spiders and their friends in the Southern Hemisphere. Nothing happens. Hmm. I carefully lift up the jeans & underwear by the tip of the broom handle. Nothing. After carefully inspecting one leg for hissing, hungry huntsman, I grab the leg and shake the whole package vigorously. Nothing. Out comes the undies. Nothing. I peer into the jeans. Nothing. Carefully, I turn the jeans inside out, being extremely observant and cautious regarding anything of the eight legged variety. Nothing. Hmph. What on earth was Shmogg hissing at? I shower and change my clothes once a day, what was his problem?

I finish the job I had started in there, don the pardoned attire, and as I do up the fly I can almost here the sound of kitty smugness. Shmogg was looking like he was in a bit of pain - poor little dear probably got a stitch from laughing too much, the bastard. For the life of me I can't think of why I deserved this, but as I was wondering, Fluffy decided to sniff Shmogg's butt again. I think I'm in for another bigger, better and much more cunning-than-the-last Bastard Cat Trick each and every month that poor old Shmogg has to suffer with Fluffy. Yarrrgh! I've only got three irrational fears - spiders, heights and housework - and I dread to think what the next Bastard Cat Trick will involve.


Editor's note:

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