I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who expressed their genuine concern for me when they heard the tale of my gruesome attack. Physically, I’m doing ok. My symptoms subsided shortly after the incident, and I’m confident that I am no longer on the verge of death. Mentally, I’m still a bit shaken up. I’ve yet to take a sip from a cup that I’ve neglected for more than three seconds, and I’m still only able to eat dry, solid foods, as these items seem less likely to house living creatures.
While it pains me to say so, my family has been less than compassionate in consoling me. After the attack, my mother helped me to convince myself that I’d been bitten by a rabid species of spider, and my father tricked me into believing I’d been attacked by a baby Brown Recluse. Below is an account of what happened when I called my mom to explain my misfortune:
“Oh my god, Jo. Oh my god. I’m going to need a minute.”
“You should take it to pest control. Seriously.”
“Pest control?? Why, do you think it’s a Brown Recluse or something?”
“I don’t know, Jo. I just don’t know.”
“It was acting strange. Don’t animals exhibit strange behavior when they’re rabid? Oh my god, do I have rabies??”
I’ve always had a slightly skewed understanding of rabies. When I was in elementary school, my mother was dropping me off one morning when a raccoon stumbled out of a nearby bush. My mom was immediately nervous, as she knew how hard it was for me to resist interacting with wild critters. (Every morning before school, I’d run around the neighborhood with brown paper bags in hopes of capturing slow-moving squirrels.) She saw the manic gleam in my eyes as I reached for the car door and yelled, “Don’t touch it, Joanna! Stay away from the raccoon, it has rabies!” She proceeded to explain to me that any animal wandering around in the daytime and/or exhibiting “strange” behavior is rabid, and thus, deadly. While I’m sure she had good intentions, my understanding of rabies was forever tainted. For years I was convinced that Buster, a daytime creature exhibiting incredibly strange (if not violent) behavior, was rabid. But I’ve since come to realize his crotchety behavior is the result of low blood sugar, easily rectified by a steady stream of delicious treats and snacks.
“Only mammals can carry rabies, Joanna. Not spiders. But tell your father to call an exterminator before I come home.”
We bickered for a few minutes, but by the end of our conversation I was fully convinced that I’d been infected with a rare strand of insect rabies.
My father, sensing an opportunity, told me to go online and Google pictures of Brown Recluses. As he’d anticipated, the first few pictures that popped up were of flesh-eating wounds. When I broke out into a cold-sweated hysteria, my dad sensed that his joke had perhaps gone a little too far.
My sister dragged me away from the computer and immediately began scolding my father for his tactless approach.
“It’s not a Brown Recluse, Jo,” my dad said. “If it was, it says here that you’d already be having ‘nausea, itching, vomiting, severe pain…’ Oh. Hmm. Maybe keep it in a jar for a while, you know?”
“Why? So we can see if it grows into a Brown Recluse?”
“No, no. Just to….see…..”
My mother’s distress and my father’s cryptic advice were not doing much to quell my concerns. I did not want to keep this deranged spider as a pet, especially since it was so obviously keen on my own blood. What was I supposed to feed it? Espresso beans and bits of my own flesh?
Still coming down from a recent ABC Family “Harry Potter Weekend”, my mind immediately went to Aragog, Hagrid’s enormous, carnivorous pet spider. My god, I could all but see my fate unfolding before me: If I continued on this path of spider husbandry, I’d soon turn into a bewhiskered gamekeeper living in the tool shed of my parents’ backyard. My father would command me to hunt the squirrels attacking our bird feeder, and subsequently, I’d clothe myself in a cloak of squirrel pelts and scraps from the compost pile. Buster would become my only companion, though I sensed his loyalty would stray once my mom called him in for lunch.
For these reasons alone, keeping the spider was simply out of the question. So, being the decent, animal-loving vegetarian that I am, I decided to set him free.
As I carried him to the front door, I felt good about my decision. My forgiving, altruistic behavior would be rewarded. What goes around, comes around, etc. But before I could give myself a solid pat on the back for a job well done, the bastard escaped.
In the days since, I’ve tried not to think about it. But I know he’s still out there. Recruiting his friends, waiting for the next opportunity to leap into one of my dishes. Perhaps I will ask my father to call the exterminator after all.