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Smell the Coffee: Along came a spider

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- So I'm sitting at my desk in my little home office with the window open and a nice breeze blowing. All the furry creatures in the house are present and accounted for. Cats to the right of me. Dog at my feet. Teen texting on the futon.

And a spider half as big as a plate at my elbow.

He's furry. I'm not kidding -- this dude has more chest hair than Tom Selleck.

He's wearing a gold chain. Has a tattoo.

If this big boy could speak, he'd sound like Boris Karloff. But he doesn't talk. Is content just to wave. I suppose the waving could be considered friendly, especially since he's waving two legs at once, but it doesn't feel welcoming. It's more like he's practice boxing, throwing jabs at the air. There's a defiance to his moves. Like he's giving the spider equivalent of a thumb-to-nose, "Nyah-nyah."

He senses my fear. Makes these cocky little moves toward me. One, two, three -- stop. One, two, three -- stop. More fist pumping.

I'm being called out by a bug.

I grab a nearby glass, planning to slap it over top of him, except he quickly spreads himself wide and lifts those two arms even higher. Rears back. And then he makes the most effective spider move there is -- he jumps. It's just a little jump, but it's a jump nonetheless, and there's enough athleticism in the move to suggest he's capable of both distance and aim. That he might even be equipped to launch.

I put down the glass and raise my hands, palms-forward, hoping it's a cross-species sign of surrender. But the spider does not flee. Instead, he settles himself back a few steps, spreads out flat against my desk. Watches. Occasionally waves.

It feels like he's taunting me.

Without fully looking away from my new officemate, I begin searching the Internet, hoping to identify his species. The irony of looking on the Web for a spider is not lost on me. I want to identify this heavily muscled arachnid to determine if his bite will be lethal. Considering his size, if he does bite me, perhaps I could ride him to the emergency room.

The closest thing I can find online that matches my new companion is called a wolf spider. According to Wikipedia, wolf spiders are robust and agile hunters with excellent eyesight that live mostly solitary lives and hunt alone.

"Some are opportunistic hunters, pouncing upon prey as they find it or even chasing it over short distances. Some will wait for passing prey in or near the mouth of a burrow."

Great. I've become the goal of an optimistic spider. Figure he's thinking if he can score this one, he won't have to hunt again for the rest of his life.

I become engaged with reading the article about wolf spiders. Am briefly distracted, looking away for mere moments to read. When I turn back, he's gone.

This is how I came to realize that there's something even worse than having a big, hairy spider sitting beside you, and that's when it's no longer beside you. I briefly consider setting fire to the room, but reason prevails and, after a thorough search with a flashlight and shoe, I settle back into my chair, determined to finish my assignment.

Enough time passes that I begin to relax, aided by a rapidly consumed legal beverage. Perhaps sensing my vulnerability, the spider returns -- rappelling like a SWAT team member from somewhere above and landing with a discernible thud when bug butt meets desktop.

I scramble backward so fast my chair wobbles drunkenly side to side before crashing to the floor. When I gather myself, I find the spider in position again. Arms raised. Legs spread. Body flattened. But not flattened in the way I now want it to be.

I have a general policy against killing spiders. I'm a catch-and-release sort of girl. And as I stared at my foe, I realized that even this guy, as threatening and aggressive though he was, had more of a face than most spiders. It wasn't hatred I saw reflected in those many eyes, but ambition.

I couldn't squash ambition. I just couldn't. Especially since I'd just scrubbed down my desk a few days earlier and a body that substantial would make a good mess. Instead, I grabbed my glass and downed the last few gulps of my drink, then flipped it mouth-side-down and, in a move far more adept than I'm generally capable of performing, trapped that monster spider beneath. He remained calm. Seemed unaffected. Tentatively reached forward and touched a drop of the cranberry concoction dripping down the side of the glass.

I slide a piece of cardboard underneath and flip him inside, open the window, and set the glass on the ledge, tipping it onto its side so he can simply walk out. Then I quickly close my window.

The spider simply sits in the glass, content to touch drops. Makes no attempt to leave. Perhaps the substance that had, moments before, filled the glass are affecting his decision to remain, much in the same way those contents helped fuel my courage in taking him on.

But he is outside now, while I am in, with a double pane of glass in between us. For good measure, I lock the window, then sit back on my tuffet. And finish my curds and whey.

Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinfuller@gmail.com.


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