I hate spiders. Hate, hate, hate spiders. They scare the bejeezus out of me and they have since I was about five and read about black widow spiders for the first time. I had hysterics during the Aragog scene in the second Harry Potter movie. So finding one in a mug this morning - dime-sized, with those long dark legs that move too damn fast - was not the best way to start the day.
I know this fear is irrational. You can tell me all you want that all but a tiny fraction of spiders are harmless, that they hold an essential place in ecological systems, and that I'm a million times bigger than they are, and it doesn't help. Actually, please don't remind me of my size. Spiders scare me and I don't like them.
Living in the boonies entails some intimate contact arachnids. There are so many varieties: teeny ones that hung in corners and didn't bother anyone (even I got used to them), fat hairy ones that liked our window screens, and the occasional behemoth. Like ... Porchbeast.
It was the summer between 10th and 11th grade. Since I couldn't drive yet, it was my sister who dropped my boyfriend off at his place after our date. It was about midnight when we got back to our place. I had to pee, so I hopped up on the porch and looked for my key.
Behind me, my sister spoke in a dead, even voice: "Lisa get off the porch." At first I thought there was someone on the porch, but then I looked down. There, four inches from my sandaled food, was a spider AS BIG AS MY HAND. My OUTSTRETCHED, FINGERS-SPREAD HAND. I can palm a basketball.
In the next moment I was at the side door. I have no memory of getting off the porch. I was gibbering and I may have peed a little. Sarah and I stumbled inside and looked out the front window - it's still there. Our gibbering woke my mother, who came downstairs. Now, my mother is legally blind without her contacts, and she could still see that it was a spider. We woke my brother, who valiantly put on his boots and braved the beast. He stomped, caught a couple of legs, and chased the thing off the porch into the garden, where he finally dispatched it.
And thus was born the legend of Porchbeast. I get the feeling he can't be the only one of his giant brethren.