Monday, March 16, 2009


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.


Cammy said...

Was the porch spider yellow and black? If so it was probably an Argiope. One that big was almost certainly a female, males are usually scrawny little things.

Sorry you had a scare this morning! What color was the body? I hope that it doesn't show up again, I know surprises like that can be majorly anxiety-inducing.

Take care, I hope your day gets better!

Lisa said...

No, Porchbeast wasn't yellow and black, but we have had those Argiope mofos hang around the bushes before.

The body of the one this morning was kind of a gray-brown. I don't like that kind because they move so darn fast! And it won't show up again, because ... I kind of washed it down the sink.

natalie said...

i had a huge one living behind the side mirror of my car last summer and would come out when i was driving. he finally came out when i was on a highway one time and it took 10 minutes of going 80 to get it off. so.. the moral of that story is, they're not only fast, but strong.

Tiger said...

oh, yes. Spiders. I work at a summer camp, and we have wolf spiders EVERYWHERE. they even live in staff's's no fun.

tears-of-nienna said...

Oh, man, Porchbeast. I am choosing to believe that that mofo hopped off a Chiquita truck.* That way I don't have to worry about ever, EVER seeing one again.

*Full of, of course, 30,000 pounds--hit it, Big John!--of bananas.

Kristina said...

I'm a huge fan of that scene in "Annie Hall" with the spiders when Woody Allen comes over to help kill the spider and then he hides from it too.

amy. said...

Just want to tell you that I can't believe I've never stumbled upon your blog before, but I'M SO GLAD you commented on mine, thus leading me here! I have read through so many of your posts in one sitting and your style of writing, your story, your little daily occurrences...I love them all. I feel that we have a lot in common, in multiple areas. Definitely look forward to being a daily reader. THANK YOU!!!

-amy @ coffeetalk.

Gaining Back My Life said...

AGHHHHH!!!! A similar incident happened to me - was at a B&B and had driven 5 hours to get there and it was 11pm.....unloading everything into this quaint, rstic little place when I begam noticing baby spiders...EVERYWHERE. On the lampshade, on the towels, in the sink, on the shower wall.

I HATE spiders too, but decided to be brave. I pplopped on the bed, resting my head on the pillow. My dh says, "E, get up, right now, and don't turn around".

Of course I got up and looked around - it was the BIGGEST spider I had ever seen in my LIFE!!!

We drove back home. SUCKED.

Cammy said...

Ok, just wanted to jump back in with my own scary spider story. When I was about 4 years old, I got bitten on the face by one while I was sleeping. LUCKILY it was not a brown recluse or something like that, so I do indeed still have a face, no scar at all, but it was pretty traumatic at the time.

My dad actually caught the spider (I woke up and screamed bloody murder before it had the chance or wits to get very far), and I kept it in a Tupperware and starved it to death. It's possible it was actually a different spider, in retrospect, we lived in a pretty crappy apartment at the time and there's not telling what all inhabited those walls.

Anyway, it takes a VERY long time for an ectotherm to starve, but I was one pissed off 4 year old. I should tell this starvation torture story to my psychologist, now that I think about it, she'd have a field day with it.

Gaining Back My Life said...

Cammy, this is off topic, but your story reminded me of when I was 6 or so and my uncles came home from a fishing trip. I kept one of the fish eyeballs in a water-filled glass jar forever, it seemed.

NO IDEA why.