I was retrieving a book from our library when I spotted it: a brown spider, about four inches in diameter, darting out from under the closet door.
"YEEGH!" I cried, stiffening in revulsion. The spider froze. I threw a book at it, but the creature was too quick, dodging the impromptu projectile easily. I grabbed my scale and attempted to drop it on the spider, but I missed again. The little beast retreated behind my bookshelves.
I shrugged; there was nothing I could do but close the library door and hope I'd trapped it there.
A couple of hours later, I confessed to Sylvia.
"Don't go into the library," I said.
"Why not?" she asked.
"You'll be happier if you don't know."
Her voice darkened with suspicion.
"What do you mean? What did you do?"
"It's not so much what I did as…what's in there."
"Oh my god, what? Are you lying? Is there a bug?"
"There's a huge spider in there," I admitted.
"WHY DIDN'T YOU KILL IT?"
"I tried! It was too fast. I closed the door."
"It'll just crawl under the door! Shove some towels in the crack!"
I obeyed. And for a few days, I forgot about the spider.
Sylvia came down to the theatre room to work out. She won't tolerate what she calls "old people movies," so my plans to screen Wilson (Henry King, 1944), a Best Picture nominee about the life of Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States, had to be altered; I decided to watch it in my office while Sylvia rode the exercise bike. Just at the point in the film where Wilson was deciding whether or not to allow himself to be drafted to run for Governor of New Jersey, I heard a plaintive wail from the theatre room:
"EARL COME QUICK I NEED HELP EEAAAHHHHHHH!"
I charged into the theatre room, imagining the worst, thinking that she must have caught a finger in the gears of the bike or perhaps was suffering a heart attack.
But she was pointing at the floor.
"LOOK THERE IT IS KILL IT AIIIEEEEEEEEEEE!" she said.
For a moment I was confused, having completely forgotten about the spider. But then I spotted the eight-legged fiend and gagged in revulsion: "URGH!" It really was an enormous beast, and my skin crawled at the sight of it.
Sylvia couldn't stop shrieking. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING? KILL IT!"
I flailed about for some kind of weapon, unwilling to stomp on it in my sock feet. I wound up grabbing the cardboard box I used to prime board game miniatures. Holding the box in two hands, I slammed it down atop the spider, squashing it into the carpet.
"Whew," I said, looking down at the beast, its legs now all curled into itself. Sylvia started to calm down, but she was still hyperventilating, her eyes wild, and she was starting to cry.
"I can't live like this," she said hyperbolically, referring to a world that included any insects at all.
"It's all right, I got it," I said. Then I glanced down into the box I'd used to squash the spider. To my dismay, two of the resin models inside had been damaged by the impact: both nacelles had been sheared off my 1/3125 scale Ptolemy-class tug, and my Federation-class dreadnought (cast at the same scale) lost its ventral nacelle. I grumbled silently to myself—repairing the models would be a painstaking task involving tweezers, a magnifying class, clamps, contact cement and no little amount of patience—but then Sylvia's voice penetrated my geeky reverie:
"Please take that thing away, throw it down the toilet," she was saying.
"Oh yes," I replied, snapping back to ugly reality. I grabbed a Subway napkin—we have paper napkins in abundance, thanks to our Skip the Dishes addiction—and leaned down to grab the remains.
The spider's legs snapped open and it jumped a foot across the carpet.
"AUUUGGHH!" I screamed.
"EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" Sylvia wailed. She was both laughing and crying, her eyes rolling around in their sockets.
Dropping to my hands and knees, I chased the loathsome little monster across the theatre room. Another moment and it would scuttle under the fireplace! With Sylvia's hysterical sobbing echoing in my rattled ears, I desperately tossed the napkin over the creature like a blanket. With all my might, I brought my fist down twice: WHAM! WHAM! A bloodstain slowly spread across the napkin's surface, and I leaned back, shaky and sweating. It was over.
Sylvia was laughing and crying like a maniac, coming close to losing her grip on sanity. Her manic relief shook the condo's foundations.
"Whew, I got it," I said, putting the corpse down on the display stand next to the exercise bike. Sylvia screeched again, her eyes bulging, speaking in tongues by this point, but I got her meaning; she wanted me to get rid of the remains, clearly not convinced the spider was dead. I dutifully retreated, and flushed our arachnid foe down the toilet.
Sylvia calmed down a few minutes later, and by the early evening we were laughing about our experience. I can't wait until she spots her first rat or cockroach in New York.