Guest Column:

Driving back to my house in the hills of La Cañada the other night, I couldn’t believe my good fortune of living so close to nature. The day started with a doe and her two fawns greeting me as I fetched the morning paper. I knew they were probably the culprits who had been eating my roses, but I didn’t mind. And later, as I turned the corner onto my street that evening, a skunk dashed in front of my car. I slammed on the brakes, but laughed it off. “That was a close one, buddy!” Then, as I pulled into my driveway, a frog leaped in front of my car. Wow! It’s like Animal Planet here!

My warm fuzzy feeling quickly vanished however, as I approached the front door and came face to face with a giant, hairy, tarantula. It was right there, inches from actually being inside my home — where I sleep, where I felt safe — until now.

I ran inside through a side door and alerted my family of his terrifying presence. I used hushed tones so the tarantula would not know we were “on to him.” I quickly grabbed my tarantula fighting tools, a rake and a broom, and mentally prepared myself to do battle.

My husband remained on the couch savoring his chocolate-chip cookie dough ice cream, refusing to lend a hand. “I’m not going out there. It’s your turn.”

“I hardly think squashing an ant in the bathroom counts as a turn,” I scoffed.

His lack of compassion and assistance did not surprise me. I knew when we married that I would be the resident spider assassin — it was in our vows — but this was ridiculous. I didn’t sign on for tarantulas.

This was just too much nature for me. Living in a house that dead-ends at the Angeles National Forest, I expect to see my animal neighbors: the deer, raccoons and coyotes. And I know that the rattlesnakes and mountain lions are lurking out there, somewhere. But, no one warned me about the tarantulas. Why do I have to have their repeated visits? What did I do to deserve their constant torment?

And then, I remembered my first tarantula encounter. It was a few years back, shortly after moving to La Cañada. Leaving the house with my two daughters one day, (and pregnant with our third), my youngest matter-of-factly announced, “Mom, there’s a tarantula on the door.”

“Oh, right. Sure,” I said in disbelief. Knowing that kids can be prone to exaggeration, I assumed it was just a big spider, but when I looked back I was horrified to find that she was right. There on the front door of my new house, sat a big, horrible tarantula.

I was as scared as if it had been Bengal tiger.

“Quick! Girls! Get in the car and lock the doors!” I shouted.

I ran to the garage to search for, I don’t know what, some kind of tarantula removing device. I came out with a very large broom.

My heart pounding, I somehow knocked the tarantula to the ground and used the broom to brush him down our very long driveway. With each brush, the tarantula would jump back up, turn, and start to come toward me. Apparently, tarantulas pursue their prey. Finally, somehow, I was able to sweep it down to the street.

Pumped up on adrenaline and a desire to protect my children from the evil creature, I started my car and set off to finish the job. Convinced it was him or us, I aimed for the injured tarantula. I could not take a chance that he would crawl back to my house, my home.

When the deed was done, I pulled forward and looked out my window to see if it was still moving. I might have seen a flinch. I threw the car back in reverse and ran over him again, just to make sure. Really sure.

In hindsight, it is possible I over-reacted.

Looking for support, I recounted my tale to local friends. Instead, they scolded me and told me that tarantulas aren’t even dangerous. Black widows are much worse. Blah, blah blah. They didn’t see him. They didn’t know the fear.

After hearing the tarantula’s fate, I noticed my husband treated me a little bit nicer. He said something about never crossing me. Sometimes it pays to be a loose cannon.

Since this initial tarantula incident, we have had four or five more visits from these horror-film castoffs and I have begun to suspect that my initial response years ago created some sort of bad Karma. Much like the tiki idol incident on the Brady Bunch, it seems my actions actually caused this bad luck. It’s as if the tarantulas issued a type of arachnid fatwa against me.

And so, on this recent evening, I decided it was time for restraint. I had to undo the damage done. While my girls cheered me on (and my husband watched TV) I oh, so, gently urged the tarantula to leave the front door of our house. I scooted him softly down the driveway and back toward the wilderness where he belonged.

“Tell your friends!” I yelled after him. And, please, please don’t come back.


KRISTEN HANSEN BRAKEMAN writes occasional guest columns in a humorous vein. To contact her, e-mail Krisbrake@earthlink.net.

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