So I saved a life today.

It was a very small life, but I think it still counts. I turned on the water in the shower without checking first and, sure enough, a very young cellar spider was caught in the flood waters.

Obviously the preggers one has given birth.

Anyway, the poor thing is floating toward the drain of doom, so I turn off the water and grab a piece of toilet tissue to try and dip it out of the water.  It won’t catch hold so I end up just sort of nudging it to drier ground.

And it laid there in a little heap of tangled limbs.

I studied it a moment, trying to decide if additional lifesaving measures were required or whether I had been too late.  One tiny little leg lifted up and waved around feebly.

Okay, still alive.

But this tiny bundle of legs is not only fragile, it’s wet, and now it is glued to the side of the bathtub.  I wasn’t going to grab it by the leg because A) it’s a spider, come on, I’m not going to actually touch it and B) cellar spider legs come off if you look at them funny.  I was not going to half-drown the poor thing and then pluck off one of its limbs.

I get a dry piece of toilet tissue and try to encourage the waving leg to latch on.  It doesn’t.  I try to scouch it onto the tissue, but it doesn’t scouch.  I can’t just pick it up with the tissue or I’ll get nothing but a smudge on the paper.

Then it manages to get another leg free of the wet porcelain.  I shove the edge of the tissue under the legs and one of them catches hold.  Thank goodness.  I mean, it’s all well and good to be kind to living things, but I really need to take a shower.  So I lift it up out of the tub and set it, tissue and all, on the back of the toilet.  It still looks pretty wet and soggy.  But I’m not doing CPR on a spider so we’ll see what happens when I get out of the shower.  There are four choices: die anyway, fall in the toilet, get eaten by the bigger spider that lives behind the sink or magically disappear (which could actually mean two or three, but if I don’t see a body, I don’t have to feel bad about it.)

It was gone when I opened the shower curtain.

I hope it didn’t end up as a snack.


Long-Leggedly Beasties

One of the spiders in the bathroom is expecting.  I’m sure your first question is “How do you know a spider is pregnant?” and your second is “How many spiders do you have in your bathroom anyway?”

I’ll answer the second question first since the first is just a matter of biology and the second seems to imply serious mental illness.  I’m not some crazy spider lady with a bathroom full of black widows.  No, I kill black widows, the same as everybody else.  But I have a symbiotic relationship with the long-leggedly cellar spiders.  They keep my bathroom from being overrun by ants; in return, I don’t kill them.  Well, not on purpose anyway.  We do have the occasional shower accident where I don’t realize some poor spider has been lounging in the bathtub until I see her swirling down the drain.  Also, one or two came to an unfortunate end after making the fatal decision to hide inside the fold of a bath towel on laundry day.  But other than that, I leave them alone.

How many are there?  Right now, there seem to be two.  When we are in full-on ant infestation mode, I’ve had as many as five show up to chomp down on the annoying little critters.  They just camp above the ant trail and pick off the juiciest ones.  Or maybe it’s the slowest ones.  Or the ones who forgot to bring their trail buddy along.  Something.  I just know they choose and then they pounce, just like a cat.

Except with that wrapping things up with a web thing at the end.

So if you want a pesticide-free answer to finding ants in your toothbrush (and your sink and your towel and the clothes you left drying on the shower rod), I highly recommend cellar spiders.

Anyway, the six-legged one (cellar spiders have major leg loss issues) is now carrying around an egg sac.  I’m sure there was a boyfriend involved at some point.  She may have eaten him after.  They’re not particularly romantic.

I was going to take a picture of her, but apparently she sensed the approach of the paparazzi and took off.

I hope she’s not hiding in the towel.

My Most Embarrassing Ghost Story

Because, yes, I have more than one, but they’re not all embarrassing.  Actually, it’s a bit ironic that I have any at all because I started out not believing in ghosts.  I always liked the IDEA of ghosts, that this or that tragic spirit was still lingering in some ruined old building, but real ghosts?  No way.

I think that pisses them off.

You see, I’ve discovered that I’m some kind of ghost magnet.  I’ve even had the leader of a ghost tour turn to me and ask “What did you just see?”  I’ve had a ghost child wrap its arms around my right thigh, at least, that’s what the tour guide told me it was.  I would have assumed it was just the blast from some air vent, but I was standing outside when it started.  A cold numbness all around the center of my right thigh.  Just one leg.  Just that spot.  Coldest in the back, but extending all the way around.  I was pondering this as we went into the Petit Theater proper.   Still felt it when we were inside.  Still felt it when I sat down.  That was when the tour guide mentioned the ghost children who will grab onto some people and won’t let go until the person was a block or so from the property.  And it was true.  I felt that weird coldness the whole time I was around the building, but when we started off down Chartres Street, it suddenly stopped.  I have no other explanation for it.  One thigh, cold all the way around, even when I was sitting in a theater chair.

Neat, huh?

Anyway, that’s not the embarrassing one.  Although the embarrassing one also happened in New Orleans.  The ghosts of New Orleans can hardly wait for me to come back to town apparently.  “Look, there she is.  Do something that couldn’t possibly happen in California.”  Well, okay, it probably could happen in California.

But I doubt it.

So I was in New Orleans, staying at an interesting place called the Hotel St. Pierre.   The interesting thing about it is that it was created by taking a bunch of old Creole houses and shoving them all together.  Literally.  There are no long straight hallways with rows of generic doors leading to cookie cutter rooms.  No, just finding your room is an adventure.  “Take two rights, go up the curving stairs.  If you accidentally find yourself in the courtyard, go through the gate onto the street, come back to the lobby and start over.”  I was terrified that there would be a fire and I was going to burn up because I had no idea how to get back out.

Night one of the trip had not gone so well.  I sprained my ankle in Pirate’s Alley (there’s a long gutter that runs down the center of the alley.  Don’t turn to talk to your friend without noting the location of that gutter in relation to your feet.) but I toughed it out and finished the ghost walk anyway.  We (myself and my friends Dana and Deanna) found our way back to our room and went to bed.  My bed was on the right, they were sharing a bed on the left.  We had a fireplace and a door that was halfway up the wall.  The bathroom was small and vaguely rectangular, obviously added later.  There were two smoke detectors, one above the door to the room, the other way up near the door to nowhere.  Maybe there’s a law about having the smoke detectors near doors.

Everyone crawled into their respective beds, me a bit gimpy, my friends slightly tipsy, and got ready to go to sleep.  That was when the smoke alarm went off.  The one above the real door.  Blat, blat, blat.  I was up in an instant, looking for my shoes.  My fears come true.  I was going to burn to death in a building designed by M.C. Escher.

Dana sat up and looked at me.  “Should I call the desk?”  The phone was on her side of the room.  Deanna mumbled something incoherent, turned over and went back to sleep.  Dana picks up the receiver, laughing at me struggling into my shoes as she’s dialing.  “Our smoke alarm is going off.  Should we be concerned?  Yes, it’s still on.  Can’t you hear it?”

And then it stopped.

“Oh, it’s off now.  Okay, we’ll call if it happens again.”  But before she can hang up the phone, blat, blat, blat.  So the guy says it’s probably a bad battery.  He’ll come up and disconnect it for us.

The guy shows up, but he can’t reach the smoke detector.  He grabs some antique-looking (no, seriously, this chair looked old and expensive!) chair from the hallway and climbs up on it.  He pulls the smoke detector off the wall and stares at it for a long moment.  We are all standing around below him in our pajamas, waiting expectantly.  “Well, it’s not the battery.  This thing is hardwired to the wall.”

The only thing creepier than a real fire is a fire alarm that goes off whenever you talk about fire alarms.

Or so I thought.

The next night, I did not go to Bourbon Street because my ankle had ballooned up in a nasty painful way so I stayed in the room watching Iron Chef while my friends went out on the town.  I got tired of TV and stretched out on my bed to read a Ray Bradbury book.

And it started to get cold.  Seriously cold.  Someone just opened the refrigerator door cold.

And I was all alone.

I wrapped up in a blanket and kept reading my book, but finally I couldn’t take it anymore.  I decided the best thing to do was give up and go to bed.  So I changed into my pajamas and hobbled over to the not-quite-rectangular bathroom.  Then, a dilemma.  Should I close the bathroom door?  I’m all alone in the room, but Dana and Deanna could burst back through the front door at any moment.  I didn’t really want to be sitting there in all my glory when they arrived.  But locking the door seemed like overkill, even though the room had gotten a distinctly creepy vibe.  So I would just make sure the door was firmly latched.  That way if they did come home, I would have time to yell “Don’t come in the bathroom.”

And sure enough, the moment I sat down, I could hear heavy footsteps on the stairs coming up to our floor.  I was just congratulating myself on having the foresight to close the bathroom door when it flew open with so much force that it banged into the wall.

It was a good thing I was already sitting on the toilet.

I quickly got dressed, expecting Dana and Deanna to walk in right then.  Only they didn’t.  I peeked out the door into the hallway.  There was no one out there.


Ummm…now what?

Go to bed, but leave all the lights on.

When Dana and Deanna got back, I told them my story and we immediately decided to try and debunk it.  (Looking back, I’m sure our neighbors were thrilled at us playing ghostbuster at 2 am.)  We tried everything to recreate the door slam.  We jumped on the stairs outside while someone was sitting on the toilet.  We sat down on the toilet extra hard.  We didn’t latch the door all the way and sat on the toilet really hard.  The door opened maybe an inch or two on that one, but it didn’t slam by any stretch of the imagination.

Dana and Deanna were jealous of my ghostly adventure.

I didn’t stay in that room alone for the rest of the trip.