By Joel Haas
One Friday evening just before Halloween, a young lady called saying she was opening a new gallery in the western part of the state and would I consider her representing me there?
I spent a few moments on the phone with her, parading my middle aged pride and pomposity, and in general letting her know just how lucky she was to be getting an artist of my caliber (an over 40 inch waist) to deign consent to sign on.
In talking, she mentioned she was staying in town only a few blocks from where I live and work. Thus, it was arranged she’d call me the following week and come by my studio. Before we hung up, I suggested in passing that if she were out that evening (she admitted to being in her mid 20s and single, so I presumed she would be going out on a Friday evening) that she drive by our house to see all the sculpture in the front yard lit up for Halloween. She said she might do just that.
Giving it no more thought, I hung up, did a bit more paperwork, decided to go take a shower and turn in early. (As I am not in my mid 20s and single, I can sleep early on Friday as well as any other night.)
I stripped off my clothes, marched into the upstairs bathroom and opened the shower stall door.
On the stall floor, a large, black wolf spider floundered in surprise and panic. How it got there, I do not know, but it seemed certain it was not getting out since its spindly, hairy legs could get no purchase on the slick shower stall floor.
Now, I have been married long enough to know “it is the man’s job to kill the bugs,” but I am actually fairly tolerant of spiders. After all, you do not find spiders in a house with no bugs. Since my wife, Joy, was not around to pass an instant “no appeals” death sentence on the creature, I decided to simply toss the spider back to wherever it could find bugs.
Having no cardboard, plastic cups or such readily to hand, I looked around for something with which to scoop up the spider.
The blue, plastic toilet brush seemed perfect.
From the spider’s point of view, things had gone from bad to worse. First, it was marooned on a slick, bugless, ceramic desert. Certain death and terror then appeared in the form of a naked, middle aged fat man—a vision to make more than just spiders flail in fear.
Now the naked fat man was chasing him around the shower floor with a blue plastic toilet brush!
More panicked than ever, the spider turned away from the commode brush. No doubt, my falsetto whispers of “it’s okay, just climb on the brush and you’ll soon be on your way to a warm, bug filled crack in the wall..” sounded like, “I WANT TO DIP YOUR WEB IN ACETONE AND SMEAR YOUR BODY ACROSS THE WALL!!!!”
Finally, the spider consented to climb on to the toilet brush.
It was at this point I realized I had no idea where to put him. Where was the spider’s hole?
I couldn’t just dump him back on the bathroom floor. In the meantime, the spider was crawling down the toilet brush handle towards my hand. I had to keep changing the position of the toilet brush to send the spider creeping back away from my hand.
My last option was to ease toward the upstairs window, poke the toilet brush outside and shake the spider off into nature. Well, of course, I’d be “exposed,” but only for a moment while I shook the spider off the brush. Anyway, our quiet street looked dark and deserted.
Thrusting the blue toilet brush out the window, I gently tapped it on the side of the house.
The spider remained unmoved. It did not get the hint.
I tapped harder, really whacking the brush hard against the brick wall.
“Jump off!” I hissed.
The spider edged toward my hand. Frantic, I whacked the brush harder.
“Jump off!!!” I bellowed.
Our neighbor’s car drove up. Duane, our neighbor, is a clerk at the university library but his true passion is an adult marching band. Several times a month, Duane’s front yard is filled with strapping young men flinging wooden rifles in the air in unison and attractive 30 something women twirling batons and flag waving.
“Don’t look up, Duane,” I silently sweated out a prayer while ever more fervently beating the brush against the wall.
It’s dark. I cannot see Duane’s car, only the headlights. They blink out and I hear his car door slam. In a moment, I hear his front porch open and close. If he’s seen me, he’s run inside for a camera or to call the police.
I can’t worry about that now, because things have gotten worse.
Another car has pulled up along the street and slows as it approaches our house.
I was so focused on Duane, I didn’t even notice it coming.
“Oh God!” it flashes through my mind, “the young woman starting a gallery!”
“JUMP OFF, DAMMIT!” I almost howl at the spider and flail the toilet brush on the outside wall so hard the spider ought to die of whiplash if the creature had any neck.
The car lights suddenly speed up and drive off.
I look at the end of the brush.
Nothing there but bristles now. “Good,” I sigh, and get the window closed and blinds lowered in record time.
I would be on tenterhooks until Monday. Would the gallery owner call? Would she say anything? I most dreaded a cheerful tone asking me if I did performance art, too?
Was it even her? Was it just a passing car, slowing to look at the cheerful Man In The Moon sculpture lit up in the front yard and not the “moon” lit in the second story window?
I would know Monday.
I took my shower.
Duane must not have heard me and looked up. The other car must have been a random passer by. The gallery owner arranged to meet me the next week and took on several pieces.
As for the spider
I don’t know and don’t care if the fall killed it or if, as my wife laughed, “it likely died of embarrassment.”