Long, long ago, and far away…specifically, in our grandparents’ farmhouse outside Trenton, Tennessee, Fakesister, at age 5, was entertaining herself by rearranging shoes in a closet, when suddenly she said something along the lines of “Ouch!” And started to cry. I thought this was a marvelous development. I was 10, and had been trying to figure out how to get rid of her since the day she was born. I had been completely unsuccessful and had resigned myself to it, but this was a welcome situation. I might not be able to disappear her, but “hurt”, especially when I had nothing to do with it, was a gift of the universe.
Of course, our mother and grandmother rushed to her side. (Fakename does the 10-year old version of eye-rolling. I could have been half-kicked to death by the mule, and both of them would have said, “What are you whining about?”)
To make part of the story short, Fakesister had been bitten by a Brown Recluse spider on the upper arm. It was Sunday, because we always visited our grandparents after church, and Fakesister and I were dressed in our Sunday best. She was wearing a little dress with puffy sleeves that fit tightly on the arm. Before our very eyes, Fakesister’s arm swelled up to the point that they could not get her dress off. That’s when my mother cut the sleeve with a pair of scissors, and that’s when I knew it was serious.
We were too poor for my mother to destroy a dress unless it was an emergency. Also she said that Fakesister had to go to the hospital, but that didn’t have nearly the impact on me as the destruction of the dress. Then I burst into tears also. I realized I didn’t want Fakesister to die. I was so scared for her. It may be that very moment that I developed “empathy”. I was hysterical, so our grandmother had to stay behind with me while our mother took Fakesister to the hospital. We couldn’t all go, because of me.
Most everything else is a blur. Fakesister was saved, but neither she nor I remember the details of her being in the hospital or coming home, or any of the aftermath, really. I in fact remember more of the details of the moment of the bite than she does. She was, after all, 5 years old. But she has retained a fear of spiders that is…I don’t know what to call it. Pre-cognitive, maybe.
So yesterday, she reached for a towel in her bathroom and what she thought was a moth flew onto the mirror above the sink. She couldn’t see since she didn’t have her glasses on, so she called for her husband to come help with the whatever it was (classic husband duty) and to hand her glasses to her. Once he did, she saw it was a spider the size of a quarter.
Today, she recovered enough to discover that it was a Parson spider:
It’s pretty brave of Fakesister to even research it. Even pictures of spiders make her nauseous. But also today she feels shaky, jumping at shadows she says. She says she thinks that’s irrational. Well…
We are all only rational to a point. The rest…we can’t help. I’m not that good with spiders myself, but I’ve learned to disregard the fact that some of them may try to hurt me. However, if you’re a spider and you want to bite my sister, you will have to come through me first.