I didn’t know the spider long. Only a couple of weeks. Not really enough time to even get around to giving it a name; we just called it The Giant Spider. But it certainly made an impression.
It was just after 5:00am when I saw it the first time. I awoke to the familiar sound of 9-month-old Baby calling for his bottle, and opened my eyes blearily. I’d had a late night, and didn’t want to climb out of so early. I rolled over and woke my husband gently.
“Sweetie? Can you feed Baby this morning? Wow. Look at the size of that spider.”
He woke up much quicker than usual, and I stared at the Huntsman sitting on the wall opposite our bedroom door. It was big. How big? Look at your right hand. Now, splay the fingers out as though they were legs on a spider. That’s how big. I watched it for a few minutes, sure that it was watching me back with its eight black eyes. Then it ran and spider-jumped away, the way Huntsmen do, and secreted itself somewhere safe for the day.
Huntsmen are not your typical spider. In fact, they’re quite handy to have around the place. (Which is good, because there’s no possible way you’d ever rid your house or yard of them in this part of Australia.) And although they may look a bit like a tarantula to the untrained eye, they’re really quite different.
Adult Huntsmen don’t spin webs. They eat by doing exactly what their name suggests — hunting prey. During the day, they flatten their bodies and hide under rocks, or behind bark, or in various hidey-holes around sheds or homes. At night, they emerge to hunt down insects, invertebrates and small lizards through the use of an extremely sensitive sense of smell.
They rarely bite people (preferring to run and hide) unless it’s a female protecting her eggs, or you pick one up by mistake. And even then, their bite isn’t particularly toxic. So there’s no real harm to having them around the place. Plus, they keep the cockroach population under control.
My general stance is to make a deal with any Huntsmen I see. If they stay out of my way, I’ll stay out of theres. Bedrooms are off-limits (if I see them there), but other than that they’re free to roam the house and eat insects at will. If they do wander into a bedroom or I find them in odd places, I’ll carefully trap them in a plastic container and transport them outside.
You can’t blame a spider for being a spider.
But in all the time I’ve lived here, and all the deals I’ve made, I’d never seen a Huntsmen as big as the Giant Spider.
That didn’t stop me rolling over and going back to sleep, though. My husband nobly got out of bed (apparently the adrenalin had woken him up anyway) and fed the baby. The Giant Spider was nowhere to be seen.
It was a few days before I saw it again. It was late evening, and my husband and I were in the office. He asked if I’d like a cup of tea, and wandered out towards the kitchen to boil some water. He was back a couple of seconds later, a little freaked out that he’d nearly stood on the Giant Spider. I looked out the door, and there it was: sitting in the middle of the hallway floor, staring back up at me.
We locked gaze. My four eyes against its eight. And then it scuttled away from us, under the linen cupboard door. “How about that tea?” I asked.
A few days later, 4-year-old Big Brother came wandering out of his playroom to find me. “Mum,” he said. “There’s a spider. I’m a very good boy. I didn’t touch it, I just came straight to tell you.”
By the time I made it to the playroom, the Giant Spider was just secreting itself behind a bookcase. “The spider’s behind the bookcase. You keep playing in here, just don’t stick anything behind there. Especially your hands. Okay?”
And that was that.
Almost a week passed with the Giant Spider showing up again. I was starting to wonder if it had moved on; found another home. Then, last night, the unthinkable happened.
It was late. It was hot and humid. I went into the bedroom to turn on the air-con in preparation for going to bed. I pressed the ‘on’ button, and had only had time to take a couple of steps back when the front louvres of the air-con started to open.
There was an odd crunching sound.
I looked up to see small pieces of …something… come flying out of the unit, barely missing my face. I took another couple of hurried steps back in case it was a cockroach. (I hate cockroaches.)
It wasn’t a roach.
It was the Giant Spider. And three of Giant Spider’s legs, now detached from its body.
It landed hard, but then scuttled behind the bedside table.
(Look at your splayed right hand again. That’s exactly what the spider looked like now.)
Now I had a problem. (1) The Giant Spider was next to my bed. (2) He was wounded. (3) I had a voiceover in my head: “This time, the humans had gone too far. This time, it was personal.”
There was no choice for it. I couldn’t catch the Giant Spider where he was. I was going to have to kill it.
I sprayed it with Bug Spray, but that just slowed it down. It kept moving. Towards me now. I apologised. Profusely. “I’m sorry, Giant Spider. I really didn’t want to have to do this. I’m really sorry. I’m really, really sorry.”
Then I bashed it over the head with my husband’s shoe and vacuumed up the pieces with the dust-buster.
R.I.P. Giant Spider. I hope your next life is filled with slow cockroaches and fat, juicy lizards.