It was late for dinner—which was beside the point, since it hadn't been invited in the first place.
We spent a beautiful late-summer evening sitting out on the deck with several guests, enjoying good food and better conversation. It was well after dark before anyone got up to leave.
As we were standing in the doorway under the porch light, saying goodbye to the last two guests, I happened to glance down at the doorsill. There, just coming in past the open screen door, was the largest spider I have ever seen. Well, actually, I have seen a couple of larger ones in the tarantula exhibit at Reptile Gardens, but they were safely behind thick glass. This one was a good three inches long and at least two inches wide, counting all eight of its long, thick legs—and it was crawling into my house.
I'm not particularly afraid of spiders. I don't consider myself a screamer. There are times, however, when extraordinary measures are called for. I screeched and pointed.
Alarmed but determined, the spider scuttled past our feet and into the entryway. The departing couple came back in to see what the commotion was about. Despite, or maybe because of, our efforts to stop it, the spider slipped under the door into the coat closet.
My partner slid open the closet door and started tossing out winter boots, backpacks, and stray coat hangars. Our guests joined the pursuit. The spider took a defensive position on the back wall of the closet.
The husband said, "That looks like a wolf spider. Get the Raid! Get the Raid!" (This man, a paleontologist, once told us a memorable story of waking up in the Brazilian rain forest to find that he couldn't open one eye. He had to peel off a tarantula that had planted itself on his face. Perhaps he had arachnid issues.)
Issues or not, I thought his suggestion about the Raid was a great idea. But as I headed downstairs to get it, his wife, a biologist, asked me for a container with a lid. By the time I came back, armed and ready to do battle, she was maneuvering the spider into a plastic bowl that had once held macaroni salad.
She popped the lid onto the container and headed outside. Okay, if she wanted to take this lethal-looking critter off to show to her students, that was fine by me. Instead, she carried the spider halfway across our yard and let it loose. Ordinarily I find compassion to be a virtue. In this case, I would have been willing to make an exception.
A couple of weeks later, we again had guests for dinner. Again, we were saying goodbye at the door under the porch light. Again, I glanced down—and there was the spider, or its identical twin, reaching its first long gray leg over the doorsill.
I didn't scream this time, just pointed and made inarticulate noises. My partner was fast enough on his feet to deflect the critter before it got inside. He herded it away from the door, down the steps, and off into the grass.
That's it. Two instances of misplaced compassion are enough. Any time now that we have evening guests, we're saying our goodbyes in the living room and hustling them out without turning on the porch light. In case that doesn't work, the Raid is close at hand beside the front door. If that critter sets so much as one arachnid toe across the sill again, it's toast.