The Tarantula in the Dryer

I think many people who don’t live here are under the impression that scorpions and Gila Monsters and tarantulas run rampant throughout the State.  This is mostly not true.  Gila Monsters sightings are rare.  During the ten years I lived here between 1976 and 86 I only saw one and that was on a long, boring, pre-interstate, mirage-laden drive from Phoenix to Yuma.  It was crossing State Route 85 at a leisurely pace.  I slammed on the brakes and came to a stop on the right shoulder just as it was entering the desert on the other side of the road.  I must admit, I was impressed.

Scorpions are a little more prevalent.  But after living in the north Atlanta suburbs of Georgia for over 20 years, scorpion sightings weren’t a big shocker.  For those of you who don’t live near the North Georgia mountains, or new suburbs around Lake Lanier, yes, there are lots and LOTS of scorpions in Georgia.  Bill killed an average of one every six weeks or so during the ten years we lived in Flowery Branch.  And during the ten years I lived in Phoenix, I only saw two!  But that doesn’t count the one I found on Bill’s bed pillow the week after we moved to Sun City.  I dumped it – the scorpion, not the pillow –  into the toilet and vowed never, ever to tell him about it.

Tarantulas are a different story.  You really don’t see them much in the heavily populated areas in and around metro-Phoenix area.  Back in the early 80’s I saw four at once one time driving north toward Wickenburg on State Route 60.  It was dusk and traffic was almost non-existent.  They were marching in a line along the edge of the black top, just off the right shoulder of the road.  I actually passed them, did a double take in the side mirror, stopped and backed up.  I was driving a little RX7 at the time, so it was easy to reach over to the passenger door and open it for a closer view.  They were moving past the open doorway when the largest of the four, who was taking up the rear, stopped, turned toward me, and reared up on his back legs.  Now, I don’t know a whole lot about tarantulas except they’re big, hairy and they can jump.  So I slammed the door closed and sped off, glancing in my rear view mirror to make sure there were still four and the big guy hadn’t hitched a ride on my bumper.

Anyway, the point of this story is that after a piece on a local station about a “spider farm” that milks tarantulas and other spiders for venom to create serum, Bill mentioned that he hadn’t seen a single  scorpion in the almost two years since we’d live here.

“I know,” I said, not making eye contact.  “It was a lot worse in Georgia.”

“And what about tarantulas?” he asked.  “Other than the spider farm, I haven’t seen a single story on the news about them.”

“They stay pretty close to the desert, I think,” I replied.  “And they don’t come out until dusk.  We could go on a tarantulas hunt one evening if you want.  I’ve seen them north of here on the road to Wickenburg.”

“Maybe,” he said.  “I don’t know how eager I am to get up close and personal with a tarantula.  I’ll let you know.”

That was a couple of weeks ago.  Yesterday Bill swears there was a tarantula in the dryer.

Sunday is laundry day and I was folding clothes on our bed while Bill offered to transfer the next load from the washer into the dryer.  He came running into the bedroom, eyes wide, babbling almost incoherently.

“There’s one in the dryer,” he gasped.  “I saw it.  It looked right at me.  It was huge.  It was hairy.  It was ALIVE!”

I looked at him over the pile of towels I’d just folded and tried to settle him down.  “What in the world are you talking about?  Calm down.  Who’s alive?”

“The tarantula,” he whispered, as though saying it aloud would be an invitation for it to come into the house.  “It’s in the dryer.”

“A tarantula.  A real tarantula?  In our dryer?  No way,” I said, folding a wash cloth.

“Way!,” he shouted.

“Honey, I just got this load out of the dryer and there was no tarantula.  I think I might have noticed.”

“Come on, I’ll show you.  Bring a weapon!”  And he dashed out of the room.  I followed behind and found him into the kitchen where he was frantically pawing through the cooking utensils, looking for a ‘weapon.’  He settled on the meat tenderizer, grabbed a spatula for me, and made a beeline for the door leading into the garage and our washer and dryer.

He opened the door slowly, searching the floor for signs of movement.  The dryer door was open, but it swings towards the doorway, so we couldn’t see inside.  We made our way into the garage and Bill moved in stealth-mode backwards, away from the open dryer door and the pile of damp clothes laying on the floor, continuously glancing around, on guard against anything that might be crawling towards him.  As he got into position 5 or 6 feet from the front of the dryer, he whispered suddenly, “Look, there it is.”

I was still standing directly behind the open door, so I peeked over the top and looked into the opening at the empty dryer.  And there it was, laying placidly in the back of the drum.  It was tannish-brown and fuzzy and only had one furry white leg – and looked amazingly like one of Mom’s knee-high hose wadded into a ball and resting on a string of lint.

“Oh my God.  And I thought you were crazy,” I said softly, reaching into the opening.  “Come here little guy.”

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” he yelled, back peddling another 4 feet further away.

“It’s okay honey.  I promise, it won’t bite.”  And I tossed the clump of hosiery at him.

He screamed like a girl and ran out of the garage, down the drive and into the street, a meat tenderizer in one hand and a spatula in the other.

“Bill, sweetie, I’m sorry,” I shouted, picking up the bundle of nylon and un-balling it.  “It’s just one of Mom’s
knee-highs.”  I dangled it in front of my face.  “It’s harmless, I promise.”  He stomped back into the garage, yanked the sock from my hand and stormed into the house.

I followed him in, trying very, very hard to stop laughing.

“What was that all about?” Mom asked as I walked through the living room.

“Oh nothing,” I said, wiping tears from my cheeks.  “Just a tarantula in the dryer.”

“Oh, okay,” she mutter, refocusing on Jeopardy.  “I thought we had company.”


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