My dad liked to think of himself as a tough, no-nonsense cop. We grew up on Dirty Harry movies and he would watch the tv show Cops when dates came by the house. He is far from being a large man, he’s short but had a ropy muscularity to him before his kidneys began to fail him. He had short-man syndrome, like a vicious mutt that had to make up for his lack of size. He liked to pretend he had no fear, but we knew. He was arachnophobic, and that is where my story begins. My dad would be so angry to know that I was telling anyone this story, that’s why I’m telling every random stranger that happens onto my blog.
So, it is established that my dad is a mean little man that has a terrible fear of spiders. He was working in the sorely neglected flowerbed in the front of the house. We actually didn’t have flowers after the first year of living there as none of us possessed the green thumb gene. He must have been pulling out all the dead plants and clearing the ground around the evergreen shrub, the only thing we were able to keep alive since it required a minimum of watering. I was following behind him with my trash bag, being the bored teen waiting for my shift at the bookstore to start. Suddenly a large fuzzy black spider hopped out from behind the shrub causing my dad to jump a good two feet into the air. His shoe was whipped off his foot and he was going in, until I told him “Ewww, what if it’s one of those big mama spiders that carries her babies on her back? Those babies will be crawling everywhere!” His arm stopped midair and I could see that for once, he was truly taking into account something I’d said.
“Get me the bug spray.” So I went into the house and brought out the large can of Raid. He sprayed, and sprayed, and sprayed. This spider was still running around the tree, it was a very large spider so I was pretty sure the poison would take a bit longer to kill it. The evergreen was dripping with bug spray, the wall shiny and wet. It simply was not dying fast enough, and it was way too close to the front door for my dad’s comfort.
“Get my torch.” I looked at him and started “But dad, isn’t bug spray flamm…” “The torch!” His tone left no room for dissent. When he gave that look we usually tried to become invisible and scurry. So I went to the backyard where the shed was and got the hand torch. On the way back through the yard I saw the hose and shrugged. I turned on the spigot and went around the house to the front and handed my dad his torch. Sure enough, WHOOSH, there goes the bush in a pillar of flame, the fire starting to creep up the side of the house. He turned in a panic, where I was holding the hose. Not a word was exchanged at that point, he simply took the hose and managed to put out the shrub and the house then told me to put the hose away and the torch back into the shed. He went into the house, sat on the couch and lit his cigarette. Nothing more was said and I knew that I was dismissed.
We didn’t speak of it again, but I did tell a couple of my best friends later that night. My guy friend thought it was hilarious. Two weeks later my dad came home from a long shift, looked me in the eyes and said “Thanks a lot.” Apparently my friend thought it was so funny, he told his dad. His dad thought it was so funny, he told his friends at work. Eventually it got back to my dad, he said half the town knew about it. Since he and I were the only two people there at the time he knew who to blame. He didn’t see the humor in it but thankfully my mom did.