Soft like the final raindrops of a lingering storm – its rage exhausted – I heard the patter footsteps. My paraffin lamp pinned my shadowed self to the dark walls while my flesh self crouched on a wooden chair hugging my knees and repeated a whispered mantra over and over.

“please don’t get into my bed. Please don’t get into my bed.”

It was silly even as I rocked on that chair near tears – maybe nearer than not. But the spider, the size of my fist, large enough to trigger footfalls on my concrete floor, inspired a conversation with God and whoever spiders answer to. And it was under those circumstance, under that specific “new to South Africa, the darkness, the loneliness” duress, that I struck the deal.


The spiders stayed out of my bed, didn’t climb up my mosquito net and nestle inconspicuously on my pillow or beneath my covers, and I wouldn’t kill them. It was a live and let live deal. After all, spiders are helpful, they eat other insects. As the weeks and months passed I would marvel as I watched those spiders, flat and still against the shiny wall, termite or mosquito wings dangling from an invisible mouth.

I adhered to my original pact even when a friend came to visit, her shoe or a book poised to slam down on one of my 8-legged – if not friend, definitely not enemy. I honored the deal and forced her to leave that spider alone.

Ten years later and it is as much habit as belief in a fear-filled plea struck in the dark. Ten years later and I had not purposefully killed a spider…until tonight.

Charlotte has been living in my closet for a few weeks now. It wasn’t my favorite set up, she was prone to hiding out in clothes, her resting place only discovered as I tried to get dressed and was startled by her movements or the contrast of her large brown body against a green tank top or white t-shirt. Even so, despite my vocal chastising laced with profanity, I never thought about killing her. We had a deal after all.

technically she never broke our pact. I never saw her on my bug tent let alone in it. But tonight I opened my closet to find her hovered over something large and white. I’d seen it before on other spiders in the house and deduced (whether accurate or not) that it was an egg sack.

It made me gag.

I don’t know why. Spiders on their own don’t freak me out. The huge flying roaches aren’t my favorite, nor the myriad other crawling, flying, more-legs-than-me having creatures but…the white sack beneath her belly, her offensive positioning, made my skin crawl. I didn’t scream exactly but the sound I made was loud and disapproving. BushDiva was already zipping up her bug tent for protection as I entered her room.

I lingered there, in front of her tent for a while before heading back into my room armed with the saccharine smelling insect spray. Charlotte seemed to understand this would be our final showdown. She positioned herself in front of one of my bags lying on the floor of the closet and seemed to have more than eight legs as she arranged herself.

The spray only seemed to graze her. I watched her scurry away, climb onto my camera case and then onto a plastic bag and out of sight in my closet. I retreated to BushDiva’s room again to wait out the wrath of Charlotte…after all, I broke the pack.

But there was no wrath, just Charlotte, her legs curled beneath her and the white sack, still and lifeless on my closet floor.

BushDiva helped me sweep her outside and I promptly zipped myself into my bug tent fearful that all the spiders in the house – understanding my treachery – would descend on the mesh of the hut in protest.

Even aside from that expectation I feel guilty. Silly I know but, Charlotte’s only crime was being huge and carrying the next generation of herself around on her belly. It is too late for guilt now, she has surely been washed away in the persistent rain that has been falling for hours…I may have to find a new chair, hug my knees to my chest, and sing a new spider mantra under the dim light of a 50 watt bulb…I hope not.

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1 Comment on spider promises

  1. Linda Yoon says:

    I had the same pact, until I discovered that the mysterious, annoyingly itchy bites I found on me came from spiders. Don’t feel guilty – you did the right thing. 🙂

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