Betty the Spider

Yesterday, a giant spider got into my car. We named her Betty. ...Oh, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

There is a giant garden spider who has been trying ever so hard to catch us the last few weeks. She's spun her webs in front of the front door, from my car door to the fence, even across the sidewalk on our way to school. We always notice her before it's too late; she's a showy red-brown, and she likes to sit in the center of her web, waiting for us to fall into her cunning trap.

It turns out it's pretty hard hard to miss a reddish-brown spider the size of an unshelled hazelnut floating in midair.

Yesterday, she very nearly caught me at last. That web was the attempt between my car and the fence -- but this time, she built it from the passenger door, which I usually go past as I round the back of my car into the driver's seat. I shook my head at her growing cleverness, went around the other way, and felt a little guilty as the strands of silk pulled away from the car as I drove off. I nodded to her politely on my way back into the house later, as she lurked in the remnants of her web, still drifting from our neighbor's shrubbery. 

I didn't think of that spider again at all until I opened the car door on my way home from the gym later. She was there! In my car! Sitting calmly on the side of the driver's seat. I guess she hitched a ride on my pants when I brushed past my neighbor's lilacs on my way out...

I nudged her with my water bottle, trying to get her to climb on so I could put her... somewhere else, maybe on the pavement of the parking lot. She sensibly scurried under the seat, and even past that, disappearing under the center console. No fool, she; no getting squished for her.

I bit my lip and quietly freaked out about the idea of driving around with a giant spider in my car. But I was sweaty and in need of a shower, I was on a tight schedule, and I didn't think she'd be in a hurry to come out and face the abject horrors of my water bottle again right away. I went home.

When I went to pick up my kids from school later, I warned them about the giant spider in the car. "Keep an eye out for her," I said.

The big one wigged out a little. "What do we do if we see her?" she worried.

"Try not to squish her," I said. "She's more afraid of you than you are of her. You're like a skyscraper to her."

"I think I'll scream," the big one decided.

"I'm not afraid of bugs," announced the little one.

"We should give her a name," I said. "What should we call her?"

The big one thought a moment. "Betty."

We didn't see Betty on the way home from school; we did see some mosquitoes, though. It's been a terrible year for mosquitoes where I live, and we've had one or two in our car almost continuously all summer long. I got a handful of vicious bites on my ankle on the way to and from ballet class, but no Betty. To and from the grocery store; no Betty.

I worried that she would sneak up on me and frighten me while I was driving. I worried how the heck I was ever going to catch her and remove her from the car. Would my car be infested with giant spiders forever, alongside those pesky mosquitoes? Would she bite me as I was driving? Would she finally succeed in her attempts on my life by getting me into a car accident?

Ah, but I wasn't counting on Betty's industrious nature. On the way to kindergarten this morning, I opened the passenger door to drop my daughter's backpack on the seat, and there she was, like every morning, floating in the center of her web. Her web -- blemished with tiny mosquito corpses.

"Betty! We found you!" said the little one.

I scooped up and around Betty's nocturnal architectural masterpiece with the ice scraper and shook her off safely into one of our dogwoods. "Thanks for eating the mosquitoes, Betty," I said, and then we went on our way to kindergarten.

Tomorrow morning, I'm sure she'll be up to her old tricks, trying to catch human prey. But for now, Betty and I... well, I think we both got something out of this experience.

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