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Day 25. The Creepies and the Jumpies

For those faint of heart, I’m about to discuss spider crickets. Of all the critters on the face of the planet, I cannot stand spider crickets. Spider crickets, as they are called in Kentucky, are also commonly called cave crickets (Texas) and camel crickets (DC). Regardless of where you are and what you call them, they are the one insect that I have an irrational fear of. I know exactly when the fear formed, which is odd, and it formed at the same time that my childhood friend, Isabelle, formed the same fear. Isabelle, you see, had this great basement full of toys and a play area, and we spent a lot of time playing make believe in that basement. When we were in middle school, we choreographed dance routines down there when we both thought we’d like to try out for the dance team. As a side note, we did go to the first try out where you learn the routine and we both decided other sports were the way to go for us, though I am by no means trying to knock the Meyzeek “Dazzlers” or whatever they were called. Isabelle’s basement also had spider crickets, full grown ones. Huge, jumpy, crazed villain spider crickets.

At first, you don’t notice them. They stay in the shadows mostly, munching on mites or whatever they eat. The first time I saw one, I asked Isabelle what it was, and she nonchalantly told me, and our nine year old selves went back to playing, simply avoiding that area of the wall where it stuck itself. Then there was the day when we stayed in the basement too long. The sun had set, and it was the hunting hour for the huge, creepy things. Let me explain to you why they are called spider crickets in my neck of the woods. They are crickets with abnormally large, bent hind legs that allow them to jump several feet in the air or through the air. The spider part comes into play because they can stick to walls and ceilings. Ah! Yup, you’re in the wrong spot of the basement, look up and creeky-loo! There is a three inch bug just above your head that isn’t quite a spider, and isn’t quite a cricket, but it certainly has no fear of you! That day was the first ping of fear, but not the day when spider-cricket-fear completely set in. That evening, was the one when the spider crickets decided to attack the eleven year-olds that we were at the time. No kidding, five different huge buggies lunged from the walls and the ceiling at us. Screaming, we ran out of the basement and I think that was the last time we went down there for fun. I can’t actually remembering going in Isabelle’s basement very many times after that except to help her grab laundry, or feed the hamsters in the play area, and then run straight back upstairs.

The real fear came during summer camp. My Isabelle and I were in another girl’s cabin having late night chats, like we weren’t suppose to, when a large cricket of some creepy sort hopped into the room. Actually “cabin” is rather generous, because I didn’t go to those type of camps. This was more like a lean-to that had walls made from wire mesh. It’s the type of “cabin” that collects more bugs than it does sleeping Z’s, and where you check above your head with your flashlight (no electricity) before laying down for the night. So, we were already pretty alert to the creepy-crawly spiders and daddy long legs that inhabited the space. When the cricket started bounding closer to the bed we sat on, Isabelle kept her flashlight on it long enough for her to step on it. I don’t know if you know this, but crickets, especially spider crickets, aren’t like other bugs. They are evil, swirling masses of white innards that are barely contained by the crunchy chitin that serves as their “skin.”

Fear. This is the moment the fear set in. The spider cricket wasn’t dead. It was somewhat smashed, and more disgusting than ever, and came bounding right for us. I placed my flip-flop over it and I dragged my foot across the floor. Bug, excuse me, “big” mistake. It felt like I was sliding my plastic shoe over a rubber band. It felt squeaky, and made the same kind of noise that you’d expect when squishing rubber and pulling it against another force, like linoleum. When I lifted my foot, we all yiped, and screeched, and felt all of twelve, which we were. What I’m trying to say is that the evil mass of strings that constitutes the inner-working of a crazed spider cricket is much, much bigger, and much, much, much more disgusting than the creature itself. It was like a monster from Buffy the Vampire Slayer accidentally released from its container-form shouting as how it’s now “Free!” and “Going to take over the world!” All of us were too terrified of the writhing mass on the floor that seemed to double in size each minute to even go through the one door to the cabin, because the thing was directly in our path. Finally, we couldn’t stand the squishy, spaghetti noise any longer, and we bolted. Irrational fear? Maybe, but it was terrifying and it is the reason that as much as I can’t stand them, I fear killing them more.

So why am I mentioning spider crickets? First, the laundry room is a place of doom. I now know why my landlord wanted to show me how to get to the laundry room in the daylight – it is in the back of the house, which means I have to go past some leafy vines that tickle you as you push past a broken fence and go down some concrete stairs, hoping that the spider webs in the low-hanging tree above you don’t snag your hair, then enter this very broken back door that doesn’t actually close, and has a trash bag hanging from the bottom where someone may have tried to patch the peeling hole there, then you go through this hallway that is a very tight squeeze. Mind you, you are trying to carry your clothes in a basket while doing all this. In the hallway, you must step over the push lawnmower, while being assaulted by flying insects of varying sorts –mosquitoes, black and gray moths, gnats, while trying not to brush up against the box spring mattress that is covered with suspicious black pocks. This is difficult because if you lean away from the box spring, mere centimeters from you, you will hit your head against a low shelf covered in new and old spider webbing. At the far end of the Hallway of Nuisance, if you haven’t tripped over the lawnmower and other items, you will meet a door. Behind the door, you will find King Kupa and the Princess, Mario! Please save the Princess! Er, no, but you will find a surprisingly nice washer and dryer set (they don’t belong to Landlord apparently, and are one of the other tenants’ property. I’m not actually sure I have the correct permission to use them.).

Getting into this backdoor laundry room was bad enough. Getting back out with clean clothes and keeping them clean is another feat altogether. The first time I washed all my laundry, I had quite a few loads because I needed to wash sheets and blankets, and any clothes that became strange during the move to DC, or that smelled like the apartment before the mass exodus of unclean things. My clothes washing led into the night. I didn’t really think about it, and just used a flashlight to make sure I found my way on the foot path into the back of the house. The squeezed hallway has a light, and so does the laundry room, naturally. I went to retrieve my second to last load of clean and now dry clothes, and because I had my flashlight already on, I contorted my way over to the laundry room itself, and got my clothes without turning on the light in the hallway. I put my last load of things in the dryer, and laundry basket in hand, I flipped the switch in the hallway for my return to the outside world.

Mary, mother of Jesus, and all things holy in Rome. In the one foot and a half space I had to walk with my heavy basket, I would have to pass twenty or thirty spider crickets. The nasty box spring mattress was festooned with spider crickets. I can tell you, I nearly gave into the panic. My brain wavered between screaming for Randall upstairs, whose pit bulls would surely make enough ruckus in the small hallway to scamper the nasty green gross things and allow me to escape, or I could stay where I was for the rest of the night until they returned to their hidey-holes when the sun came up. The only other option was to pass the things. Afterall, I had passed them minutes before without knowing it. Ick, ick, gross, gross, hyperventilate. No. Okay, I gulped once. I’m going to run pass them. I’m just going to close my eyes, like the lights are off again, and be careful not to touch them. If I touch even one, they will all start bouncing in every direction, which would mean they’d be on me and my clean clothes. Gulp. Gulp again. AAAAAAAAAAAAH! I made it to the other side. I even still had my basket upright and didn’t lose so much as a sock.

Dammit. I left the light in the laundry room on! Even this extreme greenie could not force herself to go back through the horde of jumpies to turn it off. It was going to have to wait until morning when the evil things went back into hiding. Then I’d retrieve my last load of laundry and NEVER, EVER go back into that space after dusk. Gross, ick, not happy, not happy.

“Not happy” is exactly what I started whining last week, when it wasn’t even eight in the morning, and a spider cricket bounced out of the hole in my wall into my “kitchenette” towards me and the plate holding my breakfast. NuhuNg. Uhnuh. Gulp. Abbi and Kodak were a lot of help, doing nothing. Again, what’s worse than these things alive is these things dead. They emit an odor, and make a noise, and I’m afraid a demon may come out of the innards. See description above.

Curiously enough, today on the metro I was reading Getting Stoned with Savages, a very humorous travel memoir. The chapter I read today was about him killing a foot-long centipede on Vanuatu. The author’s description feels very close to home, although I’m pretty sure spider crickets aren’t venomous like the huge centipede, they just spread disease because small mites live on them. Regardless, I know his fear and why he spent most of the chapter on top of a table.

I know I’m irrational when it comes to these bugs. I know it, but they are creepy. Half cricket, half spider, with no fear of humans? That is not right! And after seeing the things that I saw come out of that one that I killed at camp thirteen years ago, just ask my dear friend Isabelle, something bad was unleashed into the world that day. We both have the Fear, and by George, as irrational a fear as it is, at least I didn’t sleep in the laundry room two weeks ago. I did get three very itchy mosquito bites, though.

Needless to say, I did finally kill the intrusive spider cricket, cursing Landlord for subjecting me to these atrocities. There was also a lot of shouting/whining “NOT HAPPY” to make sure I was letting Landlord, and the world, know exactly how I felt about the hole in my wall, and then there was the jumping around and short “Yipe”‘s as the thing bounced around the room, me poised trying to kill it without killing it. I finally did smash it, and left the shoe there, in the middle of the sagging floor, dead bug underneath, for the rest of the day. One (smashing) step at a time.

Not happy, not happy, not happy.

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