The voice of the spider

Abeba rented a room in a weatherboard house in St. Lucia (the suburb of Brisbane, not the Caribbean nation). The ageing owner had set up a caravan and a shed for himself in the backyard, and rented the rooms to students. Of the tenants there, I remember only a Chinese girl with excellent English, and Abeba, who was from Eritrea. Bereket lived nearby, and Saba was also in St. Lucia.

One day I was over at Abeba’s place, when she suddenly rushed out into the hallway. She had been in the bathroom on the toilet, when she saw a spider. We both made our way gingerly back in to consider the arachnid. It was still on the wall, and a very handsome specimen it was. Nearly a hand-spread of mine, and certainly more than a hand-spread of Abeba’s, it sat on the wall and considered us. It was of the type generally described as Huntsmen, although there seems to be some variation across the description, and this was one of those with a more solid abdomen than most.

I’m not good with spiders, as you may have grasped. Jen can round them up, and balance them on the end of a broom while escorting them outside. I recently saw Peter expertly employ a broom to guide one into a plastic bucket he was holding. It took him about three seconds. I prefer my spiders dead. My weapon of choice on this occasion was a can of insect spray.

I’m aware that this is not the best option. Spiders become irrational under the influence of poison, and are likely to behave very erratically. But the tide of my courage was out that day, so the aerosol it was. We applied a generous amount of spray, and, as it took effect, our fierce creature tried to run away from it. It ended up on the inside of the shower curtain, back legs dragging. From the other side of the curtain, I saw its fangs repeatedly punching through the plastic. I took a thong (flip-flop for Poms), and whacked it from my side of the curtain. That, and the force of hitting the wall, killed it. Not a glorious victory.

Abeba told me that she had been sitting on the loo, when she heard a noise. Looking around, she saw the spider. She had heard that sound once before. “The voice of the spider,” she said.

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