Tony Woodlief | Author

Spider, Man

There’s little more humbling than squealing like a little girl in front of the youngsters you’ve been charged with raising into men. After the arduous task of dressing three little boys for church – a chore that, let me tell you, really does not put one in the frame of mind for contemplating Jesus, I set about getting dressed myself. I had an audience of three, each chattering as if the others were not talking, each intent on being heard.

Then I saw it – a creepy brown spider crawling up the inside of the very shirt I was about to put on. I couldn’t tell if it was a brown recluse, given that these rotten little beasts are so, well, reclusive. But I wasn’t taking any chances. “C’mon boys!” I boldly called to them, and we headed for the bathroom, where I shook the shirt over the toilet. The intruder was about to go to his grey-watery grave.

But after the shaking, I saw no spider in the toilet. Nor was he on it. Or on the floor beside it. “Back up boys,” I said, decidedly less boldness in my voice. Somehow he had escaped. No matter, I thought – the wife will find him.

Back into the bedroom we went, talking about spiders – can they kill you, do they eat people, can they ride bicycles…

And then I looked down, and saw him crawling up my chest.

You know how in the movies, when somebody gets some kind of icky crawly creature on him, he slaps hysterically at it with both hands, making distinctly unmanly sounds?

This is exactly true to life. Hollywood, I salute you for getting this, at least, dead to rights.

The spider, rest his soul, was killed by my flurry of self-inflicted judo chops. He lay crumpled in a little heap on the carpet, to what would have been the endless fascination of the two older boys, had the youngest not tried to eat him.

Copious amounts of toilet paper for the pick-up and one flush later, I was ready to move on to other topics. Monsters, bicycles, wet dreams, the tribulation – anything but Dad’s display of cowardice in the face of the enemy. The children, however, all seem to have a great talent for mimicry. Even the youngest began squawking in response to his brothers’ re-enactments.

We revisited this inglorious moment throughout the day. Even later that evening, as we ate with friends, I looked over to see Caleb describing it to the little girl with whom he is quite infatuated. She, of course, thought this was hilarious. They had a wonderful laugh.

Such are the indignities of fatherhood. Sometimes we are warriors, sometimes we are teachers, and sometimes we are clowns.

And the next time this clown sees a spider in his closet, he’s likely just to get the shotgun. Now that will give them a story to remember.

On Key

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