But the first step was last night, when we launched a preemptive strike against the original terrorist army: spiders-and-other-crawly-things-with-too-many-legs-to-be-anything-but-horrifying.
Seriously, this is no exaggerating. I apparently live in the middle of the Spider Promised Land. There are more spiders in and around my house than I have ever seen in one place ever in my life.
I have seen varieties of spiders here that I've never even heard of before, in colors and sizes and leg-distribution-patterns heretofore unknown to me. I should probably call in some scientific bug experts because I really think that I have spiders that exist no where else in the world, except maybe the depths of some South American jungle or a top secret government weapons lab.
So, this morning, after a hearty breakfast from Mickey D's, we begin dismantling the leaning tower of crap that is my storage closet. Everything — and I do mean everything — is festooned with tattered, lint-filled webs and dead spider carcasses. There are so many dead spiders that they look like a wallpaper pattern on all the walls -- including the ceiling and floor.
I wish now that I had taken a photo in order to effectively convey the depth, breadth and sheer scope of that terrible, skin-crawling sight. But at the time I was too busy worried about something falling on my head to do more than attack everything with my broom, until I had a pile of dirt, webs and dead spiders at my feet.
Now, somewhere in the middle of this process, Boyfriend and I decided we needed a few repair items from Home Depot. We drove in his bright red, beat-to-shit 1978 Ford truck, which for some reason he is excessively fond of, and, even stranger, other people actually think is "cool." We were at the gas station and this couple, about to climb into their expensive SUV, had to pause to admire it. And they were serious. They gushed over this POS truck. Whodathunkit?
But when we got back in the truck, and I rolled the window down, there was a tiny spider dangling off the rearview mirror. I grabbed a napkin to flick it away, provoking Boyfriend to utter what was, quite possibly, the single stupidest thing I've ever heard him say:
"What? Are you that afraid of spiders?"
"EVERYBODY is afraid of spiders," I squeaked.
Now, as arachnophobia goes, I'm not excessively afraid of spiders. I have been known to capture and release, if the spider is small and non-threatening enough. I feel bad when i do kill one, because I know they are valuable to the ecosystem. I also feel sorry that they are so persecuted by humans out of irrational fear.
But neither do i want to become intimate with them. Kind of like Jehovah's Witnesses and Republicans. I'll let them live in peace if they will simply leave me alone.
We got back to the house and I was finishing up the final sweep of the closet. Suddenly, movement caught my eye, and I looked down at my right forearm to see a BIG DAMNED and VERY ALIVE SPIDER waving his freaky little legs at me.
I SCREAMED like someone in a Wes Craven movie as I gave a very athletic if not particularly graceful performance of the Spider Dance.
Boyfriend earned major brownie points for picking up the broom (from where I had thrown it some five or six feet away) and offering to finish the closet sweeping.
Even now as I write this, I STILL feel the phantom legs of invisible spiders tickling my back, my neck, my scalp..... SHUUUUUDDER. And I am further haunted by wondering how that single enormous spider survived the Hiroshima of the bug bomb. He must have been the Super Spider King. For all I know, he's still out there, plotting his revenge for the deaths of his people. Er, his spiders, I mean.
We got the closet repaired and reorganized. I got rid of a lot of crap I haven't seen, let alone used, in more than five years. But I was exhausted, back and knees groaning in protest, sweaty and grimy and still scratching at imaginary bugs when Boyfriend took off, and I dragged my tired ass up the stairs to take a shower.
That was when I realized I hadn't see the cat in quite some time. I had already caught Boyfriend leaving the door open once that morning, and you KNOW how paranoid I am about Doolittle getting out again. So I start calling him.
Normally, Doo will answer me and come running to see what I am doing, because you never know, there might be food or a skwerl involved. Or at least he will lift his head from my pillow and give an annoyed yowl as if to say, "Whaddya want? Can't you see I'm sleeping here?"
But nothing. I keep calling, and search the whole house. Cannot find the damned cat anywhere.
I'm ready to burst into tears because I am so tired and miserable and now I've got to search the neighborhood for a cat who is stupid enough to get lost for a month only forty feet from his own front door. I trudge around the house, around the neighbor's on either side, I ask a man working on his patio if he's seen a black and grey tabby. He says no, and I suspect he is not impressed by my appearance. By this point, I did look a bit like a deranged homeless person wandering around looking for an imaginary cat.
I search the house across the street, with it's enormous backyard, because that is where Doo spent his last month-long vacation.
But no sign of him.
I finally go back in the house, because by this time I have to pee.
And you know what I'm about to say, don't you? Yeah, you knew it was coming.
There's the damned cat. Just sitting under a table, switching his tail.
"Where were you?" I snap. "Why didn't you answer me?"
He just blinks at me.
The epilogue to this is that I have decided to deepen my credit card debt by paying a contractor to do all the painting and repair work on the exterior of my house. Last night Boyfriend and I shopped Home Depot to price lumber and paint, and realized that it would probably cost almost four hundred dollars to do it ourselves, when the contractor only wanted $500 to do the ground floor portions. I was going to have to pay him the $1000 for the second story work, because there was no way I could do that, nor would I trust any of my friends not to fall and kill themselves, should they be so masochistic as to offer to try.
The work today brought fully home to both of us that we are getting too old for this shit. We've done some serious remodeling and repair work before, and survived, but the years between then and now have been harsher than either of us realized. Cleaning, repairing and hauling the junk from the storage closet nearly killed us.
Now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to take a pain pill or a muscle relaxer, and then crawl into bed.
I may also take a Valium for the post traumatic spider anxiety. Maybe then I'll stop imagining that something is crawling on me.