Did I Ever Tell Y’all About the Tarantula?


That was his name. Though, considering how large he was and how long he lived, I venture that Eddie was not a he but a she. No matter.

Eddie belonged to one of the most delicious looking farm boys you ever saw. Those of you from the Midwest probably already have a mental image, kind of tall, kind of lanky, hair the color of dry corn, green John Deere hat sitting on the top of his head like he’d just lifted the bill to wipe some sweat and not bothered to set it back down. Brown Carhartt coat, gun rack in the back window of his pickup truck.

He was a freshman at the U of I. And poor Eddie was being subjected, frequently, to freshman boys filling his tank full of pot smoke. Not to mention that the U of I will let you stick your hand in a cow’s stomach* long enough to figure out how to wiggle in such a way to cause said cow to fart on the Man from GM as he walks by but it won’t let you keep a tarantula in your dorm room.

I already had a snake, so I guess it seemed logical that I could also then take the tarantula. Which was fine, because except for the rare occasions when he would pull out all his butt hair and then crack open his butt skin and wiggle out of his exoskeleton, thus leaving a perfectly hollow shell of a spider you had to fish out of the tank** and the few times when you might actually catch him eating a cricket, he didn’t do much.

Well, not much that we saw.

For one day, Eddie chewed his way through the nylon screen at the top of the tank and escaped. On the one hand, this sucked as the cute farm boy no longer had any reason to come over. On the other hand, once word of the escape got out, no church busybodies came over either.

We all presumed that Eddie died. After all, the house was a crappy dangerous place. My mom repeatedly fell through the porch and above the TV dangled some weird mold stalactites. And tarantulas aren’t native to Illinois. How long could he last?

A year, America, a whole year. When my parents moved from the house, while I was away in college, they found Eddie under the entertainment center in the living room, fat, happy, and alive.

Mom swears that she thinks he was living under there eating mice. It could be.

Sadly, after all that freedom, he never readjusted to life in the tank, and shortly died, probably of boredom.

*via a hole they had cut in the side of the cow and kept open with some kind of plastic plug.
**It occurs to me that this may explain why the tiny cat pulls her butt hair out. Perhaps she’s trying to molt.

My Neighbor

My neighbor is one of those guys who seems constantly hunched over. When he’s out mowing the grass or driving in his boxy van or walking around, he’s stooped a little, like the world and he had a fight and the world won and won’t let him forget it.

I’m almost certain he’s got a little girl. The dirty naked Barbies with small blades of grass placed precisely in their knotty hair started being left at the base of the high tension wires like little perfect sacrifices around the same time he moved in.

I could be wrong. Maybe it’s him, leaving plastic women to the elements.

His dog is broken, too. A small mutty shepherd whose back leg supports his weight as awkwardly as if it were made of wood. But the dog barks happy to see us when we walk by, and runs the length of the fence, and doesn’t seem to mind his funky limp at all, so we don’t mind it either. Mrs. Wigglebottom has long ago decided that he poses no threat. She doesn’t even bother to acknowledge him any more.

Every morning, as we walk along the backside of the interstate, he climbs in his boxy gray van with the trailer behind it, and pulls up next to us. He never stops and the slowdown is so slight as to almost be imperceptible, just enough to cause you to look over your shoulder and see a bright white hand thrown up in a friendly wave and a nod as he pulls away.

He and I are the two most predictable morning routines. After us is the old gray-bearded man who’s riding his bike up the hill. Less often than that is the man who sits at his window and knocks as we walk by. If we don’t wave, he’ll come out to shout at us “How are you doing? I, for one, am not dead yet.” And somewhat regularly is the young kid on his bike, going someplace in a white shirt and nice slacks, always happy to see us.

Sometimes, it’s obvious that he forgets how quiet the neighborhood is and he’ll shout “Good morning” as he passes us, even though we’re making only quiet shuffly noises and he’s making only the the sounds of shifting bike chain and he’s only two feet from us.

His voice is always so loud that it’s clear that it startles both of us. And he’ll start to laugh at himself and I’ll start to laugh and the dog will look up at me curiously, as if she can’t believe I didn’t see that coming.

Andrew Sullivan: Genius or Idiot?

[I believe the last time I used this title, it was for a post called “Eminem: Genius or Idiot?” Someone could do an interesting comparison between Sullivan and Mathers, but it won’t be me.]

Sullivan writes an awesome piece for The Times* about Clinton’s bid for the presidency. Here’s the part that blows my mind:

Besides, there is a perfect position for her in American public life — and it’s not in the Senate, despite her eminently respectable record there. She belongs on the Supreme Court. She’s a lawyer who wants to change the world. That’s almost a job description for a liberal justice.

Good idea or bad? Obviously, I disagree with Sully’s ideas about what constitutes a “respectable” record, but what of this Supreme Court nonsense? I have to say, it’s kind of intriguing.

*London, not NY, so no registration necessary.

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today is my dad’s birthday. He has one of the most awesome birthdays, being born on 01/23/45.

Damn the newly responsible recalcitrant brother, though. I wanted to be the first one to call with birthday wishes, but the recalcitrant brother beat me to it.

He was, however, beaten by the littlest nephew, who called my dad yesterday and announced that he was driving up to visit. Oh, how I wish this were just one of those cute pronouncements four year olds make, but knowing my sister-in-law, I would not be surprised if she handed him a map and the keys and told him to go for it.