After this came out in print, I got a lot of helpful reader-emails identifying the mutant of this August 2002 column as the "Humpback" or "Urban Camel" cricket. Consider this one of the many, many "prequels" to Chekhov's Spider
“Am I intolerant, Gabe?!! Am I?”
Am I supposed to answer that?"
—Andie McDowell and Dennis Quaid in Dinner with Friends
I hate it when guys use feminism as an excuse not to kill bugs for you. (I’ll accept pacifism, as long as they peaceably remove the bug to a suitable distance.)
It’s not that I can’t kill a bug. I don’t even bear them any real animosity as long as they stay outside, but once they come in the house, all bets are off. And if there’s anyone else around (male or female, I don't discriminate) it’s a job I’d just as soon delegate.
It’s not bugs per se, it’s spiders that I can’t take.
More specifically than that though, there is this particular mutant species of insect-arachnid that I’ve been seeing around my house for about the last two years… ever since I quit drinkin’ (ohhhh just kidding).
I don’t know what they are, but they look and act like a cross between a cricket and a spider.
The way I used to handle them -- if I was alone, was to throw phone books on them (from as far away as possible), and then have whomever I was dating at the time remove all remains whenever they got home.
The thing is, the bugs seem to be catching on to this (hiding out on the weekends, when menfolk in size 12 shoes [minimum] can be found sunning themselves on the veranda, sipping iced tea with mint and lemon balm…and skittering out during the week to terrorize me…the bugs, that is, not the menfolk).
Keeping to my usual insomniac’s schedule, I was up late last night reading, and wandered into the bathroom around 3 a.m.and flipped on the light.
That’s when I was confronted by one of these creatures,only this one was of the scope and variety not normally seen outside a Night Gallery rerun (specifically, the one where Patrick O’Neal is a phobic food critic who gets trapped by an ex-girlfriend in a room with a spider the size of a German Shepherd).
There was no one I could call at that hour. I had to stay and fight it out.
I’m not proud to say this, but I do have a can of highly toxic insecticide. I keep it on hand for two emergencies: spiders and bees (only because I’m phobic, and allergic, respectively).
I’d like to say I eliminated this possibility because my ecological conscience would prohibit me from releasing a toxic mushroom cloud into the air—probably mutating my own chromosomes and those of the neighbors in the process—just to dispatch one stupid bug.
But that wasn’t it at all.
I’d have cheerfully detonated a nuclear missile if I’d had one.
The problem was, the can lives in one of the bathroom cabinets, and I’d have had to pass by my opponent to get to it.
Blunt force trauma was the only way to go.
I picked up a book on shade gardening from the hall table, and advanced into the room a few inches. I then heaved it as hard as I could, and retreated for a survey of the damage. A glancing blow at best. And that’s being charitable.
The thing nimbly leaped a little closer (drawing on his cricket genes I guess, which gave me a moment’s pause, because it IS bad luck to kill crickets, but a cricket that looks like it has EIGHT legs is clearly askin’ for it… the wily bastard).
Time to regroup.
The shade garden book seemed suitably heavy (very thick), but it was also narrow. What I needed was something with more surface area.
I’m out of phone books (used ‘em all up in the last invasion).
And this month’s Vogue and InStyle had already gone on to new homes (as I responsibly recycle them among my friends).
I was back to my chemical weapons arsenal.
Of course, like most homeowners, I keep the vast majority of my small array of toxic poisons under the kitchen sink (where they can seep into both the water and food supply). I ruled out both Windex and Glass Plus as inadequate to the task, along with Pledge (I didn’t care if he was clean, or lemon-fresh, with or without waxy buildup).
Ultimately, it was a two-pronged attack that did the job.
From across the room, I was able to safely launch a steady spray of Dow Scrubbing Bubbles. And, as expected, the foam incapacitated him -- giving me just enough time to scamper in and drop the new issue of GQ on him (loaned to me earlier by my pal Anthony, because of this month’s coverage of Chris Rock, wilderness avenger Doug Peacock [one-time running mate of Ed Abbey], and Tom Waits).
This was NOT a willing sacrifice … but I got another one the next day... only to read, on the last page, the “top 56 signs that your new girlfriend may be trouble,” and realize that I’m guilty of six of these traits, including, but not limited to: “owns a mastiff” and “calls all guys by their last name.” The others are more incriminating, and best left for another time.