The Cottage of the Spider (Chalupa Pavouka)

I was writing at the kitchen table of the small cottage when a sense of dread drew my attention to the wall. A large moth was fluttering along the baseboard. Before he could get into the air, a plump black spider came out of a cave-like hole with ridiculous speed, grabbed the moth and sped back to his lair with him.

A moment later, the spider came back to the entrance of the hole, booty tucked under his right four legs, and gave me an intense glare that proclaimed – you’re next, you two-legged bastard.

He disappeared into the hole again.We had come to Lee’s girlfriend’s house the evening before to outline my novel. Lee had suggested the venue; a four building restored mill in the middle of The Nature, free of tech and city distractions. I had Grandma’s cottage, who had moved back to Prague after breaking her hip.

Lee’s girlfriend, D, was in her early 20s and therefore capable of epic partying sessions that took place in Prague. To us, she was a crepuscular animal; only appearing as she came home at dawn or as she left at dusk.

Lee and I spent our days in our separate cottages writing and outlining. Our evenings were spent brainstorming characters and storylines over games of pool and bottles of Becherovka.

After my arachnid morning encounter, I spent the remainder of the day writing in the kitchen of the main house. But it wasn’t much safer there. Hornets the size of mailboxes wafted through the kitchen with apathetic menace. Bats heckled us as we ventured into the wine cellar.

In the early evening, I entered the cottage for  my house shoes and was greeted by my predatory acquaintance and two of his furry-legged, aggressive brethren. They didn’t lurk in the corners like most spiders, but lounged with brazen arrogance in the middle of the floor and on the counters. They put the squeeze on me and I barely escaped with my house shoes and my life.

It was 6 p.m, so D was dressed in dental floss on her way out for a night of clubbing. I joked with her about the cottage.

“There are some spiders in there that are getting assassinated after I get enough courage drinks in me.” I slipped my house shoe off and smacked it against my palm.

“Oh no you don’t,” D said, “that’s my Grandma’s cottage and spiders are lucky. And my Grandma needs all the luck she can get right now.”

Czech folklore holds spiders as good luck. A superstition I have always considered the mythological version of ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ There are so many spiders in Prague that their presence had to be made somehow positive.

Stepping in dog poop is supposed to grant you financial success. Guess what can be found in great quantities on the ground in Prague?

I slipped my shoe back on.

That evening, Lee and I played pool and drank Becherovka, allowing the herbal liqueur to stir the creative juices. We talked about plot points, character resumes, hooks and pinch points. In the cool early morning hours, we went back to our cottages. With Arachnicide no longer an option, I took a different approach.

I named them.

I peeked in the door, snapped on the light and stepped through. On the white wall ahead, appearing blacker than a shadow, was one of the aggressive spiders.

I now referred to him as Seth.

“Hiya Seth,” I said. He turned and looked at me. I wavered, but continued. “I am just gonna go to bed now, so it’d be swell if you guys just left me alone.”

Seth didn’t move, so I went to the bedroom, surveying the floor for his two compatriots. Somehow, I fell asleep.

In the morning, over coffee and eggs, Lee and I talked about the day’s tasks. A character resume, an outline, develop an antagonist.

We broke and I went to the Cottage of the Spider. All three were out on the hunt and observed my arrival. I stammered, “Hey Seth, hey Jerry, hey Theodore.”

My theory was that if something has a harmless name, it can’t hurt you. Or pump poison into your brain. Or tie you down and tap dance on you with hairy, superfluous legs.

I had a breakthrough the next day. I gathered up as many worms, caterpillars and moths as I could find and let them loose in the cottage as a sacrifice.

Seth, Jerry and Theodore were noticeably moved by my gesture of friendship and waited til I had gone to sate themselves on the offering.

That night I dreamed that the three of them stood around my bed wearing berets and asked me what the hell I was doing there. I replied that I was writing a book and, though they didn’t directly mention it in the ensuing discussion, the gist was that there had better be a spider in that book.

In the morning, over coffee and eggs, I pitched the new 8-legged character to Lee, who thought it sounded interesting. We augmented the character’s profile over the evening’s pool game.

I never saw Seth, Theodore and Jerry again. Maybe the Czechs are right; maybe those little bastards do bring luck. You tell me in a few weeks.

So, fellow anything-with-more-legs-than-you-phobes, any run-ins with malicious animals or insects?

  1. #1 by almarita galeone on July 15, 2011 - 1:48 pm

    I enjoyed this story, although personally I DON’T enjoy spiders!!

  2. #2 by Lee Adams on July 15, 2011 - 4:43 pm

    I remember once I was at an old girlfriends place and saw a wolf-spider (so called because they are slightly larger than a Great Dane and covered in long fur). The girl told me to keep an eye on it while she went off to get something. So I stared at the thing which was only about two feet away from me while I heard her rustling about in the background. I swear to god it winked at me.
    Then out of nowhere a 3 foot by 2 foot cone of fire shot past my head damn near taking off my eye-brow and incinerating the spider. I turned around to see her standing there holding a lighter and a can of hairspray, a look of grim satisfaction on her face.
    “Well played!” I said.
    After all, eyebrows grow back, while spider bites last forever…

    • #3 by Damien Galeone on July 15, 2011 - 4:54 pm

      HaHa! Yes, I do recall a rare few hours of you being nervous around fire.

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