Terence the Christmas Spider

spideyFor about two months now, a medium-sized house spider has taken up residence in my bathroom. He’s a rather unassuming type, usually doesn’t overstep his boundaries, and has made a small home for himself in the ceiling corner to the left of the toilet.

His name is Jerry.

Our first meeting was a shock. As always with spiders, they appear out of nowhere, seemingly a part of the landscape until you notice that the landscape has lots of legs and casts a shadow. And it was such with Jerry, as he sat on my wall and watched me do my business with his four to eight beady eyes.

So when I go in there, whether my visit demands sitting or can be accomplished while standing, I make sure that Jerry is in his corner. If he is, I go about my business. If he is not, I find him and then go about my business. If he is nowhere to be found, I go about my business, but not with the usual gusto, since it’s rather hard to complete the task holding your feet off the floor and constantly checking beneath the pendulous parts of your anatomy for a spider.

Despite my occasional anxiety, aracnicide is out of the question. I don’t know why, to be honest. In the past I have always been quick with a shoe or a magazine should a spider make its way within swatting distance. But I suppose in my old age I have softened. Or, more likely, I have realized that I possess a limited supply of anger and I want to reserve it for those people and things which truly deserve it. Plus, spiders kill other stuff. About a week ago I was lying on the couch reading, trying in some way to remove the day from my brain. November and December in Prague means short gray days followed by long, seemingly endless nights. My mood and the moods of my students and colleagues were suffering; I felt like snapping at people, and I was stressed.

I noticed a small dark spot moving across the wall to my right. After leaping to my feet, giving the cat a stroke, and doing the ‘get the invisible spiders off me’ dance, I said, ‘Jerry, what are you doing out of the bathroom?’

When he refused to answer, I went into the bathroom (I think to show him the way back), and that’s when I noticed Jerry perched in his corner above the toilet.


There was another spider.



This one was Terence.

I soon learned that Terence doesn’t have the same personality as Jerry. He is an encroacher who enjoys watching me cook and read. He is a traveller, having turned up in my bedroom, kitchen, and living room.

This was disconcerting, mostly because my hands were tied.

Since I am no longer a spider killer, I can’t entertain the idea of smashing Terence into a hairy inkspot. However, I reasoned, the circle of life is the circle of life, and if Terence was dumb enough to get within Bela distance, then he deserved to be lunch. Therefore, I tried to direct the cat’s attention towards Terence.

Terence proved to be more wily than I gave him credit for. My only act of fortification was to adopt an open door bedtime policy towards the cat.

On Tuesday I related my troubles to Betty, a colleague who shares my healthy distaste for eight-legged creatures. Upon my explanation, she gathered that Terence was visiting for Christmas. That he was the Christmas Spider.

Now, I don’t want to kill Terence, but I don’t think he quite fits into the Pantheon of Christmas Mascots. Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, The Grinch, and Terence the Christmas Spider?

I don’t think so.

Nevertheless, the notion festered. I came up with his story.

Terence the Christmas Spider is visiting his friend, Jerry the Bathroom Spider, for the holidays. He’s a magic spider, who brings along with him the holiday cheer and festive mood that everyone needs at Christmas. Times eight.

I couldn’t help imagining him with all the cheer and joy that Christmas time is supposed to bring. Moreover, I thought of him as a movie character, and if there’s one thing we know about Christmas movie characters, it’s that they face adversity. Rudolph had the Abominable Snowman and his red nose, Frosty had the sun, the Grinch had his little heart and the Whos.

I didn’t want to be anyone’s adversary. So rather than fear Terence, I decided to embrace him. I decorated in the mildest way, a few small statues here, a stocking there. Just enough to keep him happy and more than eight feet above the floor. I distracted the B Monster away from him rather than towards him.

And my Christmas spirit rose. I was soon singing carols to Terence as I showered, and even put on my Christmas socks. With the approaching end of the school year, I now find that I am smiling more and even whistle as I walk. It’s a tiny Christmas miracle.

I suppose it’s all in how we look at things. In any event, let a Christmas Spider, Cockroach, or Silverfish into your house and heart today. You never know what will happen.

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