Wednesday, August 23, 2006


In Which I Dream of Spiders Past...

Well, of course it wasn't a heart attack. But you know, my heart was going pretty pitter-fucking-pat.

The reason? Potassium. Or lack of it.

Aside from being the official mineral of the banana, and one of the anchormen in the nutrition label on the jugs of Gatorade I regularly consume, potassium also happens to play a pretty key role in regulating heart function. When it doesn't show up for work, you get wacky heart rates and weird-ass blood pressure fluctuations, such as the kind I was experiencing. It's not entirely clear why the young nurse thought I was having a heart attack. Nor is it clear to me why my body was sweating almost pure potassium, but it must have been. Because when the blood tests came back, I had significantly less than the average living human body should have.

Which would explain why the next nurse who came in made me swallow two enormous potassium pills roughly the size and thickness of doorknobs and then plugged me into two IV bags packed with potassium laced fluid.

Eventually, a doctor showed up and he filled in some of the blanks for me, but as to why my body was going on a potassium strike, all he could tell me was that spider venom was some freaky shit (I'm paraphrasing here). It affects everyone differently. Some people drop dead. Some people feel a little queasy. Some people develop the proportionate strength and speed of a spider and go around laboring under the idea that great power and great responsibility are somehow inextricably linked. In my case, he figured that instead of my kidneys shutting down (organ failure is a fairly common result of spider poisoning, but which organ is anybody's guess, I guess) or my liver going bad, or my heart just, you know, stopping, I suffered the biochemical equivalent of a traffic signal getting crossed and somebody in Bloodstream Control got the message to dump all available potassium.

At least, that's the Reader's Digest version. I have a tough time keeping some of it straight, partly because I was still trying to will my heart to stop beating so fucking fast, but mostly because they pumped me full of Benadryl and then--because the bites still felt like someone was jabbing needles in them--topped that off with a morphine chaser.

I'm fairly certain I've never had morphine before. I would remember if we'd met. After my brother shot himself in the foot 15 or so years back, he was inflated with enough morphine that he could've wafted above a Macy's parade, but he hated the stuff. Said it made him nauseous and cranky (perhaps overlooking the fact that drilling himself in the leg with a .45 caliber bullet might have played a small role in those sensations). Well, as is so often the case, my brother was dead wrong.

The second the morphine hit, it was as though I had been gently melted in a tub of butter and slowly poured into another body, one that did not have an aching ankle, a sore hip, and a pain in his ass. In fact, for a while, I'm pretty sure I had no ass to speak of whatsoever.

Well, this is all right, I thought.

And then the next thing I knew, I was totally unconscious.

I woke up about three hours later, still feeling just fine, thanks, although I was mildly surprised to find a telephone in my hand. Apparently I had called the office and informed my assistant that I would be taking a late lunch and then proceeded to tell her all about the poison spider bites--taking pains to include the fact that one of the bites was lodged in my left buttock. I could have told her a lot more--it was really pretty fuzzy there for a while--but she relayed the buttocks-free version to everyone I was meeting with that afternoon and so, instead of having a fairly full Friday, I had a little nap in the ER and--in between coming up with the occasional epitaph--thought back on all the times spiders and I have crossed paths, not always to the best result of either of us. Of course, long-time readers already know about my assault by the famous Miss Muffet spider at Storyland, and I've mentioned my death-defying encounter with the spider that liked me well enough to bite me 22 times. On both legs. While I slept through the whole thing. But as I lay there swimming in dreamy little cobweb of opiates and antihistamines, I thought of two other incidents worth mentioning:

The Human Spider:

Okay, so this one isn't my story at all, but BB's due for some payback. A few months before I was born, my mom caught my brother gazing out the window of our old house. He appeared to be chewing something and even at the tender age of two, BB was already an accomplished food thief and a bit of a chunky monkey. My mom went over to the windowsill and expected to catch him munching a cookie he had filched from the pantry. But no...

Instead, my brother was picking dead and semi-dead flies out of a spider web and thoughtfully munching them. And in the instant it took my mother to scream like an extra in a slasher film, the spider whose pantry my brother had been raiding suddenly came out of a dark corner of the sill to see what the hell was going on. Evidently, it was not one of those spiders that came equipped with Spider Sense, because it--like my mother--was completely unprepared for the next moment. That was when lil BB deftly plucked him off his Web and ate him alive.

The Sprite Spider:

So BB and I and 12 and 10 respectively, playing around in the yard of an old house my parents have bought as an investment (it ended up turning into a complete money pit, but that's a story for another time). Out in the back, resting in the center of a beautiful web strung between two pine trees, my brother and I discovered a huge green and yellow spider, his body as big as my thumb. My dad called them garden spiders and although they were the biggest spiders we had ever seen, they were relatively harmless. To us, anyway. Less so for the grasshoppers and houseflies my brother and I routinely trapped and tossed onto the web. Sometimes our little personal spider god ignored our offerings. But every once in a while, he'd scuttle for the helpless grasshopper or fly struggling in his web. And before you could say "H-e-e-e-l-l-p M-e-e-e-e!!!" that big-ass spider was wrapping that poor bug up to go. It was totally fascinating, an amazing (if slightly coldblooded) exploration of the natural world.

And no doubt we'd have spent the rest of the summer happily fattening that spider up. But one morning, my ham-fisted brother laid a grasshopper too close to the spider and that big eight-legged sucker climbed straight onto my brother's thumb.

BB spun around much like the grasshoppers had when the spider ensnared them in his Web, shrieking and wailing before finally flinging the poor spider to the ground.

We looked down into the grass, somewhat sadly. We had come to think of the spider as our pet, and there he was, lying on the ground, two or three of his eight legs at odd and useless angles, like the bent aerials of an old TV antenna.

But the spider still moved. And it seemed to both of us that he was moving towards BB.

"Get him! Get him! Do something!" my brother cried, as if I were a trained spider wrangler. Neither one of us was interested in squashing the poor guy, mostly because we were squeamish little shits and were nauseated at the idea of feeling such a big spider squish under our sneakered feet.

But we couldn't very well let him suffer either, so I came up with a quick solution. On the porch nearby was a 16-ounce glass Sprite soda bottle, recently emptied by one of us during lunch. The opening of the bottle was just big enough to fit the dying spider. With the aid of a stick, I guided the poor thing into the bottle, then ran to a nearby spigot and filled the bottle halfway with water. For some reason, I had it in my head that finishing the poor guy off this way was the most humane method available (no doubt I had simply been brainwashed as a child. "Down came the rain and washed the spider out" indeed!).

But it worked. The spider didn't struggle at all. Just settled peacefully to the bottom of the bottle. And that was that. Except that it wasn't.

Looking back, I realize now that our first mistake was bringing the bottle into the house and setting it on the kitchen counter.

Our second mistake was not bothering to tell anybody that we had done it.

But hindsight is 20/20, you know. And in short order we had returned to our jobs (tearing out drywall on the upper floors of the house) and quite forgotten about the bottle. So we weren't even in the room when Dad came down from the attic, covered in dust and insulation and filled with a powerful thirst. Naturally he reached for the first thing he saw: a familiar green bottle filled with clear liquid.

But as soon as the taste of water hit his tongue--instead of the refreshing carbonated lemony flavor he had been expecting--my dad knew something was very wrong. He immediately spat the water right onto the kitchen floor.

Well, actually, right onto the small of my mother's back, to be accurate. She was under the kitchen sink just then, cleaning out the cabinets.

So between his sputtering and her swearing, my brother and I got a pretty quick audio picture of what had just happened. We dashed down the stairs two at a time and saw my parents sniping at each other. My Dad was still holding the bottle, trying to explain to his bride why he had just spat water onto her ass. He hadn't noticed the dark form at the bottom of the bottle until my brother cried,

"Oh no! Our spider!"

Having lived with us for our entire lives, my dad didn't need to look at the bottle to put any context to BB's words. He grasped the situation instantly, then shoved my mother aside and began retching hugely into the sink.

Yeah, that one took a while to explain.

By comparison, my stay at the hospital was remarkably short. By 5:30, my heart rate had managed to stay below 100 B.P.M. for more than an hour, so the doctor decided to let me go, but not without a goodie bag from the pharmacy that included lots of prednisone, quite a bit of antibiotics, a modest tube of topical ointment and, sadly, no morphine whatsoever. Oh well, you can't have everything.

But hey, I do have my health, which seems to have been more or less restored. The bites I described in the last post are about 40 percent smaller and less nasty-looking than what I went into the hospital with, so that's good.

Of course, I still have no idea what kind of spider it was or where it came from--perhaps it was some irate descendant of that poor spider at the bottom of that Sprite bottle--but I'll be darned if I'm giving any more of them a shot at my other buttock, so we've called the exterminator and apparently there's some sort of spider-bomb we can set off in the house.

I admit, I feel a little sad to have to go to this extreme. After all, I've read that spiders are excellent at controlling the population of other household pests, and I fear that once we rid the house of spiders, we might upset the delicate ecosphere of the house and find ourselves with another problem, such as being overrun by houseflies.

But I suppose if that happens, we could always invite BB over and offer him a chair by the nearest windowsill.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

that story about your brother made me lose my breakfast...
Man...the image of a little two-year-old munching flies and spiders is just surreal.

Also: ewwwwwwwwwwwww.

I'm glad you've finally found a drug that works! Now, just don't get addicted.

I've had morphine before, but I was in a lot of pain at the time so I didn't really feel like it helped much. (It probably did, but I was still in pain, so to me there was no perceivable difference.)

My drug of choice back then was demerol. I think they only gave it to me when I had a fever. But I loved the relaxed, floaty feeling. Unfortunately, the last time I had it, it wasn't nearly as good. Had I built up a tolerance? Alas.

The most interesting drug I was ever prescribed was a mouth spray made with cocaine.
I can only imagine your never-ending medical bills. Glad that you're feeling better and that your work is so patient with your adventures.

Lovin' the ginger, by the way. Many thanks!!
I can picture a two year old BB giving Mom "The Look" for ruining his snacktime.

You're going to be in the records of medical oddities, right next to the Elephant man.
As a youngest, all I have to say is, my my my- revenge is sweet isn't it MM? the spdier eating story- priceless.
I remember seeing a huge green and yellow spider at a friend's house when I was in sixth grade. It was so big, and had attached itself to the back door. We were so deathly afraid to go into the backyard lest it eat us or attack or roll us up into its web that was spanning the entire width of the door.

And that's when my fear of spiders blossomed.

And the story about BB seriously grossed me out. I can't wait to see what he has to say!
People, the kid wasn't even sperm when this so-called spider-eating story happenned. And my mother is certifiably insane. You can look it up.

I've even some crazy shit in my time, but dead flies and a live spider. Think for yourselves people!

(as for you, you yeti-ass little shit. You're a dead man).

Yr. bro.
Your stories continue to amaze, wow.
Well, my daugter woke me up at 5am this morning, and my hubby had insomniia. so after little lady was back to sleep, we checked on MM.

My god I was laughing so hard there were tears streaming down my face.

Thankfully I was no where near breakfast at the time. eating and drinking spiders, oh my!

Get well my friend. Get well.
Haha, now which to believe, MM's mom's version of the story or BB's take on it :-D

For several months my brother and I took care of a spider that lived behind our bathroom mirror. We caught it flies and other bugs and it grew to a considerable size. I even accidentally introduced it to a mate and we discovered its gender when it started producing many an egg sack filled with wave after wave of tiny translucent spider babies.

It lived a good life there and we would've kept it till eventually it passed on but unfortunately we wound up moving and expecting that the new house occupants wouldn't want our spider around we had to catch it and release it outside. I figure as domesticated as it was it didn't survive very long out there but maybe, just maybe things worked out for her.
"yeti-ass little shit" OMG - I laughed so hard, I think I peed a little.

Watch out MM - thems fighting words.

(I wonder what Mom's reaction would be to being called "certifiably insane"?)
Sometimes I think I ought to feel bad for laughing out loud at your little mishaps and run-ins with nature. But not for long because it's just too funny, at least it is the way you tell it.

Glad this one wasn't the one "what done you in". The blogosphere would not be the same without you.
oh man. BB, and here I was thinking you were kind of cute, but now that is totally blown.


and MM, it is intriguing how you were covered with spider bites, but presumably the rest of your familial unit was unaffected?

Perhaps you might want to take a gander at some of the photographs of other spider bite victims..
Your wife must be used to all the...situations you get yourself into and she must be a very calm person. A better person than me, I might add, for if my husband flirted with danger and demise the way you seem to, MY heart would be the one with issues!!
I love reading BB's opinion of your dramas...what would be really great is to hear from HLS!
I'm glad things turned out ok. I admit you've given me some pause over my general attitude of live and let live towards spiders (as long as they're not big).
Yeti ass little shit. Bwa ha ha ha ha! Dude, I pity your insurance carrier. Glad you're ok...any chance on making it a week without requiring medical attention?
Hi there - just discovered your blog recently, and am really enjoying it. Some of this stuff has to be fiction - can all of these things truly happen to one person?
Hope you have a speedy recovery, and stay away from the spiders.

By the way...your brother actually makes mine seem normal!
You're right, the description of your brother gulping down a live spider gave me considerably more heebie-jeebies than any picture of a spider bite (ass or no ass) has ever done.
I kind of figured it was a spider from the Den of Wolves that gotcha. But, it was more likely one that munched on you while you were asleep though. Funny you were the only one so attacked, but as we know, you're lucky that way.
I had a spider bite on my abdomen last year.

It must have gotten me while sleeping.

It was the worst wound I have ever had!

It was terrible.

There is still a small scar there too.

Spiders are scary!
okay, so we're more than even... coffee choke & spew x 2 w/the BB's it :)
Chuck, and the others who asked:

Actually, Her Lovely Self woke up the next day with four little bubbles--like blisters--on the back of her knees. No redness, no infection, no near-miss heart problems. She thought they were mosquito bites. But the doc's got her on steroids now too.

"Why did that damn spider have to take a nibble on MY legs?" she complained yesterday.

But I have to say I couldn't really blame the spider. I'd have done the same thing. :-)
MM, I always thoroughly enjoy your spin on the events of your life. Mine seems so tame in comparison!!!!
We had a huge wood spider in our basement right after we moved into a century old farm house. These suckers have a rather hard body and it makes them harder to kill. I've never seen a spider that size that wasn't from some wild tropical place or a pet store. uuuuugggghhh
Be well MM and Family. You brighten many a moment for us all.
do we get prizes? Don't forget *I* wrote the epitaph in which your brother's fart killed you.

(Homer Simpson voice)
mmmm...frosty spider flakes...
ps: codeine just makes me constipated and vicodin doesn'ty do anything at all. I hope I never need serious painkillers.
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