We know that all mythology stems at least in part from real world events. Hercules, the greatest of all mythological heroes, probably had his genesis in that age old battle between man and wife and spider. A few thousand years ago, a woman somewhere stands on a roughly hewn table that stands on an earthen floor in a house made of mud. Her man, nervously holding a torch in one hand and a big rock in the other, searches the darkest corners of their home, looking for the monstrous arachnid that his woman had just glimpsed running about in the shadows.
“There it is!” shrieks the woman.
“Where?” shrieks the man, his torchlight bouncing frantically around the room. Then he spots it. He hurls his rock, and the spider dies of extreme blunt force trauma.
Thus was born the legend of Hercules. The spider later became the nine headed Hydra of said mythology. Other parts of the Herculean legend, such as the cleaning of the Augean stables in a day, can most assuredly be traced back to some household project a wife somewhere had been nagging her husband to complete…but I digress.
I would be lying if I told you that any of this stuff crossed my mind when I recently saw a spider skittering across the floor in my bedroom. It was barely visible in the bluish light of the TV. Lacking a torch, I asked my wife Tonya to hit the lights.
“Why?” Tonya asked, instantly worried. She had grown up on a farm, a place where you didn’t just shove your feet into your shoes without first giving them a good shake. If your husband frowns at the floor and asks you to flip on the lights, it’s cause for alarm. She flipped the switch.
“What?” asked Tonya nervously.
This thing was the size of a quarter, with hairy ass legs and malevolent eyes that pierced my soul and filled my heart with dread. Okay so I made up the part about the eyes. But if I could see them, I’m sure they would be red and pretty frightening. The cynics among you might point to the fact that I am most assuredly bigger than any spider, and that it was probably more than likely afraid of me, too—hence, the skittering. But did I mention the hairy legs?
I headed for the closet.
“Where are you going? Don’t let it get away!” yelled Tonya.
“I have to get a shoe!” I yelled.
“It’s running!” yelled Tonya, peeking over the edge of the bed.
“Why are we yelling?” I yelled. “It’s only a spider!”
“Just kill it!”
The spider, probably wondering what all the yelling was about, had stopped skittering. I hovered over it with my tennis shoe, expecting at any moment to have my throat torn out.
“What are you waiting for?” asked Tonya.
“You think I want to miss and piss it off?”
“The spiders where I grew up would have stolen your hubcaps by now,” said Tonya.
“Alright, alright!” I said, and I struck.
Physics is a wonderful thing. The flexibility of my tennis shoe, coupled with the slight springiness of the carpet, caused the unfortunate spider to fly at least 2 feet into the air after I hit it. And then it disappeared.
“I think I killed it,” I said.
“You think you killed it?”
“Well I can’t find the body,” I said.
It was a serious situation. What if it had somehow survived my attack and was even now lurking in some dark corner of the room with slavering mandibles, planning its gory revenge?
We searched frantically. I looked under the bed and behind the TV. I shook out my shoes, then my jeans. The spider fell out–I swear it thudded when it landed. I gave it a triumphant burial at sea (with an extra flush just to be safe) and then climbed back into bed.
That spider was no Hydra, but even Hercules had to start somewhere.