Peppermint Fields Forever

After returning from Lithuania, I came back to a spider filled house. “None of them are poisonous, and we had a lot of flies,” Ethan said, “so I let them stay.” He went on to warn me that two three inchers were probably lurking around somewhere. “Well,” I said, “if I scream, you know why.”

Let me rephrase. I am severely arachnophobic. To the point where the sight of a spider paralyzes me. When I was visiting Simon, we were at his friend’s house. He had a daddy long legs on his back (we’d been sitting in the grass earlier) and asked someone to please rescue it and put it outside. All of his other friends moved forward to locate it on his shirt. I saw it moved, swore, and jumped back several feet. I didn’t move any closer to the rest of the group until I was positive it was outside. Later, I was in his bathroom and saw a bug scamper across the floor out of the corner of my eye. I screamed loud enough to wake the dead and hid behind the zombie spider killing man. Turned out it wasn’t even a spider. If a spider invades my personal bubble (Heaven forbid) the screaming can continue for minutes, often resulting in me becoming a very teary, jumpy mess.

My parents have reacted to this by saying, “I used to be like that, but I got over it.” (mother) and “what are you going to do when you’re living by yourself?” (father) as if I have a magic switch in the back of my neck that I can flip and poof! no longer be afraid of spiders. Trust me, if I had such a switch, I would have flipped it years ago. And glued it in place. As annoying as others might find it, having this level of anxiety over something with eight legs is far more annoying for me. I can literally say at times that it ruins my life. But the “advice” of my parents has, if anything, only made my phobia worse. The screaming and the jumping is a reaction that happens before my brain can kick in to tell me what’s going on. Thus, returning home is destined to be a long and arduous adventure, and for reasons totally different than jet lag or culture shock.

My first night home, a spider crawled across my bed. My second night, I found three in the shower. The third night, I killed another one in the shower and found a second on my towel. (After that, I started showering at my parents’ house.) There are at least two living under my bed. One has made a home next to Ethan’s toothbrush, and one has tried to web its way across the sink. Three are living in the pantry, one of them in my mixing bowl. Last night, two of them stood in the closet, flanking my clothes like lions in front of a public library, and another just moved in over the front door.

Enough is enough. I did what any young, intellectual arachnophobic would do. I researched. And according to the internet, (we all know how reliable that is) spiders have their taste buds on their feet, (Like andalites, Who’da thunk?) and unlike me, they do not like the taste of peppermint. So, armed with Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castile Soap, I have set about cleaning house, mopping, and wiping down the walls until the entire house smells of minty goodness.

In the process, I decided that if I had my tastebuds on my feet, I would do the same thing. That way I could live in a big peppermint field. Of course, this might be a bit difficult with Ethan because after cleaning for an hour, I think I never want to leave again. Granted, I love Ethan, but he is a bigger slob than me. And having been gone for a month means that playing house wife is going to be a difficult process, especially after schools gets into full swing.

Well, since I haven’t said much here, and since we’re talking about spiders, I thought I might as well give y’all a little sketch about an arachnophobic character of mine. Luckily for her, she has the ability to talk to animals. Of course, this can make her look kind of funny for those who don’t realize it right away. (Note: Jake, the narrator, has the magical ability to see what magical abilities other people have.)

When Scott opened the door, I noticed the apartment was cleaner than usual. It was dusted and swept, and the papers that usually littered Scott’s desk and the piano bench and the floor had all been filed away, except for a couple of pages that had been ripped off a note pad.

I looked around Scott, half expecting to see that Chloe had not actually moved out. That her marriage had been a ruse to get Scott to clean the place. But no signs of Chloe lingered. No sparkly shoes in the doorway, no spangled coat hanging on the back of a chair. And the walls were empty again. Chloe had taken her pictures with her.

“What’s going on?” I didn’t notice Scott himself until I said it. He wore grey slacks and a what appeared to be a new white shirt. He didn’t even make a habit of presenting himself this nicely in front of clients. “New case?” I asked. Maybe the client was a famous professor of chemistry or a little-known and underrated historian.

Scott walked back to his desk to examine the slips of paper, and I followed him in. “New roommate,” he said. “Chloe’s only been gone a couple of months and I’ve already had three come and go. No one seems to last more than a week.” I didn’t tell him that wasn’t a surprise.

As I peered over his shoulder, I noticed the slips of paper were all appointments. “You’re meeting someone today?” I asked.

“Any minute.”

As if on cue, a knock came from the open door. We both turned. A young woman stood in the doorway. The purple dress she wore hung to her knees in pleats, the kind of thing Chloe would have worn. “Which one of you is Scott?” she asked.

Scott strode over to her and extended a hand. “Hello. Nice to meet you. You must be Cathy.”

The woman shook his hand. “I am.” She giggled. “My you are nervous.” Then she turned to me. “You must be his best friend.”

Her intuition didn’t surprise me because I could see a copper colored ring around her that indicated she had communication magic and could sense the feelings of other animals. not being a sight mage, however, Scott hesitated before introducing me. “This is Jake.” His hand half moved toward me, as if wanted to gesture, but not remembering how.

Cathy put out her hand to me and I shook it. “Jake, nice to meet you,” she said, “You really shouldn’t be so surprised that he’s being nice. And you,” she turned to Scott, “really don’t need to worry about acting. Shall you show me around?” Without waiting, Cathy stepped past us into the apartment, leaving Scott staring down at his shoes, and I tried not to laugh. Despite having “read” others so many times, based on their clothes and actions, he never expected someone else to read him, especially when he himself could not figure out how.

Scott’s stupor lasted only a minute, and he quickly switched to host. She led Cathy through the living room and into the kitchen, where she opened the refrigerator door and quickly closed it. “That will have to change,” she said. As she turned, a spider crawled across the floor and she shrieked, jumping back. Scott stood silent. “Sorry,” Cathy said, catching her breath. “I’m arachnophobic.”

“It’s not poisonous,” Scott mumbled,

“Oh, I won’t have a problem as long as they aren’t in my bedroom.”

“Well, that’s over here.” Scott took her down the hall and into Chloe’s old room, the only room in the apartment where the floor was not stained and the walls had no holes in them. As we entered, a spider was coming down from the ceiling.”

“SPIDER!” Cathy shouted, “I will give you to the count of three to get out of here.” As the spider started back up its thread, Scott left the room. “One…” Cathy counted, “Two…” Scott returned with a broom and swept it off the ceiling.

“Hey,” Cathy said, “I was giving it to the count of three.” Scott did not respond.

After she left the room, Scott closed the door and shook his head at me. “See Jake,” this is what I’m dealing with. Did you see how she talked to the spider as if it could hear her?”

I stared at Scott for a moment, surprised. As much as he said he liked having me around to identify someone’s magical ability, he usually recognized them without my help. “It could, Scott,” I said at last.

“What?”

“It could understand her,” I repeated. “She’s a mage. She can talk to animals.”

“Oh,” Scott said, “That would explain it.”

Viso gero, enjoy! 🙂

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