I was 5-years-old.
“Mommy” was on her 3rd husband. Not literally--but you know what I mean.
We lived in a great old house in the Forest Park section of Ft.Worth. The exterior had an outer wall casing of sandstones. The spaces between those stones were a paradise for scorpions, ants, and spiders.
As pests are clever at such enterprise, the interior of my home was accessible to anything which walked or crawled...or could bite!
It was evening. Sundown signaled its approach through piercing shafts puncturing the sycamore and pecan trees outside. My stepfather, Robert Perkins, stood feeding (Lucky and Flucky) Guppies; carrying on a pretend conversation with the two mindless swimmers.
Even at my tender age, I knew why he was “being funny.”
Mommy was in a snarling fit about something. Bob Perkins possessed a peculiar talent of light-hearted nonsense talk which found its way into her funny bone. Sometimes. Hit or miss, it was worth a shot. He was emptying the barrel to no avail.
Within the next few minutes, I would be bitten by a spider and things would spiral into chaos.
Bob called my Mom by the nickname he had given her.
“Hey, Hound--Lucky says Flucky is in a bad mood because they’ve been arguing about God. I asked him to tell me about it. Lucky told me all about it. Wanna hear?”
A cold silence in the outer room. Bob charged ahead anyway.
“Flucky said, ‘There’s no God’, and Lucky told her, ‘Oh yeah, well if there’s no God--WHO’S BEEN CHANGING THE WATER?”
Bob giggled to himself and cocked an ear for laughter on the other side of the wall.
At that moment, I felt a stinging heat on my throat just under my right ear. I instinctively swatted and a gangly-legged spider fell to the floor.
I shrieked. Bob hurried over and assayed the situation, locating the many-legged assailant scurrying from the scene of the crime.
Straightaway, Mommy appeared, having recognized the sound of her only son’s distress.
Little Terry: “A spider bit me on the throat. It’s burning!”
Bob Perkins: “Don’t worry, I caught it.” He held out both hands cupped together like a clam shell.
Mommy: “Are you out of your mind--kill it before we all get bitten!”
Little Terry: “Waaahhhh, it hurts! It burns!”
Bob Perkins: “It won’t hurt anybody, it’s a Daddy Long-legs. They aren’t dangerous.”
Mommy: “The hell they’re not! Damn it Bob, kill the damn thing.”
Little Terry: “I feel like I’m going to throw up!”
Bob Perkins: “I’ll take it outside and let it loose.”
Mommy: “Give me that god damned spider, you bastard--if you let it go, it will just come back inside again.”
Bob Perkins: “I told you, Hound, it’s not dangerous…”
I think you have a snapshot of what was happening at that moment and why our happy home would ever after be known as the SPIDER HOUSE.
I’m not done with this.
Bob was pretty much coerced into spider murder without a fair trial. (For either Bob or the spider.)
My step-dad was ordered to take me to the nearby ice cream parlor to “take Terry’s mind off the spider bite.”
Half-way to the ice cream, I threw up on Miss Doris Fletcher’s peonies. I know that’s what they were. Miss Fletcher kept saying, “My peonies! My peonies!”
I couldn’t apologize, I was busy fainting dead away.
In the next four days, I would awaken from something the Doctor called “a coma.”
I would wake and find myself either inside my bedroom smothered in heavy blankets (I was shivering like mad) or awaken in the backyard sweating profusely with sunshine blinding my eyes. This went on, as I said, for four days. Snippets of time; little patches of consciousness--Oh--and lots of vomiting.
You are probably thinking, ‘This isn’t much of a story so far.”
You would be correct.
It is a LIFE LESSON I want to share with you.
First of all, Bob’s amazing capacity for spider compassion irked me to no end. Why? He was far more concerned about getting a court-appointed attorney for the daddy-long-legs than tending to my bite. As it turned out, whatever bit me may well have been some other creature (brown recluse) and I could have died from the long walk to the ice cream parlor.
Speculation and drama aside, my mother and Bob split up over the incident and we moved back home to my grandparent’s house away from the now infamous ‘Spider House.’
So, Terry, what IS this life lesson you wish to share with your readers?
1. Don’t talk to Guppies or name one of them Flucky.
2. Whatever bites you--you need medical attention.
3. Physical activity is the worse thing for a person with venom in their neck.
4. A light-hearted attitude exhibited when others are serious will lead to calamity.
Unfortunately, I grew up with the same attitude Bob Perkins possessed. When others are in distress, I tend to kid around. Did I adopt this persona or is it a coincidence?
I don’t know. I only know it isn’t helpful and it annoys the hell out of others--especially my Mommy and 4 ex-Wives!
And that, my friends, is the only lesson to be learned (by others, not me).
Many, many years later I caught up with my former step-dad, Bob. He had long white hair and a beard--like an Old Testament prophet.
I asked him about that nickname, "Hound" he used for my mother.
"Why did you call her "Hound", Bob?
He gave me a sly look and responded, "Because she could be a real bitch."