Today, by popular request, I’m reprinting a column I wrote… OMG!… 20 years ago. This story, and 68 other adventures from that time, are included in “Through My Looking Glass,” magically available now either in print through JanBonoBooks, or as an eBook through Smashwords.com
Little Miss Muffet
I’m nearsighted. That means I can see things that are near, and have difficulty focusing on things that are not-so-near. In other words, I can read in bed with my glasses off, but I have to squint like crazy and lean toward the nightstand to make out the numbers on the clock.
But after last night’s tale of terror, I may start sleeping with my glasses on.
It happened like this: Every evening the cat and I perform our little rituals. We take a walk through the house together, tum on the porch lights, check the windows and doors, straighten up the living room. He watches with apparent disinterest while I brush my teeth, floss, set the alarm, change into my jammies, layout my clothes for the next day, etc., etc.
Then I spend a few quality minutes with him scratching behind his ears and telling him what a good cat he is. Finally I fill his food and water dishes in the garage, fluff up the blankets in his basket, and put him out for the night.
I check my ‘to-do’ list for the next day and snuggle down in bed to read for an hour or so. (I have a mild addiction to the innocuous kind of quasi-mystery books that usually sport a long-haired woman swooning into the arms of a tall, muscular man on the cover.)
So there I was, reading merrily along, my hour nearly up, my reading speed increasing dramatically as I realized I was only 20 or 30 pages from the end of the book. Although I was tired, I pushed on. I didn’t want to wait another day to find out ‘who done it.’
Something drifted in the air just above my range of focus. Figuring it was a wisp of my hair, I stuck out my lower lip and blew at it without slowing down or skipping a single word of the story. Whatever it was, it disappeared. I kept reading.
A few minutes and several pages later, ‘it’ was back. I blew at it again. It seemed to flutter in the wind. I stopped reading, sat up a little straighter (if one can do that in a waterbed) and peered at it. A long-legged spider danced an inch from my upturned nose. I gasped.
A gasp, as anyone with any sense knows, is ‘to catch the breath convulsively, as in shock.’ A gasp is a sudden intake of air. One absolutely, positively cannot gasp while exhaling. (Go ahead, try it.)
Unfortunately, when I gasped, I sucked in so much air that the spider was sucked in right along with it.
That’s right—I suddenly found myself with a mouthful of live arachnid—not that a dead arachnid would have been any more desirable, but it probably would have squirmed a whole lot less. I simultaneously flung my novel across the room, shrieked hysterically and bolted from the bed, spewing spider parts all over the bedspread in my wake.
In less than .005 seconds I was in the adjoining bathroom. In the space of a heartbeat I had to decide if the best procedure was to grab for: 1) my water glass (and swallow it?); 2) my toothbrush (and get spider legs entwined in the bristles?); or 3) the spray can of Raid (Get a grip, lady!).
I opted for ‘none of the above’ and started squishing and spitting mouthwash for what must have been the better part of an hour. Then I brushed my teeth. Twice. With lots and lots of tartar control industrial strength toothpaste. That accomplished, I rinsed my mouth out one more time, threw the toothbrush away and headed for the liquor cabinet. (I only keep liquor in the house in case of snakebite, but I figured this was close enough.)
Alcohol, I reasoned, would kill any remnants of germs or crawly things still lingering. I squished and spit several more times.
Shakily, I got back into bed. I needed a figurative hug; someone with a sympathetic ear to tell my troubles to. Heedless of the hour, I dialed my friend Anna Marie.
Anna Marie heard only a very small part of my terrifying tale before I had to interrupt myself. “Stop laughing!” I reprimanded her. “This isn’t funny!”
“Maybe not now,” she replied, “but it will be by the time you finish writing a column about it.”
Of course. How could I have been so nearsighted?