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the Deathtrap's Pet
by joseph    July 29, 2002


Some of you may remember my car Deathtrap, whose 100,000 mile mark I celebrated with a tribute in these (virtual) pages--web-boy, please put a link to that article right...wait for it...here. Since that time, I must say that -- unlike most of my promises -- I have in fact devoted time, money and energy to improving the Deathtrap's lot in life. Several hundred dollars of engine work and several hours of cleaning time later, the Deathtrap is now reveling in its life as a hip, happening summer vehicle, hurtling down the highways topless as a homecoming queen on prom night.

You require two bits of background information before I go any further--the first is that, if there's no (or even little) chance of rain, despite living in the Pacific Northwest, I just leave the damn top down all night; when I first purchased the car from Soul of Schpiell Dave he showed me how to remove and replace the top within a matter of about 60 seconds, a fact that, combined with my common inability -- especially at that time, for reasons we shan't pursue -- to not remember a goddamn thing, left me freezing my ass off that night in a Big K-Mart parking lot. I have since gotten adept at taking the thing off and putting it back on, but it's enough of a hassle to make me avoid it if at all possible. There is a second bit of information needed, which you may find helpful if you live outside of the Northwest -- up here, we sure do got some goddamn spiders -- I've spent time on the East Coast, the prairie, Texas, Alaska and many of the Rocky Mountain states, but up here it certainly does seem like the spider population is more abundant -- or at least more visible -- than other places I've been. Hunting spiders and nesting spiders -- if you live up here, I'm sure you've got them by now; you're sweeping your ceiling corners, your basement is like a scene from Arachnophobia, and you find yourself walking through webs even if you're just strolling through a parking lot (word to the wise: when hiking early on a summer morning, let someone else in your party go first).

You see where this is going, don't you? About a week ago, I was in downtown Seattle with a friend of mine, and we returned to my topless car to find that a spider had, in the two hours we were gone, built itself a home in the backseat. Now, I have to say, this was one smart city spider -- the Tracker, with its open rear and wind-protected front, is like a soccer net frame, a veritable sure-fire plan to catch the biggest, baddest, tastiest insects around. I imagine it was already composing letters to its family back home, telling them it had hit the big time, that it would be sending home more gnats than ever, and mom wouldn't have to eat dad after all. But it was not to be, of course -- my friend deftly disposed of him, but in the considerate way of spider-lovers, by simply destroying his home in that gentle caring way that says "Not in my backyard, friend" -- I've had luck with this technique with pesky neighbors for years.

Thinking that was the end of it, I took the Deathtrap home that night, brushed its lustrous coat and gave it an extra helping of oats, and went to bed. When I went to it the next morning, though, there it was again -- that same pinky-nail-sized red and orange go-getter had been spinning through the night recreating his stately pleasure web, and once again I razed it out of what I thought to be consideration -- I mean, once I hit highway speeds that web was getting sucked right out the back, and have you ever seen Seattle drivers? The little guy wouldn't stand a chance.

The next morning he was there again, and again after that. On Saturday he rebuilt between my morning and afternoon outings. I did try to remove him from the vehicle, but he was small, and generally once I'd attacked a corner or two of his structure he would fall to one side or onto the seat and become hard to pinpoint, and besides, I didn't want to touch it -- it was a motherfucking spider, for gods' sake. That Saturday afternoon I decided to just let him hang out since I was just going to the store, but at the top of the hill even my 25 miles per hour (which I drive religiously--my dull 'burb of Microservants has approximately 8 police officers per citizen) was too much for him (or her), and the thing was nowhere to be found when I got home. I assume the wind had transported him to better (and less mobile) digs, and I bade him well.

But the next morning, as a dog returns to its vomit, so had the spider returned to the Deathtrap. I began to think there was a symbiosis between them, that the Deathtrap had become so accustomed to being cared for (I use that term loosely) by me that it desired, as the child plays with a doll, to nurture another living thing (there is a philosophical problem here with considering the car a "living thing" but I'm running long so that will have to be a separate discussion). So I wanted to do right by the DT's little playmate, and I may have even left it there for the day, but it had decided that somehow building at a different angle on the property would solve its little "house getting torn down every morning" problem -- so now it was straddled between the emergency brake, the passenger door and the steering wheel. I grabbed a strong corner and pulled, and the whole works came asunder -- I pulled the web (spider in tow) out to the driveway and deposited him safely, soundly, and with a bold and beautiful future, in my roommate's car -- it may not trap as many bugs in there, but at least now he'll have A/C.

Does the Deathtrap miss his little buddy? Did they stay up all night talking about their hopes, dreams, ambitions? I don't know. But I gave DT the standard talking-to about loss being a part of life, of growth, utilizing a number of quotes from A.E. Houseman and others. I think he understood. We don't talk as much when we drive now, but I know that will change, and I feel confident that all of us -- man, car and spider -- have a glorious future awaiting us.

* * * * *

Afterword
After not having seen my car's little friend for about five or six days, I chanced upon him while walking into the house. We have a large wooden round planter right in front of the front steps, and a couple of strange spindly plants grow out of it (don't ask me what they are; I have no idea). A strong stalk juts upward at a 45-degree angle, and I see that the little guy had built a web off the strong stalk and the iron railing of the front steps, with nice bracing on the planter itself. He must be doing well for himself, what with the summer evening bugs rallying around the porch light. And the Deathtrap stands only a few feet away. Perhaps he needed to move on from the DT's interior, needed to strike out on his own, like a child leaving home for the first time to go to school or war or work. Does he remember those tumultuous days with the Deathtrap? Is he happier now? These are the things that haunt me when I pass him--I wish he spoke my language or I his. But I am content with nodding to him as I enter the house, and I believe that he nods back. In the winter, the spiders move inside, and killing them becomes as routine as breathing. I give him tips and advice on locations in the house he may find appealing -- there's a little enclosed closet -- type space in the basement next to the water heater that would be ideal -- he could meet other attractive spiders, really live the good life, the life that's just there waiting for him, if he wants it.


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