Members of the Glulamton Naturalists’ Club noted, after
years of conducting Christmas bird counts, that a number of warmer-climate
birds that usually flew south in the fall were now over-wintering in the
At first they were delighted, then puzzled, and, finally,
concerned. Were these birds just taking a chance that long -40 spells would not
return? Or did they instinctively know something? Was that something good,
One advantage of living in the sub-boreal
North, with its bears on hiking trails and highway-crossing moose,
had been not having to deal with poisonous spiders too. When
some black widow spiders, usually associated with hotter dry climates,
appeared in Glulamton homes in the mid-1990s, the response was that they’d
likely traveled in grapes imported from California.
But Joe was troubled when he read in one nature
magazine that the poisonous spiders had venom much more powerful than necessary
to kill or subdue a large insect or small animal.
During Table Topics one night, Joe assured members
of the Glulamton Toastmasters that no black widows lived in nature north of
Wiccan Lake on Highway 97. It was too cold there in winter, and, in any case,
the more moist sub-boreal forest wouldn’t accommodate them.
we’re safe here north of the Spider Line?” club member Reinhold
Kohlke asked. Joe persuaded him that was the case.
In a couple of years, though, Joe was proved wrong. These
arachnids advanced north of Wiccan Lake, past Coronel, to
establish themselves north of Glulamton.
One warm summer evening Joe noticed the
tiny black forelegs of some creature spinning a web under the baseboard
heating unit near the door to his balcony. It soon made a brief
appearance, and there was no mistaking it for anything but a black
widow, given the characteristic red hourglass symbol.
Joe ran to find his
old baseball bat to smash the intruder. But, smart and quick,
it retreated into the metal inner workings of the baseboard heating unit.
Next, Joe sprayed a cleaning compound on the area of the unit where
he’d seen the spider. He had no confidence, however, that the ammonia-based
spray had any effect in evicting his unwelcome guest.
He felt uneasy trying to sleep that night
knowing the spider was in his suite somewhere, probably unharmed. He
remembered from childhood his great aunt telling him she’d gotten up
one morning to find a black widow at the foot of her bed.
I wish I hadn’t watched Arachnophobia in
the 1990s, he thought. Why does ugly malice always win?
Paul Strickland, email@example.com, of
Prince George, BC,
Canada, wrote BP #77’s “Spider Line” (+ BP #73’s “Cold Surprise”; BP #71’s
“Lust” and “Washed Away”; BP #70’s “Stuck in the Past”; BP #69’s “Ghostly
Good-Bye”; BP #68’s “Rocking-Chair Ride”; BP #65’s “The Latter-Day Knight”; and
was featured in BP #56 with “Boxes” and the reprint of “No Free Lunch”). He is
a senior freelance writer in Prince George, BC, who was a newspaper
reporter for 32 years, 28 of them for Canadian dailies. Born in Los Angeles,
Strickland lived in Reno, Nevada for 20 years before moving permanently to
Canada in 1981 in connection with his journalistic career. He turned to
freelance writing and creative work in the spring of ‘09, and has since
published chapbooks of poetry, essays, stories, and columns.