Trauma Tales

Stories where something yucky happens or something gross is involved.

The Plague of Unpleasant Wildlife Part III

Cartoon Car 3
Lousy stick figure cartoon by Erin. This is why my college art degree is best left unmentioned.


On a bright Sunday morning, my fifteen year old son with his freshly minted learner’s permit sits behind the steering wheel of the car, leaving the passenger seat to me.

Right. We’re going to church. I can start praying early.

Except I don’t get the chance.

Johnny doesn’t drive ten feet down the street before something black and hairy skitters past my right arm.

I gape.

Big. Hideous. Spider.

Heart. Palpitations.

I yank my arm away, and miraculously, I don’t scream, even if the spider is big enough to swallow Nebraska. “Johnny, you need to stop the car right now.”

“What? Why?” But he stops because he’s actually a very good driver.

My brain has now used up its capacity for rational thought, so I point stupidly to the spider. “Uh…yu…spi…der…”

It’s lodged in the crook of the handle, and I can’t open the door without getting way too close to the hairy nightmare of a beast. Think Aragog (you Harry Potter fans will understand).

Johnny gives me and Aragog a lazy glance. “Yeah. So?”

If you want sympathy, have daughters.

The spider twitches.

I jerk away. Or try, but my seat belt thinks we’re in a wreck, so it locks me in place.

New plan: Swipe Aragog with my purse (goodbye faithful purse) and knock big ugly spider to floor where I can stomp its guts out.


Make that: knock big ugly spider to floor, sweep out to street, and let some car squash its guts out.

My purse gets a silver star for valor, but Aragog hits the floorboard running, so I throw caution to the wind and stomp away.




Dang that speedy spider.

My last stab wounds it, I think, but it scoots under my seat.


Johnny gives me a “Can we go now?” look.

Of course we can’t go. I need to fumigate the car.

But we’re running late for Sunday school, it’s somebody’s birthday, and I’m bringing the cake, which is sitting on the floorboard behind my seat.

Does Aragog like cake?

Johnny puts the car in gear. “I’m driving now.”

I wrench my head up and down. “The spider is more scared of me than I am of it, right?”

Johnny doesn’t answer because he couldn’t care less. He’s not the one with Aragog under his chair.

I repeat my mantra to myself, and by the time we make it out of our subdivision, my heart has almost quit palpitating.

Johnny glances my way. “Why did you have to get so freaked out?”

An actual shudder runs through my body. “You would’ve—” I see movement and look down.

Aragog is in my lap.


Arm waving. Shrieking. Convulsions. The whole nine yards.

Johnny simply drives on.

Mid-conniption, I somehow manage to brush Aragog off my lap, and I stomp for all I’m worth.

The hairy beast squirts under my seat again.

I squeal and clutch my legs to my chest.

Johnny gives me a withering look.

“It was on me!” I curl into tight, quivering ball. Why, why, why would that spider crawl up my thigh?

I scan the floor, the door, the dash, and my pants for Aragog, the mentally ill spider. The sweep goes nonstop until we arrive at church and I shoot out of the car. I make Johnny dig the cake box out.

No sign of Aragog, which brings me zero comfort. Obviously the spider doesn’t care for cake, and is simply waiting for another go at me.

Uh oh. New problem. I have to drive straight from church to work, which is why our family was taking separate cars to begin with.

I wave farewell to my pretty red Camry, for I can never drive it again. Then I track down my husband, Alan, at Sunday school. “Um, I need your van keys, okay?”


“There’s a giant spider in the car, and it’s not afraid of people.”

Alan blinks at me.

“Really. It crawled up my leg.”

I can see him trying to figure out what that has to do with the van keys.

“We need to trade cars.” There’s a desperate ring in my voice.

Alan’s eyes soften with understanding. I’m totally throwing him under the spider-bus, so to speak, but he doesn’t complain. He just gives me a patient “because I love you” look and hands over his keys.

That man is my hero.


The Plague of Unpleasant Wildlife part II

Lousy stick figure cartoon by Erin. This is why my college art degree is best left unmentioned.

You always have high hopes for a normal day, until the kids come home from school and shout, “Hey, Mom, there’s a snake in the garage.”


It’s not that I’m against snakes or nature in general. I just think slithering creatures with cold beady eyes belong in the woods, plains, hills, or pretty much anywhere that isn’t co-habiting with my family. Or my cars, for that matter. Now I’ve gotta figure out how to rid my garage of a legless freeloader. Why did it pick my garage anyway? As if there’s something good in there for it?

Oh, crud. I had to go there. Now I’m worried little brown mice are running around my garage, too.

Jonathan tosses his backpack on the bench. “It’s caught on that sticky patch trap.”

I blink at the boys. “We have a sticky patch trap?” What exactly is that? And why do I know nothing of its existence?

“There’s a dead frog on it too,” Jacob says.

“And a dead cricket,” Jonathan says.

I blink again. “On the patch thingy?”

“You know,” Jacob says. “It’s that paper square with sticky stuff on it so when an animal runs across it, it gets stuck.”

Since when do we have a sticky patch? Apparently it works well, seeing as how we’ve collected a menagerie of pasted creatures. Swell. “Where exactly is this thing?”

“In the garage, by the water heater closet,” Jonathan says.

Now I’m thoroughly perplexed. I walk right by that closet everyday when I take the dog for a walk. Shoot, even if I didn’t notice a sticky patch thingy, for sure Henry would. He couldn’t possibly pass it without getting some part of his body plastered to it. Most likely his nose. “You say it’s outside the closet, not in?”

“Yes!” they both say.

All right, I’m prepared to believe there’s some sort of a trap in a corner of the garage I’ve just never noticed. The boys probably don’t even know where the water heater is, let alone it’s closet. And I’ve seen tiny snakes all of three inches long in the yard. That’s probably what we were dealing with here. After all, how much can one sticky pad hold? “Okay, so there’s a snake on the pad. How big?”

“Big,” Jacob says.

“Like two feet,” Jonathan adds.

“TWO FEET? Stuck on a piece of paper?”

“Yeah. And it’s still alive,” Jonathan says.

The news just gets better and better. Still, boys are prone to exaggerate. I step into the garage to investigate.

Um, big icky snake all curled up stuck to an eight by eight square of paper.

Twitching. Why does all the unpleasant wildlife I encounter today have to be twitching?

Make that thrashing. Apparently only half the snake is stuck. It chooses that moment to wing it’s body around—sticky pad, dead cricket, dead frog and all. I jump well out of range. Who knows if it’s trying to free itself, eat the frog, or both?

With a last flailing twist, it seems to wear itself out.

It’s still stuck. I venture closer, and it forks its tongue at me. Eeew.

Worse news—I can now see a good chunk of its neck practically melted to the sticky pad. I cannot fathom how to free him without tearing up his neck.

As if I would touch it.

But it was so helpless, and it’s skin looked horrible. An unexpected ache of sorrow forms in my chest. Poor thing. For a moment I actually consider whether I could make myself try to pull it free.

Right. I’d find my fingers stuck to a pad with a writhing snake, a dead frog, and a dead cricket.

Now what?

Punt. I pick up the phone and speed dial Alan.

He answers, and I pour out the story, ending with, “How exactly did we get a sticky pad thingy in the garage anyway?”

“Oh, yeah, I meant to get rid of that.”

“Pardon me?” How am I the only one who doesn’t know about the goo of doom?

“A couple months ago, I told the pest control guy we’d seen animal droppings under the water heater,” he said. “They didn’t have any of their regular traps, so they put a sticky pad down. Last month they came with the regular enclosed traps. I forgot to get that pad out and throw it away.”

“Well there’s a big snake stuck to it now. It’s thrashed his way under the crack of the closet door and is currently flipping its way around the garage. Poor thing. Its neck looks like it’s decomposing. What am I supposed to do?”

“I think you’re going to have to kill it.”

“Me? Not a chance.”

“But it’s the kindest thing at this point,” Alan says.

“Right. Can’t do it. I have trouble killing a spider, for Pete’s sake.”

“Then you’ll have to leave it until I get home.”

Swell. “Hurry.”

When Alan arrived, he did the sad deed. I think a shovel was involved.

I felt horrible. And there was nothing funny about it.

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The Plague of Unpleasant Wildlife part I

Lousy stick figure cartoon by Erin. This is why my college art degree is best left unmentioned.

When your son is supposed to be at the bus stop, but instead he’s crouching three houses away, looking intently at the curb, you know something disgusting has caught his eye.

“You’d better get to the bus stop,” I call.

He doesn’t move. “Eeew. It’s alive!”

Perhaps you can see why I habitually walk the dog at bus time.

Henry and I trot down the street to my son. “Sweetheart, the bus ought to be—eeew!”

My gaze is pinned to a giant creepy thing with sixty-kabillion legs. I wish I could turn away, but the critter is horridly captivating. It’s as thick as my finger and easily longer than my hand. Its body is completely black with a bright orange head. Or maybe that’s the tail. Honestly, both ends are twitching so how can I tell?

A shiver laces its way down my back. I know exactly what this looks like.

Fish bait—the ugly plastic thingies that my dad and I sometimes use. I love to fish, but touching live creepy-crawly bait has always been out of the question. The fake creepy crawlies are gross but doable because they’re too preposterous to be real.

Right. I will never fish again. At least not with fake crawly things that are apparently swell imitations of real life and will ever after make me think I’m touching this loathsome wiggler.

What I want to know is how did it come to exist? And why, if it must exist somewhere in the world, does it have to be in my neighborhood, twitching on my curb?

I whip out my cell phone to take a picture. Yes, it’s morbid but no one is going to believe this otherwise.

As a camera, the phone lacks, um, let’s call it engineering finesse. When I look through the viewfinder, the bug looks ten feet away. I’ll need to move in.

Right about then, Henry does a little dance of anticipation at the end of his leash.

What am I, nuts or something? I’m going let Henry’s big, sharp, pointy teeth get in range of a mutant centipede while I squat down and snap a close up? That’d be a photo the world could live without.

I back away, pulling Henry with me, and then turn to my son. “You’d better get along to the bus stop.”

He’s still fascinated, albeit entirely grossed out, by our disturbing, orange-headed discovery. “Do you think it’s dying?”

What am I, an expert in creepy bugs?

“I don’t know. But I think I hear the bus. I’ve seen enough horrible critters for one day.”

Yeah, that was before the snake came along…

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