Tuesday, 30 August 2011
An illegal immigrant from Sri Lanka hid in my baggage
And I only spotted him when I got home from work today.
It was 9.30pm. As I closed the front door behind me, I called out to mum who didn't respond. She was clearly sleeping upstairs. Let the poor darling rest, I thought. She must be jet-lagged from Sri Lanka.
I switched the hallway light on and there he was, standing by my hand luggage, the bag lying unzipped by the stairs. He was a giant. So foreign he didn't even recognise the need to be afraid; he didn't run and hide. He just stood there sizing me up with his eight eyes, waiting to charge at me with his eight legs. He must have been four inches across.
"MUM! WAKE UP!.... MUM! Can you get down here?!"
Eventually mum appeared on the landing, wiping the sleep from her eyes and wrestling her glasses onto her face. "What's the matter?"
"There is a MASSIVE spider down here. It's the biggest one I've ever seen"
"Don't be ridiculous," she muttered, by now the only sensible woman of the house, descending the stairs in her robe and bare feet. "How big can a spider be?"
Mum is scared of absolutely no bugs found in the UK. She grew up with scorpions and cobras, so British creepy crawlies stand no chance of intimidating her. As a youngster, this had been one of the awesomest things about my mother. I'd relied on her superpower infinitely during my scaredy-cat childhood (and, frankly, well into my adult life).
As mum got down to the stairs she stopped and looked at the spider. I sensed a slight fear in her hesitation. "Wow, that is big."
When she asked where the ridiculous long-armed spider-catching gadgety thing was, I knew we were in trouble. Because I also knew that gadget was broken and, with my mother's own mother in her sick bed this week, there was no way my buddhist mum was going to kill ANY living thing.
Odd images flashed through my mind. Could we make it work? Could the three of us live together in harmony, the spider doing odd jobs around the house? Maybe we could let the spider have my sister's room? He could weave us some new crochet table cloths!
No. I cursed my ridiculous hippy ideas. Without the gadgety spider catchy, he would have to be killed. Snuffed out by a shoe thrown from a safe distance.
Mum had other plans. With astonishing dexterity for a woman of her age, she threw an upturned tupperware container over the spider. Then she slid a piece of cardboard below the tupperware and carried the entire "trap" out of the house.
"It doesn't matter where you live now" she said gently as she released the spider into the flower bed, "just don't come back in our house."
Her natural affection for all living things at that moment made me ashamed for even considering killing that thing. I'd been acting out of a totally irrational fear. Could anything that passive and small really have hurt an intelligent human adult?
True, we were not exactly saving the spider's life. Released into the British summer, our refugee would surely freeze to death in a few days anyway. Perhaps for the best, if it were poisonous.
But so what? Mum had done what she could to prolong a life.
Her conscience is clear.