IT all started here in 1992. Looking for work as a writer, I drafted three columns, including this one, and offered them to Chris Gibbons. Although this may be the most far-fetched story I have ever told, every word of it is true, plus or minus 4%. It was 1976. The house was in Shaw Park, at Spanish Point.
BERMUDA is home to dozens of different types of spiders, among them several outstanding examples of the larger species. The solitary, cockroach-eating Huntsman and the yellow and black banana Spider both grow to a wingspan of several feet.
I hate spiders.
Following an extended number-crunching session at the office, I returned late one evening to my lodgings in Spanish Point. The house was dark and deserted. The computer wizard with whom I shared the converted boat-house was working his magic off the Island.
I parked my briefcase by the front door and wandered absent-mindedly into the kitchen to investigate the contents of the fridge. Moonlight streamed in through every window, making it unnecessary to turn on the electric light.
When bachelors share accommodations, the contents of their icebox tend to be limited to cans of beer and furry, year-old foodstuffs. I was in the mood for neither. An exploration of the cupboards was indicated.
I flipped on the light switch. That simple, unthinking action was destined to turn my life upside-down.
Out of the glass bowl which housed the bulb swarmed a floodtide of baby spiders. Hundreds, if not thousands, millions of them. Spinning lifelines and spitting juice, the disgusting black horde took the quickest route to the floor - the very surface on which I was standing, utterly defenceless. Mummy Longlegs had chosen the light bowl in which to deliver her nightmare hellspawn, and the sudden heat from the bulb served as their eviction notice.
I'm not proud of what happened next.
For a brief moment, I stood gape-mouthed, staring in horror as the first of the shock troops hit the ground. Then I screamed, dashed madly to my bedroom with the balance of my mind in abeyance, swept things into a green suitcase, grabbed my briefcase, and fled out of the house.
Not once, before or since, have I been happier to drag heavy baggage down a muddy lane in pitch darkness. At the main road, I paused. As my sanity slowly reinstalled itself, I considered the options. Going back to the house - ever - was out of the question. Relatively new to Bermuda, I did not yet know anyone well enough to seek asylum at their home under these circumstances. A hotel in Hamilton seemed the most sensible immediate objective.
I'd struggled along for less than a mile when a Police cruiser passed me, going in the opposite direction. It screeched to a halt, and backed up to draw level with me. In my addled na´vety, I assumed they wanted to offer me a lift. Two burly constables jumped out. One felt my collar, as they say, while the second tore open my bags and dumped the contents onto the road for a quick, gloved rummage. Satisfied, apparently, that there were no spiders within, they stuffed themselves and me back into the squad car.
Questions ensued. Who are you, they asked, and what do you do? Why are you sweating so profusely? The usual enquiries. What sign are you? Who are the Eastern Counties Cup champions? That sort of thing. As an outwardly grown man, I couldn't very well explain that I was on the run from some itsy-bitsy spiders, so on the spur of the moment I spun (dreadful word) a tale about needing to work all night and not wanting to disturb the neighbours. The story was going over like a lead balloon. I was contemplating a spot of humiliating honesty, when the car radio crackled into life.
"Central to all units," I believe a voice said. "We've got him. You can stop looking."
"Right then, thank you very much, Sir," the driver said to me, "that will be all." I clambered out to reassemble my sorry-looking belongings, and the car roared off in an easterly direction.
I made it without further interruption to the Rosedon Hotel on Pitts Bay Road. There being no flight arrivals that late at night, the front desk was unmanned, much as I had been a little earlier when the arachnid tsunami swung out of the light fixture. There was nothing for it but to help myself to a room key, and then help myself to a room.
By the next morning, I had invented a more creditable tale for the hotel management. My wife, I said, had turfed me out in the middle of the night, and I had nowhere else to turn. The desk clerk was so familiar with that circumstance that it set me to wondering how many spurned husbands roam the streets of Hamilton late at night in search of somewhere to rest their heads.
Waiting for a taxi, I bought a copy of The Royal Gazette. The lead story revealed that an Island-wide manhunt the night before had resulted in the recapture of a notorious prisoner who had escaped earlier in the day from Casemates. The man the Police had been looking for was carrying a green hold-all when he was arrested, which shone a narrow beacon of common sense over my unexplained encounter on Cox's Hill. Less intelligibly, the fellow they nabbed was six foot three inches tall, 300 pounds and black. I've never been any of those.
Like I said, I hate spiders.
So how can you get your hands on a copy of this hilarious book? The cost of the book, signed or inscribed specifically by the author is $19.95, postage included from Bermuda to anywhere in the world. Just send Roger an email and he will take care of you.
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