Invertebrate life at the TTH

I love walking outside barefoot. The feeling of the sun-warmed dirt between my toes, the sharp pain in my heel as I unexpectedly encounter a rock, unidentified plant matter stuck to my feet with sap, I love it all. The soil is soft and silky with the rich silt that makes it such good agricultural land for the neighboring farms, and I like the look of my poorly-applied toenail polish sparkling in the sun.

“Are you walking around outside barefoot?” Josh asked me, the other day.

“Yes,” I smiled, “I feel connected to nature.”

“You’re going to get hookworm.” Josh is less sentimental about my connection to nature. Or maybe Josh just has a better understanding of how many hookworms nature has in it.

As you might expect from an old house out in the countryside, we have a lot of invertebrate life here at the Tiny Tiny House. The first and most obvious visitors seem to be the spiders, and they’re everywhere. The prolific ivy outside is festooned with webs upon webs like it’s the Manhattan of spider villages; more webs than I’ve ever seen in one place outside of Shelob’s lair in The Lord of the Rings. Spiders, not being known for their ability to distinguish chicken coops and Tiny Tiny Houses from ivy, also build their webs in the aforementioned structures. Truth be told, I actually don’t mind the spiders. I do knock down their webs because I don’t want my house to look like a Spirit Halloween Warehouse Superstore, but the spiders themselves enjoy an amicable truce with me. I don’t fear their bites, and I appreciate such insect-eating capacity as they can offer before I destroy their homes. Not every resident of the TTH feels the same way about the spiders, however.

M: There’s a spider living in the bathroom window sill.
J: Where? I’ll kill it.
M: Nooo, it’s a good spider!
J: If I see it, it’s dead.
M: But spiders eat bugs!

When Josh was away pet sitting, I had a talk with the Bathroom Spider while gently swiffering its webs away. “Look,” I said. “I’m sorry to be a homewrecker here, but you’re going to have to find somewhere else to live.” The spider hunched itself desultorily in a corner of the sill, so I continued. “I don’t mind you being here, but your webs look junky and Josh is going to murder you when he gets back from dealing with ungrateful German Shepherds.” The spider further hunched itself into a glum spidery ball, and I shook the swiffer at it. “He gets back on Tuesday,” I scolded. “Don’t say that I didn’t warn you!”

I haven’t actually seen the Bathroom Spider since we had that conversation, so I like to think that it took our chat to heart and found somewhere else to set up its fly-welcoming parlor. Either that, or Josh squished it when I wasn’t looking.

Along with (and perhaps corresponding to) the spiders, there are flies. This past weekend the TTH hosted its very first ever Festivity, which was a combination barbecue/screen door installation day in celebration of my sister’s birthday. Although the screen door is now finally in place, thanks to my dad’s help and Josh’s unparalleled ability to run back and forth between the kitchen and the power tools, it was open for long enough to let flies in. For reasons no one understands, it’s a scientific fact that flies can go into open doors but not out of them, and so there’s been several of the obnoxious little beasts buzzing around our shoebox-sized home since Sunday. Because house flies are the worst possible mix of stupid and evil, they keep landing on us while we sleep, and they interrupted an otherwise pleasant, lazy Labor Day morning.

“Duck,” said Josh, as we continue to use autocorrect style curse words on the TTH blog, “It just ducking landed on my arm.”
“I know,” I agreed sleepily, “The little shirts are buzzing me too.”
The whiny drone of the fly buzzed… buzzed… and then stopped, with that ominous cessation of noise that indicates the vermin has landed. Josh exploded in a wild flailing of bedsheets and unmitigated fury. “IT LANDED ON MY LIP,” he roared, “That mother ducker probably laid nasty fly eggs on my lip just now. Duck this. I’m up. I’M UP AND I’M HUNTING.”

Thus, pushed past all reasonable limits of human patience and decency, Josh went to war against the flies. What he lacked in appropriate tools such as a fly swatter, he made up with improvised equipment (dish towel) and unreliable allies (Jet and Indy). He stalked the 500 square feet of the TTH with murder in his eyes and towel at the ready, snapping merciless terrycloth destruction at any flying insects foolish enough to come within towel-range of his wrath. Jet helped out by startling the flies back into flight right after they’d landed, and then running from the impact of the towel in terrified confusion. Indy was more philosophical in his approach.

SNAP! went the towel, and the stricken fly tumbled to the floor, where it lay squirming amidst the bits of plumbago which Jet tracks into the house every five seconds. The fly lay near Indy’s head, and he peered at it thoughtfully.

“YEAH,” Josh cheered, flushed with victory, “Get it, Indy! Finish him!”
Indy continued to regard the fly. He sniffed it a little.
“Get it! Eat it!” Josh encouraged.
Indy contemplated the fleeting nature of life, for even this, the smallest of creatures.
“It’s right here,” Josh pointed out, as though perhaps Indy might need some help locating the downed prey.
Indy does not send to know for whom the bell tolls. Indy knows it tolls for thee.

Josh is not without other resources. “JET!”
Jet bounced over, ears at 1.5 pricked-ear attention, which is about the best he can do.
“Get it, Jet!” Josh pointed at the fly again. He could have killed it himself at this point, but it’s the principle of the thing.
Jet spent a moment running a risk-benefit analysis concerning how likely Indy was to bite his face off for stealing this toy, and came to the conclusion that the dual pleasure of pleasing humans and eating flies was worth possible corgi-based assault and dismemberment. He snatched it up, and the fly was gone.
I haven’t seen Josh this happy since the day he discovered they sell pints of McConnell’s ice cream at the local Vons. “YEEEAHHH!” he cheered, and Jet wagged his tail furiously in delighted confusion.

So now we just have to kill the other six flies that got in, and we’ll be all set. At some point we should probably acquire a real flyswatter and some Death to Bugs spray, not that the dogs aren’t doing a stellar job of helping Josh.

Or, you know… we could always just give up and leave it for the spiders to handle.


* For those of you wondering what Indy’s bell tolling is all about, it’s a reference to Meditation 17, which is a piece of writing by John Donne in contemplation of death. Same piece that gives us “No man is an island,” actually.



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