Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Midnight. My skin feels as waxy as the leaves on this umbrella plant in the humid night air.
I reach out, ring the bell and we wait.
Only Mr Rendell has lights on; the rest of the houses in the street are shut up, utterly still.
Frank unclips his radio to call Control for advice when Mr Rendell shuffles slowly into view behind the striped glass panels of the door. ‘Ambulance,’ I say. The rattle of a bolt. It opens.
He stands there a moment, staring out at us. He moves an inch, winces and crumples slightly on his right side.
‘How can we help?’
He regards us with a baleful expression.
‘You’d better come in.’
He releases the door, turns and pads solemnly into a bright and neatly ordered kitchen.
Frank helps him move a chair so he can sit.
‘I understand you’ve had a fall,’ I say, taking a seat opposite. ‘What’s happened?’
‘I have this fear,’ he says, his voice as thin and gray as a night sweat. ‘Well. A little more than that. A phobia, actually.’
He pauses, his eyes glisten and for a moment I think he might cry.
‘Okay,’ I say, as softly as I can. ‘What kind of phobia?’
His jaw drops, like someone gagging on an unpleasant taste. Finally he is able to say: ‘I can’t bring myself to use the word. So I hope you understand me when I say Arachnids.’
He hesitates again, and the horror of the subject percolates through him, scalp to slippers. Finally he gathers himself sufficiently again to tell us the rest of the story.
‘I had got myself ready for bed and was just settling down to read my book when I noticed a dark shape sitting on the wall by the chest of drawers. A disgusting, massive thing. Well. Normally my wife would take care of it for me, but she’s away visiting relatives, so it’s just me on my own. I had to force myself, even though I felt really sick and panicky.’
‘Take your time, Mr Rendell. Let me feel your pulse whilst you talk. That’s it. So. What happened next?’
‘I got out of bed - as carefully as I could - came downstairs, found some newspaper, then came back up. The - erm - visitor – had gone. I looked about, and then I saw it, further up the wall, on the ceiling. I had to climb onto the bed to reach it, and I was just about ready to stretch out and get it when it moved!
‘How awful.’
‘I’m afraid I screamed, toppled forwards and landed on a chair. I think I’ve hurt my side.’
He leans to his left and pulls his dressing gown aside to show me. A nasty looking haematoma on the lower aspect of his chest wall.
‘We need to get you to hospital to see the extent of the damage, Mr Rendell. Frank’s just going to go upstairs and have a look at how far you fell and what sort of chair it was. I’ll check you over whilst he does that, okay? But you’ll definitely need to come with us to hospital. Just to be on the safe side.’
‘If you think.’
‘For some good pain relief, if nothing else.’
‘What would my wife say?’
‘She’d just be glad you were looking after yourself.’


With Mr Rendell safely delivered over to the hospital, we tidy up the ambulance and then stop for a coffee.
‘I didn’t say anything at the time,’ says Frank, handing me a cup, ‘because I didn’t want to give him a stroke, but my god, you should’ve seen the size of that spider.’
‘Big, was it?’
‘Big? As big as my hand. Well – the palm at least.’
‘God, yeah.’
‘Did you kill it?’
‘No. I’d have needed a lump hammer. So I just left it.’
He takes a sip of coffee and stares off across the empty car park. ‘With its legs up reading the newspaper.’


Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

Timing is everything I’ve been told...

karenm said...

You are so funny and such a fantastic writer. Thank you.

Spence Kennedy said...

Hi Lynda
Frank's always had good timing - but what's even better is the way he says things - utterly deadpan. Diff. to get across, though!

Thanks Karen
Very kind of you. One of the great things about this job, though, is the stock of good material it puts your way. Often it's just a question of getting it down!

Cheers for the comments :)

InsomniacMedic said...

I actually had to force myself to keep reading this... You see, I have this fear. Phobia actually...
*skin crawls*

thanks for the laugh :)

chaz said...

An absolute beauty of a post. "...voice thin and gray as a night sweat" will stay with me for a while. And totally unexpected sign-off.

Maybe you do get good material, but plenty of other people do and totally fail to make anything like this out of it.

ally said...

I love that you made this response!

‘What would my wife say?’
‘She’d just be glad you were looking after yourself.’

it made me go "awwww"


Spence Kennedy said...

Insomniac - Well, I thought I was pretty good with spiders, but that one? No way. A friend said 'that just sounds like a big house spider', by which I suppose she means a spider as big as a house.

Chaz - Thanks! It def helps having experienced the situation, though. Then it's just a question of replaying it and finding the words that best fit. Doesn't always turn out as well as I'd hoped, of course, and I always end up missing out loads of stuff.

ally - Thanks! I think the patient was embarrassed to be calling us out - despite his obvious pain, and despite the very real emotional trauma of his encounter. But it's always a pleasure to treat people like this. We made the appropriate amount of fuss!

Cheers for your comments! :)

Anonymous said...

flippin eck if a monster like that was in my pit, i'd had a heart attack
s*d getting a newspaper, hope the poor chap will be ok

Spence Kennedy said...

I mean honestly - you could've thrown a saddle over it and rode it home...

My guess is he cracked a rib and suffered bruising, but we had to make sure.

Thx for the comment, Anon x

uphilldowndale said...

As the nights cool beasts like that will be crawling in from the fields looking for a winter home. Spud the dog loves em...

Spence Kennedy said...

Our dog Buzz really goes for them, too. He has this horribly delicate way of nipping 'em up... urgh! :/

Lesley said...

I came across a link to your blog in a City-Data forum and have thoroughly enjoyed myself reading. Can't tear myself away, actually. Absolutely brilliant writing.

My family and I are planning a move to the UK in a few years, but I might have to reconsider if these "house spiders" are a common feature!

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks Lesley!

I wouldn't worry about the spiders. They're mostly titchy, and none of them poisonous. There is a variety of house spider that you can hear coming up the stairs, but you don't see that many of them. Honest!