One summer afternoon as I was enjoying some quiet time with a book after work on my serene front porch in Springfield, a blood-curdling scream pierced my solitude. Through the screen door behind me, I heard a door slam upstairs, and then a thunderous noise roared down the stairs inside of the house as the screaming grew louder and louder and more and more shrill. Just as I was about to put down my book and go see what was happening inside, Mack flew out of the front door, jumped across the front porch, and raced into the yard. “There is an army of beetles in my bathroom!” she shrieked. “They tried to kill me!” Mack stood in the middle of the yard, dancing and whining, shuddering with revulsion, a look of pure disgust and horror across her little freckled face. When I started laughing at the child, she told me to shut up and go do something about it. Mack stayed in the yard as I went upstairs to repel the invading army. When I opened the bathroom door that Mack had slammed during her noisy and narrow escape, I found a dozen or so leaf beetles—the little orange bugs with black spots—hanging out around the nautical window high in the corner of Mack’s bathroom. So, basically, a handful of cute little lady bugs had defeated the brawny, ten-year-old Mack, sending her screaming in defeat out into our front yard.
Once when Mack and I were playing a quick round of nine holes at Pasfield Golf Course down the street from our house, Mack propped up her golf bag on the tee box of the third hole. She reached into her bag to withdraw her driver, as I was putting down my own clubs to watch her tee shot. After Mack withdrew the club, she let out a high-pitched squawk, threw down the club in a panic, and took off running down the open fairway. “A spider, a spider,” she yelled. “Oh my god, there’s a spider in my bag!” She kept tearing down the fairway as she yelled and while I peered into the golf bag, which miraculously had stayed upright. There dangling among the shafts of the clubs, I saw the remains of a small spider web. I started laughing, but Mack kept running! If there had been a spider present at the time Mack had reached into the bag for her club, it had disappeared during the ruckus. My high-school senior had abandoned her clubs and went screaming down the fairway of a busy golf course because there may or may not have been an eensy-meensy spider in her golf bag. And, what’s more, Mack adamantly refused to continue playing until after we had emptied out the entire contents of the golf bag and made damn sure that the offending spider was long gone.
Over the years, most of Mack’s friends and family members witnessed first-hand Mack’s response to bugs. But for those of you who never had the pleasure of a Mack-meets-bug episode, let me be direct and perfectly clear. Mack hated all creepy crawlies, great and small. Mack was terrified of every spider and every bug that ever lived. And although Mack adored all mammals and liked very much all reptiles, she abhorred and abominated insects and arachnids; and if one dared to introduce itself, you could rest assured that Mack would make a spectacle of herself getting as far away as possible.
To further illustrate the depth of Mack’s fear and loathing of spiders and bugs, I offer the following tidbits…
Mack may have been one of the best tacklers on her youth football team, but she ran away from adorable and beloved fireflies.
Mack never cried when she broke her arm, but she screamed like a baby every time she saw a bug, however small it was and no matter how close it was to her body.
Mack was one of the most self-sufficient teenagers I have ever known, but whenever there was an ant in the kitchen or a spider in her bathroom, she called her dad to come home from work to kill it.
For her entire life, Mack refused to sit in the grass, because a grasshopper might join her.
Mack once toughed out two days of high school basketball practice when she was suffering from a horrible sinus infection, but she once refused to get into my car when we discovered there was a chirpy cricket hiding inside.
Some of the best cardio I ever saw Mack do was in response to seeing an insect. Mack was no track star, but if she was fleeing from a bug, she probably could have been a state-qualifying sprinter.
Mostly, my Macko was a quiet person who rarely ever raised her voice. But, I kid you not, Mack’s scream at the sight of a bug could shatter eardrums and crystal wine glasses!
This face does no real justice to the faces Mack made when she was horrified by a spider, but it reveals something of the disgust she always felt when a creepy-crawler had the nerve to make her acquaintance…
And this just in…
After I posted this blog, Sierra, one of Mack’s dear and life-long friends, provided the following picture of Mack fleeing a spider. Apparently, during a weekend friend trip to Ali’s cabin, a spider made its appearance in Jackie’s car and Mack jumped into the trunk to get away!