Liz chose the larger of the two bedrooms. The draw of a spacious walk-in closet, and a window with a view of the lake if you stood on your tippy-toes, made the decision easy for a pre-teen. She decorated her walls with boy band posters and her shelves with nicknacks from her fleeting childhood.
Inside her walk-in closet was a rickety attic door. It opened into a considerable space above the first story and was packed with rafters, air conditioning ducts, insulation, and a giant discarded roof-mount antenna from the 70s. It would later become the perfect hideaway for contraband.
Early one summer evening, Liz was in her room organizing. Her favorite band played on the stereo as she straightened her dresser and reattached posters with gobs of masking tape. Ready to hang her clothes in her closet, she turned, and there it was, a tarantula on her bedroom wall.
Liz hates spiders. She always has and always will. When we lived in the city, she feared the little spiders, the jumping ones, the daddy-long-legs, and her dad squished them for her. But this was not a city spider. Liz backed away from the monster on her bedroom wall, and screamed, get it out, get it out, as the rest of us crowded into her bedroom. A tarantula, the size of my hand, clung to the wall next to a face on a boy band poster. Even though Ellen and I knew it wasn’t nice to laugh, we couldn’t help ourselves. Liz was in a tizzy, and there was a tarantula inside Cook Peak.
Because tarantulas are too big to squish, David found a paper bag and tried to capture it. Startled, the spider sprinted up the wall, and everyone jumped and screamed. When it stopped, David flicked the arachnid into the bag with a pencil, where it landed with a thump. Holding the bag at arm’s length, he walked the spider downstairs, out the front door and into the gravel driveway. It was a windy evening with gusts up to 20 mph. We gathered to watch the release, expecting the spider to scurry away, but when David opened the bag, the wind ripped it from his hand. Bag and spider shot up into the sky like a rocket and sailed over the neighbor’s house and disappeared.
Tarantulas are common at Cook Peak. After the shock of seeing your first wears off, they are no more frightening than a butterfly or a ladybug, unless you’re Liz, of course. Most of the spiders we see around the house or on the street are males looking for a lady friend. But during a summer downpour, they’re forced to move to higher ground and scurry up the stucco on our house. Some find the holes under the eaves and squeeze into the attic space, and if the attic door in Liz’s closet is left ajar, we get visitors.