I can’t say I hate visiting my grandma, that’s not it at all. I love my grandma, but there’s just something that creeps me out about being in the middle of nowhere. How could you live in a town with no hospital, but three churches? My Grandma lives in a little town called Harper, Texas, and it’s literally in the middle of nowhere out in the hill country.
Harper has one post office, one library, one gas station mini mart combo, and one traffic signal (which is really just a flashing red light that serves as a stop sign.) It’s a nice little town to visit if you’re into getting away from civilization, and I mean far far away. Like I said, nice place to visit, not a nice place to live when you’re dying. The nearest hospital is at least an hour away.
Unfortunately, that was the case with my grandma, so my mom and I flew up from La to make her final moments as comfortable as possible. Her mind and her health were both failing her it seemed. The doctor said her kidneys were shutting down, but she refused dialysis. She said she wanted to die at home in peace instead of in a hospital.
My mom’s the one that’s really taking care of her; I came more for emotional support for my mom while she takes care of hers. When we got here on Wednesday we were kind of shocked to see the place in disarray. How long had she been living like this? Garbage was everywhere, the sink was overflowing with dishes, clothes scattered about etc.
We helped her get in her recliner as we got to work cleaning the house as best we could. While we were cleaning, she started talking about some pretty disturbing things. The conversation started off normal enough, telling us all about the church she attended and everything, and then it got. . . darker. She said there’s a demon that comes in her house at night. I shot my mom a concerned look, but she shook her head. She explained later that it was her pain medication talking and that it was just mixing with her religious beliefs. It made me feel a little better but yet… I don’t know, just something about being in the middle of nowhere I guess…
Thursday-- Day Two
So my mom and I are mostly settled in the spare bedroom now. We spent most of the day cleaning up the house some more. My grandma explained she used to have someone come in and clean for her every couple of days, but she had to let him go. Trying to start a conversation, I asked her what happened.
“I caught him stealing.” She replied. Ah, I thought. That made sense. Hard to trust someone in your house when you’ve caught them stealing. I would’ve fired them too. She went on to explain it caused a riff in her relationship with the old lady that lived next door. Apparently it was her special needs adult son who had trouble finding work. Her neighbor asked her to give him another chance, but my grandma said no.
One of the things I really hate about Texas, besides the ungodly temperature and humidity, is bugs. More precisely, spiders. I really hate spiders! I freak out when the little harmless garden ones get into our apartment back in La. You could imagine my reaction when I caught sight of the ones who called my grandma’s house home.
My first run-in with the other house inhabitants happened while I was doing a load of laundry. While I was carrying an arm full of clothes to the washing machine, I felt something crawling on my arm. I looked and there was this humongous brown spider on me! I immediately screamed and dropped the clothes on the floor.
My mom rushed in to see what the matter was and caught me jumping in place and franticly waving my arms over myself to get it off. I had her look me over at least fifty times to make sure it was gone.
When I finally calmed down and picked the clothes off the floor, something strange fell out of the pile—a large black straw. I shrugged and threw it away on my way back to grab more clothes.
Friday-- Day Three
My mom and I were in the kitchen making breakfast together and talking. She was pretty upset, it sounds like her mom isn’t going to make it much longer. Her delusions are getting stranger, and she’s burning up. I could tell it was pretty hard on my mom, so I told her to take a seat and let me finish making breakfast. When I grabbed a stack of plates out of the cupboard, guess what was sitting on top of the plates waiting to greet me and finish what we started?
My heart pounded in my chest at the side of the ugly brown thing, legs splayed out across the plate like he owned it. I dropped the plates and they smashed into several pieces. I let out a startled yell as the spider dashed towards the kitchen table, only to be met with the heel of my moms shoe. I expected my mom to be angry at me—she always thought I was a drama queen when it came to my fear of spiders. Instead she looked at me dead serious and said, “Don’t let one of those things bite you.” What did she think I was going to do? Catch one and let it walk all over me?
We searched through the cupboards for its family; I was greatly displeased to find its brothers and sisters hiding amongst the pots and pans, along with a few more straws. My mom joked and said, “We should leave the squished bodies in the kitchen as a warning to the others.” I was too freaked out to laugh. I felt like I had things crawling all over me, and I could swear I saw things moving out of the corner of my eyes.
I was a nervous wreck the rest of the day, jumping as every little thing that came in contact with my skin. Even after a shower it did little to calm my growing anxiety about the place. It didn’t help that there was another brown spider hanging out in the corner of the bathroom ceiling. It wasn’t moving, but I continued to glare at it as a way of saying it wasn’t welcome. When I toweled myself off in the bathroom, I noticed a black straw sitting in the trashcan, and another in one of the drawers. My grandma must have really loved boba’s, I thought. My mom even said she had found one in her moms’ underwear drawer. It was kind of weird, I mean, yeah my grandma’s kind of messy, but not “put my trash with my underwear” messy. We chalked it up to her failing mental health. Now if I could just get her to tell me where that boba shop is cause I could really go for one right now.
My grandma’s neighbor came over to meet us and ask how she was doing. It was an older lady who brought us some home made cornbread. I was ecstatic, as the cupboards here contained nothing to eat but weird health food and sugar free desserts.
She had her adult special needs son with her. He must have been in his thirties. He was thin, with greasy black hair and yellowing teeth. Something about him just seemed… off, and I don’t mean because he was middle spectrum autistic. He kept staring at me, more precisely, my chest. I chalked it up to him not knowing any better, but it still really creeped me out.
Janice, the nice old lady with the cornbread, asked how California was. While I was talking about life in La, her son kept interrupting me about the most bizarre off topic things like the fact that his pet tarantula was named ‘fang’ or that after mating a female black widow eats the male. Janice explained while he was in the bathroom that he had a one-track mind. At first I thought, yeah my boobs, but her answer caught me off guard. His passion was arachnids. I shuddered.
My mom told them about the spider problem we’d been having, and he asked if they had a violin shape on their back. I didn’t look at them long enough to confirm, but apparently my mom did, and she already knew what they were. I guess she was trying not to freak me out by not telling me the house was infested with brown recluse spiders, but he wasted no time in disclosing the fact. He also added how poisonous they were. I lost my shit.
This was really the last straw for me! My latest brown recluse sighting had me scrambling out of the bathroom with my pants still around my knees. I had been sitting on the toilet minding my own business when I turned to find one of the brown little bastards sitting on top of the roll of toilet paper. Attacking when I was most vulnerable? Now it was personal! I told my mother this meant war, and she agreed. We called the exterminator and he promised to be there the next day.
We found nine spiders that day. Neither of us slept. We could hear my grandmother screaming that the demon was back last night, but whenever we checked on her, no one and nothing was there.
I’ve been taking a lot of showers since I got here, it helps get rid of the crawling sensation on my skin. I found another straw in the bathtub, but absentmindedly tossed it in the trash with the others. It was like my grandma wasn’t even trying to throw her trash away anymore.
When the exterminator got here we walked him around the outside of the property as he looked for signs of spider habitation. He said he couldn’t find any. We took him inside and he saw them all hanging in the corners of the building. He said it was weird they were inside, but not outside.
He shined a flashlight in one of the air vents and frowned as he looked in. He said he saw something strange and grabbed a chair to stand on. When he opened up the air vent, a black straw fell out. He picked it up and examined it. His face furrowed in confusion as he dumped the contents out. Three little spiders fell out of the straw before he flattened them with his boot. My mom and I stared at each other without a word. All the straws he had been finding around the house. Did they all contain spiders? How many had we found? Ten? Twenty?
My grandma’s voice snapped us from our thoughts. “Get away from the window, demon!” We looked up to see our neighbors’ son looking at us through the window. He smiled and waved. In his right hand was an icee from the mini mart… and in that icee was a black straw.