Of spiders and flies

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Laura and I were talking over some of the difficulties I've been having this week with my revisions of The Accidental Terrorist when she gave me the absolute perfect image for the central conflict in the book. The main character, in her view, is a fly trapped in a spiderweb, struggling to free itself with only the vaguest notion of the nature of its predicament.

(See, I'm the fly, and the LDS Church is... Yeah.)

This image is so spot-on, so apt to something I was struggling to articulate to myself, that I wish I could somehow work it into the book. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, since I don't want to be too heavy-handed about it), I'm pretty much constrained by the reality of my experiences during the six months of my life that the book covers, and those six months did not include any spiders.

No, the spider didn't become a factor in my mission until five or six months after the events of the book. I was serving in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, by then. My companion and I lived rent-free in a small house in the middle of a wheatfield owned by some local Mormons. We were a little bored in that town, and one thing my companion did to pass the time was adopt a little spider that lived in a web in the window frame of one of the empty back rooms. He would go around the house catching flies and dropping them into the web, then watch the spider kill them. This was the best-fed spider in northern Idaho. It grew so quickly that after about a month its web (which it unstrung and re-spun every day) was so strong that you could strum it like a guitar and it wouldn't break. The spider itself was as big as the first joint of my thumb.

When that companion eventually got transferred out of Bonners Ferry and a new one took his place, the two of us decided that the spider had to go. It was so big that neither one of us dared to get close enough either to relocate it or to smash it to death. Instead, we used a cigarette lighter and a can of hairspray to flambé it from a safe distance. We could hear the individual strands of the web pop in the flames. The spider itself shriveled up and crackled with an awful sound.

I have several other animal stories from that Bonners Ferry house, involving mice and bats and such, but they're even more disturbing than this one so I'm going to save them for the sequel. The most disappointing animal story, though, was that we slept in one morning and missed seeing a huge moose in our front yard. The nearest neighbors had tried to call us, but apparently the phone didn't wake us up.

Where did this post start? Oh, yeah. With my wife being awesome.

[ original post:  http://shunn.livejournal.com/528821.html ]

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This page contains a single entry by William Shunn published on March 10, 2011 8:24 PM.

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