Danger House

There's something we don't tell overnight guests at our house: we have lots of spiders.

Spiders probably don't deserve their bad reputation. They're like Mennonites: They keep to themselves, and they don't play loud music or leave beer cans scattered about. Our coexistence would be a peaceful one except for one thing: we can't tell the friendly, fun-at-parties, give-you-the-shirt-off-their-back type of spider from the bitter, hostile, in-need-of-an-anger-management-class brown recluse spider. We deal with this lack of expertise by assuming that every spider is the venomous brown recluse and immediately stomping it into oblivion. Yes, I know; this is not fair to the innocent vegan spider that is actively working for interspecies peace. I'm sorry, but I'm just not willing to do the research.

Isn't it strange that one of the most dangerous creatures in this country can be inside your house? Home is supposed to be a safe place, isn't it? You don't expect things to get dangerous until you smear yourself with fish blood and go swimming in the Pacific.

But the truth is that staying home is only slightly safer than parachuting into a herd of wildebeests. Did you know that 30,000 Americans each year are injured by their refrigerators? I'm not sure how this happens. Perhaps putting one too many souvenir magnets on the door causes the appliance to tip over on the unsuspecting victim. And here's another surprise: In the course of a year, 100,000 people who visit a hospital emergency room are injured by their carpeting. When we start to live in fear of our Persian rugs, the terrorists have won.

Sad sofa

Actually, I understand a little of that fear. At the risk of becoming too emotional, I will tell you about the time we were attacked in our very own home by a sofa.

We found the sofa in the returns section of a store that was going out of business. We figured it had experienced enough rejection. So we adopted it into our home and treated it like family. Actually, we didn't treat it exactly like family, because then we would have been yelling at it to put its dishes in the sink after supper.

At first everything was normal. The sofa sat in our living room looking as brown and as harmless as a cow-a cow with very short metal legs.

The first thing my wife noticed was that her nose was running. It was cold season. She thought nothing of it. Our son also came down with a cold. Still, we didn't feel it was necessary to alert the CDC. Then I noticed that my eyes were burning-but only when I was at home. Not when I was at work. We looked suspiciously at the sofa. Now it seemed less like a cow and more like an upholstered pile of toxic waste. We moved it to the garage, and our symptoms cleared up immediately.

Yes, you never think that furniture violence will happen to you. But then one day you're carrying your heirloom crystal glasses across the room, and suddenly your carpet reaches up and trips you. It makes you wonder if you can ever be totally out of harm's way.

We avoid running with scissors, we make sure the potato salad isn't out in the sun too long, and we don't share needles with heroin addicts. And still we get hurt. We pray for safety in our travels. Still, we have accidents.

Yes, God does exercise His protective power from time to time. But He has not opted to remove all risk from our lives. Why? I don't know. Perhaps we still have risk because it is one litmus test of authentic love. It proves that you love surfing when you risk the sharks. It shows love when the grandparents get on Barely Legal Airlines to visit the new baby. It provides solid evidence of love when the missionaries go to Malariawana to share Jesus.

I guess it also proves love when friends and family come to visit and-as they lay awake at night in the guest room-try hard not to think about the spiders.

Kim Peckham is an advertising director from Sharpsburg, Maryland. He is concerned that children raised on the current reality TV shows will think that spiders are not pests, but one of the major food groups.

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