Bug Girl

For the entirety of elementary school, I was the weird bug girl. whenever the errant beetle, earwig, or spider wandered into the room, it became my time to shine. I would delicately carry out each six- or eight-legged creature amid the horrified gasps and screams of me classmates. for years, I would wear a scummy purple t-shirt illustrated with pictures of giant insects, and lecture anyone who would listen on the anatomy of insects and arachnids. I felt that I would make a perfect entomologist, at least until I discovered that career would require the killing of bugs. I found an alternate goal to pursue: I would become the proud owner of a pet tarantula.

For months on end, i saved every dollar I could find, and around the middle of fifth grade, I had enough to buy myself a pet and all the supplies they would require. my mother drove me to every pet store across the county until we found one that sold tarantulas; there I purchased a female Chilean rose tarantula, and named her, somewhat unoriginally, Fang. Fang was brought to a loving home consisting of a terrarium, gravel, a log, a rock, and a water dish. I was thrilled beyond belief to have my very own pet, i cared for her constantly, feeding her crickets, turning on and off her heat lamp, and filling her water dish. all was peaceful until a few months later when I came home from school.

Fang had molted (shed her skin), and she was lying on her back with her legs curled up. she looked, to put it simply, very dead. I immediately burst into tears, screaming incomprehensibly and running downstairs to prepare a coffin. About fifteen minutes later, my mom came downstairs to tell me that Fang might actually be completely fine. She was moving her legs, and in about an hour she was walking again. I was embarrassed by my dramatic reaction, but relieved that tragedy had not actually struck. Fang ended up molting about five other times over the course of her life, each with the same anxiety-provoking pattern of curling up before springing back to life. Other startling episodes with Fang included her habit of climbing to the top of her terrarium before leaping about ten inches down, and her shining moment of escaping her cage, crawling downstairs, and nearly sending our house-sitter into cardiac arrest. Aside from those few heart-racing incidents, Fang was a fairly peaceful and comforting presence in my life. She served as thrilling entertainment during parties, where I could invite people up to my room and terrify them with the sight of a spider as large as their fist. Fang once appeared in the Press Democrat after I snapped a photo of her in my dad’s hands. Over the years, my friends and family members grew accustomed to Fang, often asking how she was doing and greeting her when they entered my room.

This year, I brought Fang up to Tahoe, where I live and work over the summer. She was around seven years old, and had been acting normally. The first bit of summer progressed normally, until I noticed Fang standing completely still in the corner of her terrarium. This lasted for a few days, and I feared the worst. My fears were confirmed when she began frantically kicking up the dirt in the corner, a behavior signalling her time was near. Fang died a couple days later, on June 12, 2014. I dug her a grave and buried her with bouquets of wildflowers. Saying goodbye to Fang marked the end of a formative portion of my life, but I know that I’ll always remain somewhat of a weird bug girl. Caring about tiny invertebrates requires a certain brand of compassion, one that I hope I will never lose.