The moment his wife Sara climbed up the Christmas tree, knocking off ornaments and splintering branches, Greg Marshall knew that Christmas was ruined. Unless he found the tarantula fast.
“Why are you just standing there?” Sara shrieked. Then she covered her mouth with her hand and almost fell off the tree.
They both froze, listening. The house was silent. No children had been awakened. Just as it should be late on Christmas Eve.
Kneeling down, Greg grabbed the tarantula cage and gave it a second look.
Yep. It truly was empty. Somehow the lid had loosened as they prepared to wrap it, allowing the spider to crawl out.
He glanced at the living room door. It was open, and he ran to close it. He prayed that the tarantula was still in the room.
“I told you that getting Cody a spider for Christmas was a bad idea,” Sara whispered. “I’m arachnophobic. So are two of our daughters. That’s almost half the family. But you said the spider would stay in its cage. You. Were. Wrong.”
Setting the cage down, Greg searched among the presents for the tarantula.
“If that spider touches me, I’m dead.” Sara shuddered, and the whole Christmas tree trembled. “I’ll have a heart attack. The same for Charlotte and Madison. Did you want three funerals on Christmas? Is that why you brought that hairy little monster into our home?”
“You’re hysterical,” said Greg.
Rage buried Sara’s terror, and she started climbing down the tree to face him. Then she remembered the spider and stopped.
“I’m sorry.” She took a deep breath. “But I mean it about Madison. Her panic attacks are finally under control, and something like this could set her off again. Just like the frog incident did. She’ll scream non-stop for hours if she sees that spider running loose. We’ll be up all night.”
Greg peeked under the couch. “I won’t let that happen.”
Within five minutes, he had searched the whole living room.
The tarantula wasn’t there.
Suddenly he was scared, too. Especially for Madison. Meanwhile the boys and Elisa, the tomboy of the family, would think an escaped spider was hilarious.
Greg opened the living room door and peeked down the dim hallway. The hardwood floor was clear of any dark shapes that could be a tarantula.
The doors to all his children’s bedrooms were open.
He groaned. Quietly. The spider could be anywhere, perhaps even in the kitchen.
As he crept down the hall, something scampered toward his feet.
He almost jumped through the ceiling.
But it was just Mittens, the cat, running out of the bathroom. Mittens presented another problem. Like a tiny tiger, he would kill a tarantula on sight. That would break the heart of Greg’s son Cody, the family’s budding zoologist.
Cody hadn’t wanted expensive toys for Christmas. Just a big pet spider.
How could Greg say no?
Yet maybe he should have.
He stared down the hall. Searching the bedrooms without accidentally waking up someone would be impossible, and once one child awoke they all would.
Stumped, he walked back to the living room and met his wife’s horrified gaze. Then a dark shape crawling onto her arm caught his eye. He hadn’t searched the Christmas tree, since Sara was on it.
He picked up the cage. “Don’t worry. I found the spider. I just need this to help me trap it.”
“Where is it?”
He stepped closer. “Not far.”
Her eyes widened as he jumped toward her. Greg knocked the tarantula off her arm and into its cage.
Finally. But his sigh of relief was cut short by Sara swooning.
Tossing the cage onto the coffee table, he dove under her. She toppled into his arms.
Slowly her eyes opened. “Is everything okay now?”
He smiled. “Yes.”
She nodded wearily, and after a moment’s rest, slid out of his arms. “Let’s finish up in here.”
He straightened the Christmas tree, and she hung the fallen ornaments. Then he wrapped the tarantula cage, leaving plenty of air holes in the green and red paper, and stuck it under the tree with the other presents.
Holding hands, Greg and Sara surveyed the room. All was ready for a perfect Christmas day.