The Uninvited Dinner Guest

We’re at a steakhouse. Our table is elegantly cliched; draped in crisp white linen, a baseball-sized scarlet candle at its center. The flickering cylinder’s hue matches the napkin concealing the top of a wicker basket of baked goods. We’re appropriately dressed for the culinary genre. My wife looks stunning in a bright yellow dress and pulled back hair – an observation I made long before I downed my first sidecar. I’m just about to pick up my fork and stab at my walnut and cranberry-laden spinach salad when I feel a sharp pain right above my right ankle.  It’s the kind of pain that can only be doled out by a spouse’s high heel.  My eyes dart to her in time to see that she’s mumbling something incoherent – something that in retrospect would have been incoherent even before she made her Manhattan disappear.  I lean in as I ask her to repeat.

“Spider!”

I look at her puzzled.  She picks up my confusion and repeats herself, this time making a casual flick of her knife toward her end of the table.  I follow her motion and my eye catches a small black arachnid, furiously making a beeline toward the rolls.  My mind starts to race.  I want the little guy gone, but not in a way that leaves a tiny black smudge on the linen as I try to enjoy my rib-eye. I also don’t want to do anything to attract attention to the table. People will look at me if I do, and they may keep looking at me throughout the meal. Every glance directed at me will convey the same message – “Get a load of this spaz.” They may wonder why a woman as lovely as my wife is stuck with a loser like me. I want to avoid this at all costs. If I’m to remove the critter, I must be subtle. I have no choice but to act, either – apparently, this spider likes the aroma of piping hot baked goods as much as me.

Then again, maybe not.  As I contemplate my move, the spider ambles right past the basket in a mild upset. He’s locked on a larger feast of fancy: my salad.  The small white flecks on his body become clearer as he advances toward my plate. It looks cool, as most spiders tend to look. It’s almost a shame he has to leave. The tiny beast circles my empty cocktail glass and I coolly make my play, scooping the spider up with my napkin as I move it from the table to my lap. It drops to the floor as I unfurl the napkin and spread it out on my right thigh.  At least, I assume that’s what happened.  I’m guessing the eight-legged dude landed quick yet semi-gracefully to the floor and scurried away.  Whether he managed to latch onto the white linen tablecloth of another patron is uncertain, although judging by the ensuing evening’s lack of shrieks, I’m supposing he didn’t.

I’m sure I enjoyed the rib-eye. I don’t remember, though.