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Trouble With a Capital `S'


By Jeffrey Kelly / January 22, 1991

ROBERT, out of breath, had run all the way down the street to invite me to go on a vacation. I was sitting on my back steps sorting my baseball cards. Robert is my best friend. Our parents call us inseparable. But Florida? Was he kidding? He wasn't.

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``Two whole weeks,'' he said excitedly, tugging at his earring. That's right, he wore an earring - skull and crossbones. The day was hot and sweat dripped off his nose. His bowling-ball stomach stuck out; he smelled like his dog.

Florida - wow! But wasn't Florida an oven in the summer? What would traveling with his parents be like, people who ate octopus and squid for breakfast, and grew mushrooms in their basement? Would his teenage sisters, Birdy and Neecy, be going? We called them the ``puffers,'' on account of their hair style.

``How'll we get there?''

``In our van. Saturday. Your mom already said yes.''


He made a face. ``We won't have to spend much time with them. Mostly the ride down and back.''

How long a trip was it, New York to Florida?

``Couple of days.''

A couple of days in a hot van with the puffers! Was it worth it - a vacation in Florida? You bet it was.

Sleeping arrangements

We arrived late Sunday afternoon.

``Incredible! I shouted, when I saw where we'd be staying. ``Two whole weeks.''

It was incredible. The beach was practically right outside the front door, water and sand as far as you could see, a snack bar only a block away, an amusement park, bicycle rental, mini-golf - everything!

The landlord, a wrinkly stringbean, showed us our apartment on the second floor. ``Anything you need,'' he told us, ``just ask.'' He could've been 90.

It took Birdy and Neecy about a minute to find something wrong. Typical teenagers.

``Hey,'' they both whined at once. ``There're only two bedrooms. Where's everyone gonna sleep?''

Horrors! Rooming with the puffers'd be a nightmare, as much for them as for me and Robert. No way.


But Mrs. Mack had it all figured out.

``Adults will share one bedroom,'' she told us. ``Girls and boys flip a coin. Winners get the other bedroom for the first week, losers the living-room couch and a cot, then switch. Agreed?''

Sounded OK to me.

We flipped and ... the boys won.

Mrs. Mack said, ``You boys take your suitcases into the bedroom and hang your clothes in the closet. Use the dresser.''

Sure, but I better tell this part of the story in slow motion. I got my suitcase and, along with Robert, went ... into the bedroom ... put my suitcase ... on the bed ... opened the closet ... heard this noise ... FRRRRITTTTTTAFRRRRITTTTA! ... looked down ...


Trouble with a capital `S'

A spider the size of a man's hand ran out of the closet, almost over my foot, and under the nearest bed. It was black and hairy, thick-legged and ... heavy. So heavy it made that noise on the bare floor - FRRRRITTTTTAFRRRRITTTTA! - sort of like the rustle of dead leaves.

Robert, not ready for my vampire scream, jumped a foot.

``What's the matter!''

We were eye to eye. ``Robert, the largest spider in the world just ran under that bed.''

Like that, his whole face changed, the color disappearing like dishwater down a drain. His eyes got wide. However scared I was of spiders, Robert was worse. Arachnophobia.

``H-How large is it?'' he mumbled.

I held up my hand, fingers spread apart.

``This large.'' In truth it was larger.

I said it again, ``This large.''

``This large?''

``This large!'' I shouted, coming to my senses. ``Do you think we should kill it?''

Robert was dumbstruck. He finally said, ``No I don't think we should kill it.''

Only one things left to do. We got our suitcases and went back to the living room, just as his parents and sisters were returning with the rest of the stuff from the van.

``Er ... '' Robert cleared his throat ... ``we think that coin flip was really unfair. Tell you what, you two (he meant Birdy and Neecy) can have the bedroom to start. OK?''

You could almost see the antennae shoot out of his sisters' heads. Was this some sort of trick? Even Mrs. Mack looked skeptical.