(A Fear of Spiders)

I hate spiders.

I hate scorpions.

Let me introduce myself; my name is Athena Golden. I am 5’7”, blond, not so bad-looking, if I say so myself, and I am a telemarketer/single woman/aspiring actress. I have appeared in some minor roles off off Broadway and a couple commercials. I have put my love life on hold for now because I don’t want anything to distract me from my goals. I had an opportunity to appear in a Hollywood movie, but when I discovered that there was a scene where I would be required to enter a dark cave and be caught in a giant spider’s web, I turned it down. Granted, I really needed the money at the time, but just thinking about being in a scene with a large (or, for that matter, any size) spider caused me to sweat profusely. I have my big brother, David, to blame for this fear.

It all happened on Halloween night fifteen years ago when I was eight years old. Before that time, I had never even thought about spiders as either good or evil. I wasn’t too crazy about scorpions, especially after having seen a movie in which the hero and his female companion are sent back in time and chased by a prehistoric giant scorpion. Corny, I know, but when you are seven years old, movies can have an affect on you. Anyway, David liked to read when he was younger. He still does, but not like he used to. That Halloween night, my mother decided that I would go dressed as Little Miss Moffet and David would accompany me dressed as a spider. Before we had gotten into our costumes, David decided to come into my room and read me a story that he had just finished reading. At first, I thought that this was strange because he had never read to me before, but I quickly decided that I would not look a gift horse in the mouth and so I sat on my bed and listened. It was a story about a girl named Arachne who could weave beautiful clothes and stuff on her loom. One day, this girl bragged that she could weave better than the goddess Athena. When I heard my name mentioned in the story, I became excited inside. I had been getting a little bored before David mentioned Athena because I didn’t really understand a few of the words that he was saying. Anyway, Arachne’s bragging ticked off Athena and she challenged Arachne to a weaving contest. When Athena saw that Arachne was weaving a tapestry which made fun of the gods, Athena got angry and changed Arachne into a spider. Normally, this would not have scared me, except when David said that she was turned into a spider, he used a very scary voice and got on his tiptoes and approached me in a semi-threatening manner. I, of course, screamed. Our mother heard me and when she found out why I was screaming, she smacked David on the head and told him to go get dressed.

That night, as David and I were walking down the streets, a car would occasionally come by and its lights would flash along David’s made up face. It was scary enough to make me want to get the rest of the night over with quickly. After what seemed like years, we finally went home. I ran up to my room and closed the door. I don’t know if it was the story that David had told me or remembering the lights flashing along his face, but I had trouble getting to sleep that night. When I did get to sleep, I had a dream that I was the goddess Athena and that, for some reason, I was mad at David and changed him into a spider. The thing was that he kept growing and growing, his helix-shaped eyes gleaming red and his fangs dripping with poison. I dropped my shuttle (David had explained what this was) and started to run away. The giant David-spider kept chasing me and eventually caught me by shooting a web in my path. I was trying to get out of the web before David could eat me. I escaped by waking up when my mother called me down for breakfast.

This year was the same year that David turned thirteen. I don’t know if turning thirteen turns boys into brats instantly or if puberty has something to do with it, but every chance that David had, he would find ways to frighten me, and it was usually when our parents weren’t around. One day at school, I opened my lunch bag and found a big rubber spider sitting on my sandwich. I screamed, dropped the bag, and started stomping on the bag. The other kids around me were laughing but I spent the rest of the school day without anything to eat. When I got home, I almost told my mother what had happened, but David was also in the room and he shook his fist at me. I kept my mouth shut. The worst incident occurred when David and our father came home from the pet store. I knew that they were going, but I thought that they would bring home a puppy or some goldfish. Imagine my horror when David walked up to me carrying a small box with some holes in the lid. He turned his back to me and opened the box. When he turned back around, there in his hand was a hairy, big tarantula! I went flying out of the room.

So, that is the main reason that I hate spiders. As far as scorpions go, I read that they are in the same species as spiders, so they are also on my hate list. Scorpions, however, are not common in the Eastern Seaboard, so I don’t worry about it as much.

Now, I can’t really afford to see a therapist about this phobia, but if it interferes with my chance to get big juicy roles, then I might have to come up with the money somehow. Being a telemarketer doesn’t exactly pay big bucks and acting jobs are scarce. One day while I was on break from the phones, I was flipping through a copy of “Variety”, a subscription being my one major indulgence, and I came across an ad:

“Actresses wanted for major Hollywood production. Tryouts are scheduled from 9:00 AM until Noon, April 3rd. Bring head shots and job experience. 634 Triton Ave.”

That was tomorrow! Now, I thought, this is a possibility. I, of course, knew the routine because I had been through this several times, but this was for a real Hollywood movie. Fortunately tomorrow was my day off, so as soon as I punched out, I ran home to get my folio together. I was determined to get this role no matter what! If this role turned out to be the break I needed, I would be out of this city before you could say “Marilyn Monroe”! After making sure that everything was updated and put in order, I made dinner, watched TV until 9, then went to bed. I wanted to be well-rested for tomorrow.

The next day, I got up at 5 AM, showered, carefully chose my clothes, and made sure that my makeup was perfect. I stopped at a corner bakery, got a bagel and coffee, and grabbed a bus. I got to the address half-an-hour early. I went to the ladies room, brushed my teeth and gargled, then returned to the waiting room. I had brought a paperback with me to pass the time but, to tell you the truth, I was too nervous to sit there and read. Instead, I closed my eyes and used some techniques that I had read about to calm my mind. In fact, I was so calm that I almost missed hearing my name called out. I stood up, straightened my dress and hair and went through the open door. There were three men and one woman sitting behind a table; none of them looked like they were famous. At first I was disappointed but decided that I was probably better off not seeing any famous faces. It might have messed with my piece of mind.

“You are Athena Golden?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you have your head shots and resume?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Could you please give them to Ms. Weathers.” The woman who was seated at the table got up and walked up to me. I handed my things to her and waited while they looked through the photos and the list. They whispered to each other for a few seconds and then Ms. Weathers got up again and handed a few pieces of stapled pages to me.

“You will read the part for Eva. Ready?”

And so it began. I got a feeling for the part when one of the men read the lines before I was to start. Without telling me what the scene entailed, I dived right in and gave what I hoped was a good enough reading for the part. When the reading was over, they thanked me and said that they would call me. I felt confident enough that I really believed that they would call me back. Once I left the building, I caught the bus back home, changed my clothes, and sat down trying to decide whether to sit by the phone or go out again and do something, but I wasn’t sure what. Just as I was getting ready to go out and do some shopping, my phone rang.

“Hello, Athena Golden speaking.”

“Yes, Ms. Golden this is Ms. Weathers. We would like you to come in tomorrow morning for a second reading. When would be convenient for you.”

“Gee, I could be there by 8:30 if that’s not too early.”

“8:30 will be fine. If you have any clothes that were considered fashionable for the forties, that would be helpful for your audition, since the director of the project will be there. We are having a messenger bring you over the pages that you will be reading.”

“Thank you very much, Ms. Weathers. I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

“Good afternoon, Ms. Golden.”

When I hung up the phone, I jumped up in the air and shouted. A second reading! That is almost a sure sign that I got the part! My nerves were on edge just waiting for the messenger. When the pages for the scene finally arrived, I was still so happy that I gave the messenger a tip and a kiss on the cheek. The guy was so startled that he blushed and stuttered his thanks as he left. I inadvertently slammed the door, ran to my kitchen table and tore open the manila envelope. I took out the pages and saw the title of the project, “Diamonds in their Eyes”. I took a couple of deep breathes to calm myself before opening to the first page. It helped, but I also decided to have a drink of water. I spent the next two to three hours going over the dialog and when I felt that I had it down pat, I went to my bedroom and went through my clothes to see if I had anything that I felt would be appropriate for my character. Not finding anything, I checked my watch and saw that it was 2:30 in the afternoon. I quickly scanned the phone book to see if I could find any antique clothing stores nearby. I did, but when I saw the name of the store, I felt a shiver go through me. It was called “The Spider’s Web”. I overcame my reluctance, grabbed my purse and hailed a cab. Twenty minutes later, the taxi stopped at the store and I paid the cabbie. The front of the store was painted a grayish color with a sign in letters meant to resemble a web. I dismissed my sense of unease and walked through the door. The interior of the store was well-lit and didn’t have any arachnid-type features hanging from the walls as I thought that it might. When the bell over the door rang, a saleswoman walked out from the back of the store and asked me if I was looking for anything in particular. I explained what I was looking for and why I needed the outfit. The saleswoman, whose name tag said that her name was Sondra, gave me a small smile and told me to follow her. Near the back and to the left of the area that Sondra had come from, I found three racks of women’s clothing that might help me find the perfect outfit. My character, Eva, was presented as a woman of great taste but not exactly independently wealthy. She was a secretary for a law firm, so it was necessary that she be suitably attired.

I couldn’t find anything on the first rack that would fit the bill. On the second rack, I did find a black coat with a silver fox collar. Half way through the last rack, I was starting to get discouraged, when I suddenly came across a powder blue blouse and navy blue skirt. They were perfect! Now all I needed was a hat to go with the outfit. Sondra showed me the hats that she had, but none of them seemed quite right. Sondra said,

“Let me take a look in the back. We just got in some new stuff that I haven’t had time to price yet.” Five minutes later, she came out carrying a pink hexagonal box. She took off the lid and took out a navy blue hat with a dark raven’s feather in it. I knew that that was the perfect hat! I left the store, feeling like Audrey Hepburn in Paris. I flagged down a taxi and went home. I laid the clothes out on the back off a chair and set the hat box on the seat. That night, I dreamed that I was walking on a red carpet with photographers surrounding me.

That morning, I woke up with a smile on my face and a feeling that this would be the day that changed my life. I took my shower, got dressed in my new outfit and went downstairs to get a taxi. I didn’t want to take a chance of ruining my outfit by riding the bus. I arrived at the address on Triton Avenue ten minutes early. I took a seat and put my new hat on. There were only two other women, besides me, who had been called back. I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer then got the pages out of my new purse. Twenty minutes later, Ms. Weathers called my name. When I entered the room, I almost lost my sense of speech! The director was none other than Jason Maxovich! I had always dreamed of working with him and now here was my chance. He nodded at me and I read the first line. Jason read the other part. Too soon, my audition was over and I was told to wait outside while they auditioned the final person. I calmly took a seat and waited.

Suddenly, I started to feel ill. I became dizzy and saw double of everything. The next thing that I knew was that I seemed to be floating. In fact, I saw my body laying on the floor. The next thing that I saw was a black widow spider crawling away from my hat. I looked closer and saw a swelling red mark on the back of my neck. The damn thing had been hiding in my hat and chose that moment to strike. Obviously, when I saw the paramedics cover my face, I knew that my chance at stardom was no longer possible. Like I said,


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