"Where do you get them?" His smile should have warned me. The shivers it sent up my spine I attributed to the dozens of dancing terrors in my peripheral vision, the shining ghosts arrayed in their jars, balanced on wooden shelves that would give at any moment, spilling the hundreds of venomous creatures all over my body. I could not make that connection, that evil lived inside this child, and it leached out like an ink stain now and spread dark across me. "Do you want to help me get some?"
Every fiber of my physical being, every mote of intellect in my head, the bright frozen sheath of my spirit, they all screamed in disharmony at that moment. And my mouth said, "Yes!" because I was an 8-year-old kid and there was no way I was going to be labeled chicken, even if certain death awaited.
It was certain that the Jenkins's house was a wreck, but it was more pathetic than frightening. The haunted palace was another edifice that stood on a hillock above empty acres of dry dirt that had once been a cotton farm. Bakersfield was and is farm country, a pocket of green growth at the far southern lip of California's huge San Joaquin valley. Before the place was filled up with McMansions sitting on postage stamp plots, and even before the measured rows of 3-BR/2-BA tract houses constructed for GI Bill families out of drywall and dichondra popped up like weeds, the place was dotted with farms and their farming families living in huge Victorian houses in the centers of their fields.
Near our neighborhood, one such home had somehow survived the abandonment of the land in favor of suburbia. It was now a wreck – a hideous but noble structure no one ventured into. A cross between some Norman Bates residential nightmare and a beautiful turreted multi-family selling for millions, the house was dark and silent, hunched on its haunches in wait for some unsuspecting child to wander inside and disappear forever.
What better place could there be to locate spiders, just as silent and deadly and filled with menace? The house practically exhaled them across the valley floor, into the garden shoes and rain gutters of happy nuclear families where they waited patiently to bite and kill. Of course the farmhouse was the black hole of terror. And it was into its musty embrace that Greg led me.