{ The Jenkins family was nothing if not colorful. }

And I mean "colorful" in the same way scabs and bruises are. The mom was skeletal, a haggard women in a bad mood as if someone had just stabbed her in the hip with a fondue fork. We never saw Mr. Jenkins. Rumor had it that he was buried in the basement. The elder boy of the family had, as you might expect, an El Camino on cement blocks in the driveway. His name was Randy, and he had the sort of whip-snap body as if he were constructed of beef jerky. We all wanted to be like Randy.

The younger brother was Greg. He would come out and "play" with the rest of us on occasion. We would pretend to be characters from Star Trek or The Wild, Wild West. I was never Kirk or James West, I was always Bones or Artemus Gordon. Fat, sad, and lonely even then, I felt destined to be the co-star of my own life.

But not Greg. Greg Jenkins was insane.

Greg had two hobbies. One was marbles. He was very good at marbles, almost a marbles shark. He carried them in a purple velvet sack with yellow writing on the side that said "Crown Royal." He'd tie its satin strands around the belt loop of his Tuff Skins and those marbles would hang like a second set of testicles off his hip, clacking and swinging and announcing his prepubescent manhood.

His second hobby was why he was insane, and what lead to the scariest moment of my young life. Greg Jenkins collected black widow spiders. He kept them in jars in his garage. Row after row of mayonnaise jars, each one containing a small, shiny blob of instant death.

I hated spiders. There was nothing about spiders that I did not hate. And like anything hated with passion, I was fascinated by them and drawn to them. I wanted to look at them and figure out what made them so disgusting. And black widows added another element altogether to my deep-seated and somewhat illogical fear of things I can step on pretty easily. Black widows were beautiful. And their bite could kill you.

{ angry spider }

Greg enjoyed showing off his collection. He would reach out with an eager, excited hand and take up a jar, the lid poked through with a screwdriver, the interior lined with a ragged, irrational nest of sticky webbing and there, off to the side, hidden until you looked, would be the glistening teardrop of doom. It would move, of course, because he'd make it. The inky death bug would scramble through the tangle and pause – frozen, silent – then jerk again and fly across her white tomb, knowing there was no meal waiting, it was simply her world shaking again, moving for no reason, annoying her into drooling poison across her silk.

He would thrust the jar at me, sometimes even open the lid and pull the cotton candy webbing apart and there was the spider, there, ready to jump into my eye and pierce it, sinking murder inside my head and sucking out the milk and pus. I would shriek like a little girl and piss my pants with fear and scramble to reclaim my Huffy and get the fuck away from that maniac kid and his collection. The next day I'd be back, the afternoon sun burning on the back of my neck, nightmares of glistening fat bodies in midnight armor, fangs gently flexing as silver threads emerged from the thing's bulbous ass, soaked with glue and toxin. Greg would feign disinterest. No, he did not want to look at them. "Couldn't we feed them something?" I'd ask. "A fly or something?" And he'd wrinkle his evil brow and sneer and shrug. "Yeah, whatever."

{ next }