When he was a boy, my stepson would beg me to kill the insects in our house. He’d see a centipede perched on the crown molding above his door, or a spider crouched in a corner of the bathroom ceiling and want me to smack it with a magazine or shoe. I’d patiently explain that spiders and centipedes had no interest in us, that they mostly hunted other, more obnoxious insects, like cockroaches and flies. With some of the more harmless-looking spiders (“house spiders,” though this was nowhere near taxonomically correct), I’d opt for relocation over killing, coaxing them into beer bottles that I’d then leave on their sides on the front porch. Ethan and I were going through a phase where neither of us slept. I’d sit up drinking coffee or beer trying to read my eyes tired. He’d create excuses to turn on lights or get up for water. I’d do my best to be patient, but I’d always end up shouting at him to go to bed. My wife, Sarah, seemed magically able to sleep through the night and not hear the noises of shuffling and shouting that would carry through our thin-walled bungalow. As I took the spiders out, I’d imagine what the world must look like through the thick, clear glass of a Corona bottle. I’d marvel at that rare ability to self-generate a home after some alcoholic failure of a parent had left you in the autumn cold because his wife’s child was afraid.
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