The Ugly Fruit Will Save Us All

A random story for you…

I don’t like spiders. I’m scared to death of them, to be more specific. Well, I’ve encountered a couple monsters here at this place I’m living right now. I grew up in the country, I’ve seen spiders, so while I hate them, I’m used to seeing some nasty ones. That’s nothing compared to these though. I’m telling you, these things had skin. One was on the wall down in the basement and I blasted it to toxin hell with Raid. I swear I heard the thing hit the floor when it dropped. Think about that. You shouldn’t hear a bug hit the floor…

Anyway, I don’t live in the deep jungle or anything, and this isn’t total infestation, but spiders are a hot button for me, so I am not cool with this. So I’m out front talkin to the neighbor the other night, as I’m wont to do, and I happen to mention this, and he says he’s seen one too. Well at this point I decide that I’m done battling these unholy creatures myself and I want them completely obliterated from the face of the earth.

So today I call up Crazy Landlord (beloved, but crazy) and tell him I want him to call an exterminator and take care of the issue. Immediately he goes into a bit of Romanian lore about this fruit that drives away spiders, like some sort of juicy crucifix that sends arachnids hissing back into the shadows. I tell him, no, I want this handled by a professional. I was polite and patient as I grappled with his train of thought, but I think I made myself clear: call an exterminator, pay a professional to take care of this. Later this afternoon the doorbell rings, it’s Crazy Landlord. With fruit. I open the door, he holds out an old Meijer sack. I didn’t even have to look to know that it contained his mystic spidersbane.

“Did you call the exterminator?” He goes back into his story of how this kind of “apple” drives away bugs, that although we can’t smell it, the scent makes them crazy and they rush off to find somewhere else to live. I wrangle him in and again ask him if he called the exterminator. He says he did, they can’t exterminate spiders because they move around too much, and that I’d have to get the dogs out of the house for a couple days because of the poisons. Of course when I called Orkin — who he said he called — I found none of this to be true (although I knew as much out of common sense), so I’m forced to envision him getting his information out of some sort of Dale Gribble-like conversation he had with some dude at the adult bookstore.

The fruit itself is anything but appealing — to any of the senses — and frankly looks like balls. But in retrospect I found the situation so bizarre (I guess I’m used to these things by now, which is why it took a while for this insanity to register) that I decided to arrange the green ball-fruit in a bowl and display it prominently on my table, as I suppose you do with the finer of the ball-fruits. So now I have on my kitchen table a stack of ugly, mystery fruit that came from God knows where, and for all I know actually attracts spiders and clowns and mannequins and all things creepy.

So I left a message for Crazy Landlord, who I can only assume was out buying a new trenchcoat somewhere, and told him that yes, the technology is such that exterminators now have the means to kill spiders, and that the dogs and I can just stay here at the house the whole time because it’s not harmful (kinda like how the ball-fruit doesn’t affect man or beast, only the mythical werespider). I’m not sure how this will turn out, but I’m thinking about squeezing some more ideas out of him and maybe putting together some sort of book of elixirs and home remedies to sell at Cracker Barrel. (He had one for warding off skunks but I don’t quite remember what it was… something about ammonia, maybe.)

Oh, and since I opened the floodgates, here you go one more time: balls.

8 thoughts on “The Ugly Fruit Will Save Us All

  1. Having met said crazy landlord I can only imagine the whole awkwardness of the situation. However, as much as I hate to say it, he may be right. We used to have serious spider issues in our house in Marysville and my dad brought home some of these ugly fruit (which my sister and I call brain balls) and they seemed to work on the small house spiders (which my sister and I call booger spiders). Seeing some of the monster spiders that call your place home, I have my doubts of the brain ball power.

    Maybe you should train Maeby to smell out the spiders and Rudy can attack them…

  2. Myth: “Hedge apples” (Osage orange fruit) or horse chestnuts can be used to repel spiders.

    Large Osage orange fruit
    Maclura pomifera
    © 2002 Steve Baskauf
    Fact: The story that the fruit of the Osage orange tree (also called hedge apple, monkey ball, or spider ball) can repel or ward off spiders turns out to be extremely widespread in Midwestern states, where the trees are common. Details vary, but in general it seems that people put these aromatic fruits around their walls in fall to “keep spiders from coming in.” Since house spiders don’t actually come in from outside, of course this works just fine, but there is no evidence that spiders are repelled by osage-oranges. They live on the trees and even make webs on the fallen fruit. What’s more, spiders seldom show any sign of being able to detect airborne odors!

    In some versions of the story, the repellent effect has been transferred from spiders to cockroaches, mosquitoes, chicken mites, or mice. Since squirrels regularly chew through these fruits to get the tasty seeds inside, a rodent repellent effect seems pretty unlikely.

    In the Pacific Northwest, where Osage oranges are seldom seen, the legend has been transferred to horse chestnuts. I like horse chestnuts and usually have some around, but still have plenty of spiders, so I know of my own experience that this doesn’t work.

    A correspondent in British Columbia has heard a version of the myth in which the spiders are repelled by copper pennies!

  3. So the exterminator came yesterday, Crazy Landlourde in tow. Exterminator’s doin his thing, I’m at the kitchen table working, he sees my arrangement of ball-fruit sitting there…

    DALE GRIBBLE: “I see you’ve got some hedge apples there… I bet someone told you those things drive away spiders, didn’t they? Yeah, that doesn’t work.”
    ME: (with Crazy Landlord standing there) “Ah, well I’d heard something…”
    DG: “They do kill mice, rats, raccoons, stuff like that though.”
    ME: “Skunks?”
    DG: “Yeah, skunks too…”
    CL: (something unintelligible about skunks and ammonia)

    DG: “Now, you may see a flurry of spiders over the next few days as the poison flushes them out.”
    ME: “Excellent.”

    No sightings thus far. I did crank up the air and sleep in my snowmobile suit and ski mask last night just to be on the safe side…

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