The Spiders of Malibu
Ben Stein
by

Thursday–Malibu

A visit from my fabulous manicurist, Maria. She drove all the way out here to cut my toenails. It’s a sad truth, but I am not so old and so fat and my eyesight is so poor that I cannot cut my owe toenails. I pay Maria a fortune to zoom out here and cut them for me. She’s a beautiful middle aged woman whose family is still mostly back in Vietnam. But she has three sisters here she lives with and she’s happy.

Except.…

She’s terrified of spiders.… Who isn’t. She looked around our house carefully and then asked me if I ever saw any spiders out here.

“I’m afraid I sometimes do,” I told her.

“Are they big spiders?”

“Not usually,” I said. I didn’t want to tell her the truth. Might scare her into leaving before she cut my nails.

“I saw a really, really big spider at my house in Valencia this morning,” she said breathlessly. “This big,” and she showed me a space of about one inch between her thumb and forefinger. Behind her was a perfect, like a gem, azure ocean.

“Did you kill it?” I asked Maria.

“Oh, no,” she said. “Maria never kill spiders. Always sweep them out the door.”

“Why not just step on them?”

“Ohh, Ben,” she said, wagging her right index finger at me. “Maria never can kill spider because if I do, spider’s wife comes in at night and bites me in revenge.”

“Maria,” I said, “what makes you say that?”

“Because my Mother in Vietnam told me that,” she said, as if citing the Harvard or Columbia Department of Arachnophobic Studies.

“Honey,” I whispered to her, “I don’t think spiders are organized like that either as individuals or as a society.”

“Yes,” she said emphatically. “My mother told me that.”

“Okay,” I said. “If you feel that way.”

“Plus, if you kill the husband, the wife comes and bites you and lays eggs under your skin and they hatch and they have many babies under your skin.”

“Maria, I don’t think that’s really the way it works.”

Now, here comes the great part. Maria looked at me with her soft Asian eyes and said, “Ben think so? Then maybe Maria’s mother is wrong. Because Americans know science.”

“You’re very kind,” I said. “I think I’m right but you have Google. Look it up.”

She is a hard-working, industrious woman who came here in about 2000 and worked at a textile factory for minimum wage. Her first husband was a compulsive gambler and they got divorced. Then she worked at a nail salon. She pretty much just works for my wife and me now. She is a great reader of English novels. Jane Austen is her favorite, and then Joan Didion.

I love her so much because she’s so adorably Asian. I love Asians. I am so happy that my hero, RN, opened up China. Yes, and has there ever been a more consequential President than RN — savior of Eretz Israel. Peacemaker in Vietnam, Peacemaker with the Soviets — as far as he could go. Peacemaker in the American South — respecting the dignity of everyone. When I die, and of course it won’t be for decades (hahaha), I am sure I’ll see RN. Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the Children of God.

If only he had not been hounded from office — no Cambodian genocide.

What would he do now? Big, big, big defense buildup, anti-missile defense, and then bomb the hell out of North Korea. That’s just a guess, of course. But whatever Mr. Trump is doing with N. Korea, he had better do it soon. When they can miniaturize nukes and have reliable ICBM’s, it’ll too late.

Well, my ancient brain is wandering. I love RN so much sometimes I cannot control myself. Plus, he gave my father the happiest years of his life, as member and then Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers (sic). I think he would be happy that Dr. Kevin Hassett now has that gig. Dr. Hassett is a capable man indeed.

But, wow, is Maria cute with her stories about the spiders. Somehow, Maria has a much fancier car than I do. She drove off into the Malibu night and I went out on my deck to watch the ocean and the stars and the bars and my Carmen.

When I got home, there was a long story on line about the new Trump tax proposals. It’s complex as hell. But I don’t get the point about non-deductibility of state and local taxes. Yes, it’s a subsidy from low tax states to high tax states. But generally it goes the other way. Far more money goes to poorer states from richer states in this nation than the other way around.

Poor Mr. Cohn, sent out to defend this indefensible idea, said that starving state and local governments would make them less “… bloated.”

Really, Mr. Cohn? You think the budgets for school teachers in Detroit, for fire fighters in the Bronx, for police officers in Compton, are bloated? You think they are overpaid? You think these indispensable men and women, offering up their lives every day are overpaid? You, a former top dog at Goldman Sachs, bringing home tens of millions a year for moving around stacks of money, are mocking and belittling school teachers, paramedics, cops for being overpaid?

And I thought Maria was uninforamed about spiders. Maybe not. Maybe she had it right. Maybe the spiders are better organized than we thought.

Ben Stein
Ben Stein
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Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes “Ben Stein’s Diary” for every issue of The American Spectator.
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