He was not very big as spiders go, probably about five centimetres from the tip of one leg to the tip of the one opposite. (I almost wrote from, “wingtip to wingtip.”) He was also very low-slung. His belly seemed to scrape on floor or wall as he scuttled along.

He took up residence under the toilet bowl. That was fine because most of the time he was out of sight, not causing young visitors to scream unexpectedly. A downside though was that when you were seated on the toilet with your pants around your ankles, you could not but be a little concerned that, when you rose, you might be bringing him into rather intimate contact with delicate parts of yourself.

“You don’t suppose he might be poisonous,” Miriam wondered.

“No,” I said. “He doesn’t look poisonous at all.”

“Oh really, Mr Arachnid expert, how do poisonous spiders look?”

“Red,” I said.

“Oh bull,” she said.

“Or yellow,” I suggested.

“What about the black widow spider?”

Ours was black, so we left the discussion there. The next day I was seated on the toilet when my attention was drawn by a sudden movement on the wall to my left. There he was, but as soon as I looked in his direction, he froze, crouching completely still in characteristic style, his belly pressed against the wall.

It was then that I noticed he had only seven legs, as against the usual eight of other spiders. His left front leg was missing. When I told Miriam, she said, “Shame. He must have been in a fight.”

The bathroom where he lived is part of an en suite arrangement with our bedroom. It was the one we normally used. There is another one a few steps down the hallway. For reasons probably of haste I chose to use that one a few days later. Seated there, at peace with the world, I became aware a movement on the opposite wall, just above the floor. There he was, seven-legged as always.

“He’s moved to the other bathroom,” I told Miriam.

“No,” she said. “I saw him this morning, in his usual spot.”

I went to look for him there, but there was no sign of him, but the next morning he was back in his original bathroom. “There must be two of them,” I said.

“Each with seven legs? I doubt it. He must walk back and forth.”

“Maybe it’s a genetic phenomenon,” I said. “If we had that German monk here we could ask him.”

“Gregor Mendel,” she said. “It’s a bit late for him, about a hundred years late. In any event, I don’t think we need Mendel to explain it to us. Our spider walks back and forth between the two bathrooms. That’s all there is to it.”

I was not buying. It would be a big territory for such a small creature, I reasoned. The next time I saw him was in his original bathroom. I immediately sprinted (or as close to sprinting as I can manage) down the hall and into the other bathroom, confident that I would find another seven-legged spider there. There was nothing. I hurried back to the place where I had just seen him, but now he was not there either. The rest of the day and since then I have found neither hide nor seven legs of him. So far it has stayed that way.

But I am not giving up. I watch for him and his genetic double every day. When I see them I’m going to trap them both. That will prove it.

“And if you find just one?” Miriam asked.

“I’ll keep looking,” I said.

A Genetic Phenomenon