I had a whole other paragraph here but I just deleted it because SCORPION!
So there I was, carefully typing out said paragraph, and I see a dark, moving object on the floor to my right. I knew even before I looked down what it was, since dark moving objects are only ever one thing in this house.
But here’s the worst part: It was moving away from my desk in a clear trajectory. You would think that the “away” part would be good, but, nay, it was in fact deeply troubling, as it indicated that only a few seconds before, the scorpion must have been RIGHT UNDER MY DESK. Where my FEET are. It is extremely important to my mental health that the space under my desk, which I cannot easily see unless I scoot my huge chair way back, remain a FEET-ONLY zone.
To give you an idea of what I’ll be fixating on for the next 1,000 days or so, let’s take a moment to re-imagine me typing that paragraph in light of this information. Picture it like it’s a movie:
There’s the protagonist, smiling, dashing out her brilliant prose for her blog. You may have noticed that I’ve been slow to update the ol’ blog lately, she types. That’s because I’m so tired from getting up with a newborn that I’ve forgotten all of the English language except for about fifty words. Also, our house has been hit with a particularly disgusting stomach flu — but on the plus side, sometimes our two-year-old has to take a break from screaming and hitting me to puke. But I’m treasuring these moments since they go by sooooo fast!
Now the camera pans to her bare feet under the desk. We hear the clicking of her keyboard as we see the malevolent arachnid inch toward her toes. She pauses to come up with more scintillating content for her blog, and in the process stretches her legs. Her feet brush past the scorpion, missing it by mere millimeters. The scorpion feels threatened by the giant foot. It turns to engage, its dagger tail in the attack position, ready to plunge into the unsuspecting foot.
Just as it moves in for the kill, the protagonist thinks aloud about another possible sentence for her blog post. “I don’t even mind the fact that I also have a raging sinus infection, because I’m counting it all joy!” she says, which causes her to laugh so hard that she scoots her feet back just as the venomous point of the scorpion’s tail was about to be stabbed into her flesh.
If this were a good movie, it would end with the protagonist seeing the scorpion and promptly buying a new house. As it was, I screamed at Joe to come deal with it, which was unfortunate since he was evidently suffering from temporary amnesia in which he no longer knew that you can never, ever, ever kill scorpions on carpets:
Joe: [Raises up shoe and stomps on scorpion.]
Jen: That’s, uhh, that’s not going to -
Joe: [Angry scorpion now running at him with tail in the attack position.]
Jen: It doesn’t work to -
Joe: [Stomps scorpions a few more times. Scorpion stops moving.]
Jen: It’s not dead.
Joe: [Beholds silly woman and her crazy-talk with bemusement. Touches scorpion with tip of shoe. Scorpion jumps up and starts running at him again.] Whoa! This thing isn’t dead!!!
Joe eventually disproved the Can’t Ever Ever Ever Kill Scorpions on Carpets rule, but it was only after going all Michael Flatley on it for about five minutes. I maintain that the rule holds for me, though, as I would never try to kill a scorpion by stepping on it. I feel certain that I would somehow miss it and it would end up gripping onto my shoe with its little pincers, hoisting itself onto my ankle, then running up into the pantleg of my jeans, where it would sting my leg over and over and over again as I writhed and screamed in agony. (I assure you that this is only one of many things-going-horribly-awry-with-scorpions scenarios I have all worked out in my head.)
All this is a long way of saying: If my tone seems painfully strained for the rest of my writing career, it’s because I will henceforth be writing while holding my legs at least three feet off the ground.
Well, that whole “sleeping” thing was nice while it lasted. Not that I had been doing a ton of it anyway. The baby keeps waking up in the middle of the night to yell for no particular reason (as my husband commented at 3:48 AM, “She seems to have lost her association of ‘darkness’ with ‘shut the &%*$ up’”). For a while that bothered me, and I wished that I could go ahead and not be jolted from peaceful slumber by the shouts of a 13-month-old dictator, but it’s all moot now, since I’m going to spend the entirety of every evening standing in the center of my room in a hazmat suit with a can of Raid.
This decision was occasioned by Yaya telling me this morning that she was stung by a scorpion that was in her bed last night. In true Texan form, she was not relaying the story because she found it remarkable that she was attacked by a scorpion while she slept, but because she wanted to let me know that she kept it for the kids to play with. They went over there for a visit this afternoon, and (when, O when, will this kind of thing stop surprising me) they tried to get back in the car with this:
[UPDATE 1: It turns out that this was not the scorpion from the bed attack, but another one that the kids found on the couch just now.]
[UPDATE 2: Kill me.]
[Update3: They found yet a ANOTHER scorpion later that day, bringing the total to three. I need an evacuation helicopter to get me out of here NOW.]
It is hard to describe how I reacted to seeing my four-year-old holding a bag containing a very active scorpion, then having said bag waved two inches from my face as she jumped around and begged me to let her take it home. Let’s just say it ended with, “Mommy shouldn’t say those words. Don’t repeat that.”
Anyway, this chart is now even more ominous, as the other people I know who have scorpions in their houses are have been stung in bed multiple timesnow.
They’re coming for me. It’s only a matter of time.
What will it be like when it finally happens? Perhaps it will get wrapped up in my in my pajamas and sting me repeatedly as I thrash around in terror and agony, screaming to the heavens for mercy, only to have each move elicit further stings. Then I realize with explosive despair that, given the fact that it is impossible to kill scorpions on carpets, there is no way that I could kill it on the bed, even if I could get it out of my pajamas. Pounding it with a shoe would just make it mad, then it would get away from me, and would return for vengeance, just at the moment that I went back to sleep. Left with no other option, I throw myself out of the second-story window, yet the impact isn’t enough to kill the creature, and I lie in our back yard, my bones broken, unable to move, and the scorpion KEEPS STINGING ME OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN!!!!! (Not that I have carefully developed this scenario through hours and hours of lying awake thinking about it.)
Let me interrupt the sharing of my tortured middle-of-the-night visions to say that I know that someone has already begun composing an email to tell me that I shouldn’t try to kill scorpions. Don’t do it. For one thing, I might injure my finger from the force and speed I would employ to press the Delete button. Also, writing up anti-scorpion-killing emails directed to me is the apex of futility; it is the very epitome of the phrase complete and utter waste of time. I got a few after I wrote about my son being stung in the face, and had to explain that I adhere unwaveringly to this decision making flowchart:
Another exercise in futility would be to ask me if I have ever been stung by a scorpion at all yet. A friend inquired about that the other day, and I just froze and made a pained groaning noise. I cannot speak of it. I have become deeply superstitious about this issue, and know that to answer in the negative would ensure that I would be the victim of a particularly bizarre and terrifying attack by the end of the day. (IMPORTANT NOTE TO THE MYSTERIOUS FORCES THAT CONTROL THESE THINGS: I did not just say that I have never been stung by a scorpion; I merely noted that IF I had miraculously avoided this fate so far, I would not speak of it.) I know, I know, we’re not supposed to be superstitious. But, in my defense, I have witnessed firsthand the power of the poop fates, and I did have a scorpion on my couch within 12 hours of writing that I hadn’t seen one in months.
Anyway, let me know if you have any suggestions for how I could handle this situation. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
- Crawl into a corner with a bottle of wine and scream, “They’re going to get me!!! I CAN’T ESCAPE!!!!!”
- Learn to sleep standing up while balancing on a small stool.
- Buy a RelaxMan.
- Ask Stacey Adams if he offers a package where he moves in with you. Some people have live-in nannies, I’ll have a live-in exterminator.
Now that I think about it, #3 looks pretty promising. Sure, they cost $50,000 (+$2,500 shipping and handling), but when you think about what we’d avoid having to spend in Valium prescriptions and intensive psychiatric care for me, we’d really be saving money. I am deterred not at all by the fact that we don’t have the money, or by thought that if we were to take on $52,500 in debt there might be something better we could use it for. Who needs a college education or a luxury vehicle when you can have the security of sleeping in a hermetically sealed tube? Sure, some folks might make fun of me when they see what looks like a giant white space capsule in the center of the living room — but we’ll see who’s laughing when they’re being stung by scorpions in the middle of the night and I’m not!
But wait. It occurs to me as I write this: What if I accidentally left it open during the day, a scorpion crawled inside, and I ended up TRAPPED IN THE RELAXMAN WITH A SCORPION!!!!!
If you never hear from me again, assume I went with option #1.
I don’t have much to say about this:
[Before I get started, let me apologize to any new readers who may have mistakenly thought this was a classy blog and were not prepared to see a close-up picture of a toilet and a scorpion when they checked for new posts at Conversion Diary today.]
So anyway, I was walking by the hallway bathroom yesterday morning and noticed some object in the bottom of the toilet. In this house it could have been any number of things, none of them good, so I was relatively prepared that my findings were not going to improve my day. I was not, however, prepared for it to be a scorpion.
My first thought was to reflect that Yaya, for whom potty training is a second religion, so effectively whipped everyone into shape around here that even our scorpions use the potty now.
The joking ended abruptly, though, when I realized: it got in there by itself. My husband was out with the kids, and it hadn’t been in there when they left. The most likely route would be that it crawled under the space between the bottom toilet seat and the bowl, i.e. WHERE NO ONE COULD SEE IT. Which means…well, lest I cause Feedburner’s servers to melt down from mass use of the “unsubscribe” button, let me just leave it at this: I was prepared that our family might have to deal with stings on our feet from scorpions hiding in shoes, or on our torsos, backs, arms, legs or faces from scorpions in the bed at night. But there was one thing I had not considered. And the possibility of it is now seared into my brain forever.
That night we went to dinner with my dad and grandfather, and I knew that this wasn’t going to be an impromptu support group. I’ve mentioned before my Texan relatives and I just cannot seem to get on the same page about scorpions. As I said in this post, when I would shriek about the very real possibility of being stung in bed while sleeping, my relatives would think that the problem was simply that I couldn’t figure out what to do in case of a nocturnal scorpion attack (“you just brush them off”) or that I was concerned only about the toxicity level of the sting (“it’s not like they’re rattlesnakes…though I did see one the other day…”) But they did try.
When I recounted the story to my dad, he nodded like I was telling him that I went to the store to get some milk. Then he remembered that I had that hang-up abut scorpions, and dutifully put a very kind and sympathetic look on his face. You could just see his mind in overdrive to think through all the angles to try to figure out what bothered me about this. You could tell he wanted to comfort me with some fatherly advice. So finally he offered: “They’re no worse than tarantula bites.”
I just kind of stared at him, wondering if there’s an official repository of Most Epic Encouragement Fails to which I could submit that statement.
He tried again: “Remember that time I woke up to that scorpion stinging me on the knee? “
“Yeah…” I said, eagerly waiting to hear the part about how it didn’t hurt or the sting ended up giving him superpowers or something.
“I didn’t die,” he said. Sensing that that might not have caused my quirky phobia to instantly dissipate once and for all, he tried another angle: “Plus, it’s not like that time Uncle Benton had one fall off the ceiling and sting him on the face while he was sleeping,” he added, pointing to the bedroom about five yards away from where I was sitting, where my uncle had been staying when he was stung. “His eye sure did swell up!”
And to think, if I had been in my dad’s situation of waking to a scorpion attacking my knee, I might have thought my glass was half empty! It was nice to have that little helping of Chicken Soup for the Texan Soul to inspire me for the rest of the evening, especially as I was falling asleep.
I mentioned it on Twitter, of course. This is one of those times that people who follow me on Twitter get a payoff for all the inane and boring tweets they put up with. It’ll be weeks of “I’m tired,” and “I stayed up too late,” and “Why do I stay up so late?”, and then, boom! “SCORPION IN MY TOILET!!!!!!”
Luckily the Twitterati had my back, and I got some advice for how to handle this all with prayer and grace. The guys at Creative Minority Report were able to offer me encouragement from a Catholic perspective:
And Scoutsigns weighed in with some practical suggestions:
Scoutsigns pointed out in another tweet that it was probably still alive — scorpions have been known to live for more than a day under water. OF COURSE IT WAS STILL ALIVE. I have no idea why I thought a mere few hours submerged under water would mean it was dead. Since I keep having to learn this lesson over and over again, I guess I need to make a flowchart to put on the living room wall to review in case of a scorpion sighting:
Some people have asked if there was any one last straw that led to my sudden internet fast a couple of weeks ago. Others have asked for details about the nature of my hysterical tweets from the afternoon of Friday, October 2nd. In this post I shall address both inquiries.
The afternoon of Friday the 2nd started out perfectly lovely. I’d put my youngest two children down for naps and had set up my three-year-old daughter and five-year-old son for a little quiet time. All day I’d been drifting over to my computer, checking email here, reading blogs there, and I couldn’t wait to finish up all the things I’d started in my sporadic computer time throughout the day. Just as I was settling down into the couch and opening up my laptop, I heard the worst four words that could be uttered in this house:
“Look, mommy, a scorpion!”
My three-year-old daughter was pointing to a scorpion. That was about six inches away from her leg.
I tossed my computer onto the couch and jumped up to confirm that it wasn’t some new scorpion gag toy that some soon-to-be-ex friend had planted in the living room. Nay, it was real. And big — one of the largest scorpions we’ve seen in the house to date. I didn’t want the kids to panic, so I said, “Run! Run to the couch NOW NOW NOW before it stings you! Hurry! It’s going to get you! Run! AAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!”
The commotion prompted the scorpion to saunter over to the middle of the living room floor. And this is where the story would end for most people. Most people’s internal dialogue would go something like:
“I will grab the nearest heavy object and drop it on the menacing arachnid.” Boom. “I’m glad that’s over with.”
But we’re talking about me, and nothing can be that simple, especially where scorpions are involved. My internal dialogue went something like:
“I will grab the nearest heavy object and drop it on the menacing arachnid. But WHAT IF IT DOESN’T WORK?! My ‘killing scorpions on carpet by dropping heavy things on them’ success rate is 0%! And what book should I use anyway? Is my husband’s Corporate Finance textbook big enough, or is this an Unabridged Oxford English Dictionary job? I know, I could ask the internet! If I want to seek advice from people on Twitter, how could I summarize this in 140 characters seeing as how I’m going to need AT LEAST 100 characters just for exclamation points?”
Meanwhile, as I was standing around analyzing my situation from every possible angle and thinking of how I could turn it into a clever tweet, the scorpion moseyed on over to a location under our long walnut buffet. This was bad. This was very bad. The buffet stands less than a foot above the carpet, making it impossible to get a book on top of the scorpion as long as it was under there. And then, just to make sure the suck-o-meter was dialed up to a 10, the scorpion crawled onto the side of a large book under the buffet.
The situation had gone from bad to worse. There was no way I could get it.
I seriously considered just staring at it for three hours until my husband got home from work, but the scorpion was headed toward the dreaded toy pit. To fully understand the ominousness of this trajectory, you first have to understand that my husband and I are both the only people of our generation to have children on both sides of our family. The result is that our children are blessed with many, many toys. Many. Like, I sometimes have dreams about frantically writing thank-you notes only to have dumptrucks overflowing with new packages addressed to my children come and pour their entire contents down upon me as I write. The result is that it looks like a Toys R Us exploded in the southwest corner of our living room; we’ve given up on fancy organizational techniques like throwing toys in boxes when the kids aren’t playing with them, and just kind of rake everything over to one part of the living room at the end of the day.
And I knew that if the scorpion made it into the toy pit, it would be all over.
“All over” as in I would never in a thousand years be able to find it, and if I did it would undoubtedly involve being stung. “All over” as in despite all my “ha ha I’m moving” jokes I would NEVER SET FOOT IN THIS HOUSE AGAIN if that scorpion got lost in the toy pile. I had to get it.
“I have GOT to get this thing before it goes into the toys and I lose it and then it stings one of us when we least expect it!” I thought it a blind panic. To calm myself down, I decided to call my husband for reassurance. It would be nice to hear the voice of someone who could just laugh at the whole thing and point out how silly I was being. When I described the situation to him, he responded:
“You have GOT to get that thing before it goes into the toys and you lose it and then it STINGS ONE OF US WHEN WE LEAST EXPECT IT!!!!!” Or something like that. Perhaps he wasn’t quite as frantic as I perceived him to be through the lens of my scorpion-induced mania, but suffice it to say that his answer was not to chuckle and tell me that it would be fine.
My husband did have a good practical suggestion though: Since it wasn’t in a good smashing position, I should use bug spray. I went and grabbed the last can of Raid from the laundry room, aimed it at the scorpion, went to push the plunger…and hesitated. Not pushing the plunger right when I had the nerve was a fatal mistake. I’d psyched myself out. The problem was that I had major hesitations about using wasp spray for scorpions. I mean, seriously, THESE THINGS DON’T DIE. If the fancy exterminator chemicals only get them to pretend to be dead, why on earth should I believe that some namby-pamby grocery store wasp spray would do anything at all? Shoot, for all I knew maybe that’s what they like to drink for breakfast! This train of thought ended up with me imagining spraying the Raid only to find out that it actually gives them more speed and strength, the angry arachnid now running right at me as I trip and fall and find myself unable to move as it stings me over and over again while I scream and the children come to my aid only to be stung themselves and…yeah. Suffice it to say I psyched myself out.
After some all-caps Twitter updates, Google searches to find out if wasps and scorpions are in the same genus, countless prayers requesting the support of the unknown patron saints of both scorpion killing and neurotic wimps, and rearranging the living room furniture to make the ottoman and some couch pillows into a scorpion-proof bunker behind which I could hide, I got ready to spray. For real this time. My finger was on the trigger again, but then I thought: What if this doesn’t have the range it says it does?
In what I would later come to think of as famous last words, I said to myself, “Ah, yes, I should really test it first!” So I went outside, picked out a threatening blade of grass and showed it who was boss with my Raid spraying skills. Then another one. OK, good, this stuff definitely had some range. I went inside, moved my bunker back a couple feet to give me even more room in case this spray only made the scorpion mad, and got ready again. Then I decided to test it inside the house. You know, in case it, uhh, spayed differently in indoor air. After squirting it at a blank spot on the wall, I was ready. Well, just one more time. OK, now I was ready.
But wait! Maybe what I needed was some music to help me get up my nerve. I put my iPod on shuffle and got back down behind my bunker just as some Matisyahu song was finishing up. In a you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up moment, the next song that came on was the ultimate “one chance to prove yourself and win a great struggle in a David-and-Goliath sort of way” theme song, Eye Of the Tiger. As those first DUNH…DUHN-DUHN-DUHN guitar riffs started (OK, that’s hard to write, but y’all know what I’m talking about, right?) I focused my eyes on the scorpion 12 feet away, aimed the can, and sprayed.
And to my abject horror, I heard only a weak phhhhhhhhhh sound as a light cloud of chemcials came from the can.
I’d used up all the spray in my many tests. The can was basically empty.
In the split second it took for a couple of minuscule droplets to float over from the can to the scorpion’s hideout under the buffet, the thought flashed through my mind, “This isn’t going to be good.” And it wasn’t. One of the drops was a direct hit. The scorpion was unamused. And when scorpions get unamused, they get fast.
In a flash it got down from the book and took off, its stinger ready to take someone out. I instinctively started running the opposite direction, in the back of my mind thinking that I would eventually stop, perhaps somewhere around the U.S.-Canadian border. But when I glanced over my shoulder I saw to my horror that it was not running in my direction, but towards the toy pit. And it was only about a foot away.
“Get it, mommy!” my son shouted as the distance between the scorpion and a toy tractor closed quickly.
The awareness that I would literally never sleep in this house again if I lost that scorpion flashed through my mind, and — with Eye of the Tiger still blasting — I turned around, slammed open the childproof gate and ran back into the living room, knocking over a stack of laundry and kicking over a pile of children’s books that were in my way, stepping on a baby doll and reaching out to within a few inches of the scorpion to douse it with the last few dribbles of Raid.
In one of the more anticlimactic moments I’ve experienced lately, it just died. Instantly. The spray worked just fine.
I’d just thrown a book over it to stall any sneaky coming-back-from-the-dead moments until my husband got home, when I heard my two youngest children waking up from their naps. I went to get them, and when I came back downstairs it smelled like…well, like some idiot had sprayed Raid all over living room, so I announced that we were all playing outside until daddy got home.
A while later my husband walked in to behold the dismantled couch, the ottoman bunker, the scattered laundry and toys, the chemical residue dripping from the wall. To say that it looked like thieves had ransacked the place would be to imply way too much of a feel of order or purpose to the mess; to say it looked like thieves intended to ransack it but decided to stay and get drunk and just thrash around for a while would be getting closer to reality.
When my husband asked me how my day was, I said with a sigh, “It’s been tough — I haven’t had any time to relax and do stuff on my computer today!”
He looked back at the house, looked at me, and observed: “Today one of the kids came close to being stung by the biggest scorpion we’ve seen around here in a while, you stared at it in agony for the better part of an hour, hosed down the house with Raid, finally killed the scorpion, somehow tore the living room apart in the process…and your take is that it was a bad afternoon because you didn’t get enough computer time?”
And that’s when I decided it was time for a break.
- Brother Scorpion, Sister Mosquito
- 20 things I learned in a week without my computer
- Greetings from the House ‘O Scorpions
Thanks to Emily for suggesting the word “Scorpionator.”