It’s October again, which means we’re now officially seven weeks into the Halloween season, going by the standard retail marketing calendar. (This also means we’re officially one week into the Christmas season.) So what better way to kick off the month than with a scary story! One of the “ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties” kind.
When we first moved to Austin, I looked forward to a number of things: better career opportunities, lots to see and do, and (most importantly) not being buried under five feet of snow every year. However, there were a few things I didn’t look forward to and at the top of that list sat: scorpions.
For the first few months we were here, I carried around a mild but nonetheless irrational fear of the little beasties. I’d never seen one before, not in real life, and I didn’t want to. I’d heard stories from our real estate agent and others who’d lived here a while, so I expected to see one at every turn. But as our time in Austin moved on and I still had yet to run into any, I figured maybe the whole scare was overblown.
Until one day while at work I got an instant message from Laura.
We had a pile of pillows on the floor in a corner. She moved one and out skittered a little scorpion. The emphasis is on little. Because when I got home that night to see it I felt a bit disappointed that I’d gotten all worked up over nothing. All the scorpions I’d seen in the media were big, ugly, scary things. Now, I’m not saying that this one cute and cuddly. But in comparison to my runaway imagination, this was relatively tame.
A few years went by and I only saw maybe two or three more. A decade went by and nothing. At this point I assumed humans had finally won the battle and I had nothing more to worry about. Until last year when we moved north.
While everything to the south of our new house looks like standard suburbia, our backyard, to the north side, butts right up against a thousand acre ranch. Whereas our front street sees cars, and garbage trucks, and delivery vehicles, our back fence wards off wandering cattle.
I enjoy this odd arrangement, where two worlds meet, but that also means we’re on the front line of the War of the Arthropods.
Even before we moved in, we encountered our first scorpion. Of course, by now they didn’t bother me any more than any other random bug encounter would. Plus, it was already dead.
“That’s one,” we said, knowing that there were more on the way.
Fast forward to July 2017. We stopped counting scorpion findings somewhere around two dozen. I would say eighty percent of them are already dead and the remaining are very near death as Laura approaches with a sledgehammer.
Anyway, on the night of July 27, I went to sleep like any other night. I was two or three hours into a nice, cozy sleep when my eyes flew open at a sharp pain on my left pinky followed quickly by one on my left arm.
“What the hell was that?” my brain thought, not having the benefit of reading an entire blog post about scorpions to set the stage. I climbed out of bed and walked to the bathroom and turned on the light. My finger felt sore but in my still-groggy state I somehow began to wonder if I didn’t just imagine something, or this was all a vivid dream.
There on my finger was a little white circle with a red dot in the middle. Okay, nope: not imagining things. But what was that? Did a spider bite me?
I went back to my bed with half my brain thinking, “I’d better investigate this.” The other half of my brain was thinking, “It’s late. Just go back to sleep.” (That’s the half of my brain I like to refer to as “the stupid half.”)
Flipping on my phone’s camera light, I conducted a quick search but couldn’t find anything. The confusing thought that maybe I dreamed all this still fogged my brain. I headed back to the bathroom and looked at my finger again. Still white and red and slightly swollen. Okay, nope: still not imagining things.
Upon my second trip back to the bed for further investigation, I was relieved to find physical evidence of the incident. There on the bed as I peeled back the covers further, lay a small, arms-curled-up, dead-spider-looking thing.
“Aha!” I said to myself as I found a container to scoop him up in. But as I scooped, the dead-looking spider uncurled all his long-leggedy appendages and revealed himself in his full scorpion glory.
Now safely bottled up, I placed him on the kitchen counter so he could think about what he did. I returned to bed one last time, conducted a quick additional scan in case he had any friends, and went back to sleep.
The next day I showed him off to the family. I took the jar to work and showed him off to coworkers. At that point, figuring he learned his lesson by now, I took him outside to a thick stand of trees and let him go. If you’re not squeamish about such things, you can view his escape here.
Tune in next week when I might tell you about the tarantula we found walking around our driveway when we came home from dinner last week. You know a spider is big when you can see it from the street.
On second thought, never mind. We’ll be too deep into the Christmas season for such tales by then.