Intruder on the loose. In the midst of all the excitement of the premiere of our National Geographic documentary, and all the television promotion that came from it, we’ve moved. From Las Vegas to the Phoenix area, from one desert to another, as if Vegas wasn’t hot enough for us.
The soundtrack at our Vegas house was primarily sirens, especially at night. These were often accompanied by the Doppler effect of percussive, droning police helicopters as they circled my neighborhood, even, seemingly, my house, with blinding searchlights flashing through my windows as if I might be harboring the criminal on the loose.
“Another criminal on the loose,” I’d always say. Between the sirens and helicopters, there was the pleasant, haunting whistle and distant rush of freight trains. That sound I liked.
In my new house, the audio is dominated by silence. I hear coyotes every night. They howl nearby and rush yipping in pack formation through my backyard. One bunny fewer hops through the yard at breakfast. I hear owls, too. And yes, I’ve seen the coyotes. Three of them together, waltzing across my backyard early in the morning.
Last week, walking toward my bedroom, I heard a crunch. Turning, I was horrified to see that I’d stepped on a giant scorpion. It must have fallen out of the rolled rug I was carrying. Yikes!
The scorpion was running in circles when I turned to see it. I should mention that, luckily, I was wearing moccasins at the time. I could have been barefoot. Even with soft shoes on, my left foot felt guilty and creeped out for hours afterward. As if I could feel the contact point.
I fled the scene to phone my nearby sister, who’s well-acquainted with these primeval exoskeletoned creatures, and who had her house “scorpion-proofed” after confronting too many of them.
“You left it unattended?!” she accused. “They’re very hard to kill. You probably only broke a leg or two. Cover it with a jar and a weight.”
I went back to examine the monster, remembering the live edible specimens I’d seen in Beijing earlier this year. It was a few feet away from where I’d last seen it, but still. Not moving. It seemed to be dead. I bravely stamped my foot loudly beside it. It didn’t move. I blew on it. Nothing. I snapped the photo above and left the house to get Bob at the airport.
“Watch out for the dead scorpion in the hall,” I told him, as he headed for the bedroom.
Gone! That was the moment I began to wish for the police helicopter searchlights. A giant scorpion on the loose. In my house. With reason to be vengeful. I wondered if I’d be able to sleep.
Obsessing on the fact my sister had mentioned: that they carry their babies on their backs. A whole brood could already be scampering into my shoes and sheets and up the curtains.
Two days later Bob found it. Dead, in the bedroom. Which is some distance from the site of the accident. Or was it the same scorpion…? Dead, it didn’t look so giant.
The next day I started when I saw a scorpion on the kitchen table. Bob had brought the mail in and a postcard peeked out from the bottom of the heap. It had a realistic photo of a scorpion on it, and advertised a scorpion extermination service. Hmmm… what a coincidence. Would a scorpion exterminator plant a few of the devils to scare new residents into its service? I tell you, it’s on the verge of working.
I cannot bang every shoe before I step into it. I cannot shake out the bed sheets every night, or scan the walls and ceilings for creepers. I can’t live like that. For now, I’ve decided to put them out of my mind and ignore them. At least until the spring, when they become more active. At least until I see another one.
And I’m saving that postcard.