In our new, spacious home, scorpions were everywhere. When we painted the privacy fence, there were so many we painted over them and sealed them to the wood. Inside the house, they clung to clothing hanging in the closets; they got inside packed boxes, climbed the walls, and crawled across the ceiling. Occasionally, one of them would lose its footing and fall to the floor or, worse, onto one of us. We checked every surface, especially the bedding, and shook out our shoes before we put them on to be sure. Although we were outnumbered, we never got stung. The scorpions alone should have warned us of things to come. Our new suburban home was more like a cabin in the woods with gaping holes in the walls.
We needed a professional to rid our home of scorpions. It took a month to schedule the appointment. When the doorbell rang, I was not prepared for what stood before me, a small man barely five feet tall. His official khaki company uniform had been meticulously modified until the small blue patch named “Randy” was barely noticeable. His eyes darted behind as he prepared to contain the situation immediately. I instinctivelyAad, but I knew nothing was there. The suit was tie-dyed into muddy fatigue; an encyclopedia of bug tattoos adorned his arms. A small row of plastic ants crawled across the top of his hard hat and encircled the company slogan, “We Kill Your Bugs.” A rattlesnake head hung loosely from what appeared to be a key chain in his pocket. With small, dark, piercing eyes, Randy looked much like a bug himself. He fixed his gaze on the ground and occasionally glanced left and right. He spoke softly.
“Um, Mister Hill?” He paused. “Randy, Central Texas Pest Control,” he announced abruptly before I spoke.
“Yes, … um, Grif-fin … Hill, yes,” I hesitated as the words parted my mouth. I should have just said, ‘Yes, Mr. Hill,’ and left a formal distance.
Randy took his job very seriously. I imagined that he was prone to flashbacks of some earlier war or were his twitches due to inhaling too much pesticide. Randy knew much about bugs, more than I ever wanted to know.
“Says c’here you got scorp’ins,” he said with a faint whistle you often hear from people with poorly fitted dentures. He spoke louder, more officially as he examined the paperwork attached to a small metal clipboard. His eyes darted randomly, “Your best bet is to trap ‘em. Stomp ‘em with a boot or som’in and you jus’ piss ‘em off!”
“Trap … them,” I said clearly to correct his diction. “Can’t you just spray the house with poison to kill them?”
“Nah, can’t kill no scop’ins with no poison, hammer maybe, but no poison,” he said. “Trap ‘em, you best bet. Scorp’in lives a long…some near twenty years,” he told me enthusiastically. “And a mama, why she can have hun’urds of babies. You gotta get ‘em quick while you can.”
He pulled from his back pocket several flat, paper boards. He removed the paper backing which revealed a sticky pad. He folded the board into a small box. “I call this c’here my scorp’in mo-tel,” he chuckled, “they checks in but they no be checkin’ out. Real sticky-like, don’t touch it. It’ll even catch small snakes and other critters.”
“Well, we don’t have snakes,” I said. “How do you get them to go inside the box?”
“Scopi’ns likes cool, damp, dark place. They moves ‘round at night, mostly. I puts traps ‘round you house where they sneaks in.”
Randy placed the traps and left a handful of extra traps with detailed instructions for a device a child could assemble.
Over the weeks that followed, true to Randy’s word, the traps filled with scorpions including the mother of all scorpions with hundreds of baby scorpions riding on her back, just as Randy had said. After a few weeks, there didn’t seem to be any more scorpions. I left the empty traps in place, just in case.
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