I can tell you exactly where I was sitting, what clothes I was wearing, and the precise layout of the furniture when the giant scorpion came into the family room of our California home. It was the 1981 version of Clash of the Titans, and my parents had rented it from the Federated Electronics Super Store in North Hollywood. That whole show was disturbing to a little boy with a wild imagination–Medusa’s beheaded head full of snakes, the Kraken sea monster, you name it. But I distinctly remember my parents telling me that scorpions were real (not that big of course), but if you got one in your sleeping bag on a scout camp out, it’s sting could kill you. (Luckily, I survived boy scouts: hypothermia, dehydration, and stupidity proved to be bigger problems for me than scorpions.)
It wasn’t until we moved to St George recently that scorpions became real for me. My first encounter was at a friend’s house. We were in their backyard standing on a cement pad–all of us barefoot–when we noticed a scorpion right in the middle of our little circle. I quickly moved everyone away from the area and told the owners of the house. They said they had never seen a scorpion in all of the time they lived there.
Fast forward to this morning, in my own house–the place where my children are supposed to be the most safe. Upstairs in my room (the room where I sleep), my little 4-year-old girl in nothing but her nightgown and underwear with her hair all a mess, was being her usual obstinate self.
It was during the mad rush to get everyone ready for school, and today was even more hectic as mom was out of town, and dad wasn’t doing things the way that mom does things. We were making good time though and I had each older sibling assigned to help the younger siblings. I had just changed the diaper of my two year old on our bedroom floor and gotten her dressed. I was heading downstairs to take the diaper out when I heard Elizabeth cry. Honestly, she cries all the time–whines and pitches lots of fits. So, her crying was nothing new–except that it was new.
It was a unique pained cry and a strange expression of shock on her face. I asked her what had happened and she pointed at her knee. I could see no cuts and felt no slivers so I searched the ground. I thought I saw a piece of glass (which would make sense from the amount of pain she was in), but it turned out to be a small piece of soft plastic. I ran my fingers back and forth through the carpet looking for thorns–which had gotten us a few times in the past. Instead of a thorn, a little brown thing flipped up into the air and landed on top of the carpet. It looked like maybe a shriveled up rubber-band or even a loose piece of carpet. I picked it up for a closer inspection and suddenly realized what I was holding in my hand.
I chucked it back onto the floor and stared in disbelief. It was a scorpion. The thing I had been told could kill you, and now my daughter had been stung by one and I had just been holding it. I was shocked. I felt like George W. Bush when he learned of the terrorist attacks. I knew I needed to act, but I couldn’t pull my thoughts together to know what to do. I yelled at my kids to move back from the area. Just then the scorpion started scurrying rather quickly across the floor. Startled by its movement, I knew I couldn’t let it get away and cause more harm to my family later. I called for a shoe. My oldest daughter brought me one of her shoes. It was small, but it would work. I held it by the toe and slapped it down on the scorpion. It stopped moving, bounced on the carpet and lay flat. I slapped it again to be safe, then called for a dust pan.
My son watched me sweep it up and said, “That’s a scorpion?”
“I thought that was a spider. There is dead one of those in the bathroom downstairs.”
Now it wasn’t just a lone scorpion. The house was under attack.