A Scorpion in My Kitchen! What a wonderful title for a groundbreaking essay on poisons in our food or the dangers of cooking or illicit intrusions into our private spaces.
Except there really is a scorpion in my kitchen!
I had dropped something small on the kitchen floor — a vitamin pill, I think — and switched on the big overhead fluorescent light fixture to help me locate it. I rarely use that light, and idly I glanced up at it, noting that its translucent white cover had accumulated a few bugs. I could see, through the plastic, the blurry silhouettes of dead moths.
I was thinking about reaching up and cleaning out the light cover when I noticed that one of the silhouettes was moving. It seemed to be struggling to escape, treadmilling against the slick, curving plastic, unable to climb out and unable to stop trying. It appeared oddly shaped, much larger than a moth but more like— Oh good Lord! Those were not antennae; they were claws! And that long tail kept curling and uncurling … like a stinger!
I think of scorpions as exotic, deadly creatures that dwell in hot deserts or torrid rain forests, lying in wait to ambush small living things, pincering and stinging them to death and then consuming them. Scorpions seem alien, almost unreal, existing only in stories from The Arabian Nights or in an old Western where a Mexican bandido, lounging at night before a campfire, reaches down and flicks one off his boot.
But in my own residence?!? Madre de Dios!! This is just wrong.
How did it get in there? It must have crawled down from the attic and dropped into the fixture. How, then, did it get into the attic? Perhaps it was transported here by accident in a truck from the desert. Then a bird had caught it and flown over my building, and the scorpion had stung it and escaped, dropping onto the roof. Or maybe it had crept up through dark recesses inside the walls, crawling inches from my head as I slept.
Did more of them lurk in my home?
I could remove the light cover and get rid of the poisonous thing — simply toss it outside. But children play nearby. Perhaps I could crush it where it lay. But I might crack the light cover. In any case, I would have to clean it out, risking contact with the stinger. As well, it might get away from me, jumping out and scurrying off to lurk in a dark corner … or inside one of my shoes. I could shake it out into the toilet and flush it away. But what if it survived and crawled back out…?
I stared up at it. Best to leave it where it is.
When I switch the kitchen light on, the scorpion is all energy, moving about, trying to escape. Perhaps the fluorescent tubes are too bright for it, or the electric warmth disturbs it. With the light off and the hall light on, I can dimly make it out, sitting quietly in its plastic prison. I stare, and the creature appears unmoving, perhaps asleep. And then it comes to life, writhing slowly in some ghastly torment. Then it lies still, its position unchanged. Perhaps, in the dim light, my mind has animated the thing — it only dances in my imagination.
I feel somewhat guilty about leaving it there. The light fixture is a desert with no morsel of food anywhere. I am reminded of spiders in the corners of rooms, safe from predators but with nothing to hunt. (I imagine them as desert prospectors with tiny beards.) The scorpion, though, fell into my world by accident. It seems unfair to let it die, helpless, because it took a wrong turn.
But what if it refuses to die? It might survive for weeks or even months up there without food. Already, each night, irresistibly my eyes are drawn upward, searching perversely to find the crawling thing once again.
Enough! I must flick the scorpion from my mind.
…Good night, deadly little creature! Sleep well. See you tomorrow.
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UPDATE: After some weeks, the little scorpion has expired. Not wishing to experience an accidental encounter with its poisonous tail, I have chosen to let it rest in place. There it lies, unmoving and ever-present, on the inside of the translucent overhead light fixture.
UPDATE (2016 Sep 07): Late at night, I found a scorpion on my kitchen floor. It was the same size — about 2″ — as the long-dead one still entombed above my head in the light fixture. I covered the grim invader with an upside-down drinking glass. It did not react. Checking to see if it was alive, I slid the glass sideways to nudge it. The scorpion awoke in a panic, struck at the glass with its tail — clink-clink — and with startling speed raced in circles under the glass. I could remove it to the outside world, but children at play might disturb it. I made an executive decision; the scorpion did not survive.