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 and even climbed the walls and crawled across the ceil­ing. On occa­sion, 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 a 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 with he name “Randy” was bare­ly notice­able. His eyes dart­ed behind as he pre­pared to imme­di­ate­ly con­tain the sit­u­a­tion. My instinct was to turn and look, but I knew noth­ing was there. The suit was tie-dyed into a kind of 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 then right. He spoke soft­ly.
“Um, Mis­ter Hill?” He paused. “Randy, Cen­tral Texas Pest Con­trol,” he announced abrupt­ly before I had a chance to speak.
“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 to too much pes­ti­cide. Randy knew a lot about bugs; more than I ever want­ed to know.
“Says c’here you got scorpi’ns,” he said with a faint whis­tle you often hear from peo­ple with poor­ly fit­ted den­tures. He spoke in a loud­er more offi­cial tone 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 some’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 real­ly kill no scopi’ns with no poi­son, ham­mer maybe, but no poi­son,” he said. “Trap ‘em, you best bet. Scorpi’n lives a long…some near twen­ty years,” he told me enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly. “And a mama, why she can have hun’erds of babies. You got­ta get ‘em quick while you can.”
He pulled from his back pock­et a num­ber of 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 scorpi’n mo-tel,” he chuck­led, “they checks in but they not 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.