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.