TBT: The Battle of The Scorpions

This Throwback Thursday post harkens back to my college days.  Age aside, I think I technically qualified as a non-traditional student.  After the first year spent living on campus (first semester in a dorm, second in married student housing), we moved into my father-in-law’s house because he had moved to another state and the house was available rent free.  What college student can pass that up?

The downside was that it was almost an hour from campus, but gas in a Civic was cheaper than rent so we moved.  Another downside, I was soon to learn, was the presence of scorpions.  The house was nestled on 10 acres down in a valley full of trees in a remote, rural area with virtually no neighbors visible from the house.  It was a beautiful place.  Except for the scorpions.

My mother-in-law had told me about how she had gotten into the habit of shaking out her clothes and checking her shoes before putting them on – just to make sure no scorpions were there.  I never got in the habit of doing this and was fairly lucky that the lack of doing so never got me stung.

One calm afternoon found me sprawled across our bed, stomach down, arms spread out around my head, enjoying a drowsy pseudo-nap.  The windows were open (no air conditioning) and the breeze blew comfortably across me.  At one point, I felt the hairs on the back of the hand closest to the window move.

It’s just the breeze moving the hairs, I told myself.  I rebelled against the thought because it sure felt like something was crawling on me.  Open your eyes and look, I said, willing myself not to panic over nothing.  My face was toward that hand.  The hand was, in fact, mere inches from my face.  I calmed myself, convinced that it was just the wind, and then lazily opened my eyes, intending to verify what I knew to be true and then return to my pleasant slumber.

Instead, I gazed upon the scorpion crawling across the back of my hand.  I have never been that close to one before and hope never to be again.  I screamed and threw my hand away from me.  The scorpion went flying across the room.  I stood on the bed yelling for my husband to come find and kill the pest.  It had, of course, scurried away.  Needless to say, I was unable to return to my state of rest.

We would find them everywhere.  In the bathtub.  In the dogs’ food bowls.  In the sink.  One day, as I prepared to leave the house to go study with a friend who also lived an hour from campus, I noticed one in the kitchen sink.  Because I am a wise and resourceful woman, I seized the opportunity to scald it to death.  I turned on the water as hot as it would go and moved the extendable faucet head to focus that terrible watery heat on my foe.

After a sufficient period of time, I turned off the water.  The scorpion did not move.  Success, I told myself.  To my husband, who was in the living room watching TV, I said, “I just killed a scorpion in the sink.  Will you please dispose of it?”

“Sure,” he said.

When I returned several hours later, I checked the sink.  The scorpion was gone.  I thanked the husband who was still watching TV in the living room.  He responded defensively with, “Hey!  I’m sorry!  I forgot!  You don’t have to get all ugly about it!”

My skin went cold.  I glanced at the sink and then all around me.  “You mean you didn’t throw away a dead scorpion?”

“No.”

That’s when it occurred to me that perhaps you can’t adequately scald a hardy insect with an exoskeleton.  At least, not if death of the insect is your goal.

Yet another day saw us outside.  I was sitting on the front porch reading an assignment for school.  He was doing some sort of yard work.  The porch was obscured from the road – a very private place.  It was still a surprise when he walked up on to the porch, turned his back to me, and pulled down his pants.

It quickly became apparent that he was not being kinky, when he said, “Do you see that red spot on my leg?”

I looked and confirmed that I did.

“I think there might be something in my pants.  Can you check?  I think something may have just stung me.”

With that, I put down my book and gingerly pulled on the edge of his jeans to get a better look.  When I did so, a scorpion scurried out of one of the pant legs toward me.

Now, the calm and appropriate response would have been to swiftly brush the scorpion out of his pants.  And if I was quick enough, stomp it dead.  That’s what he would have done had the roles been reversed.

But the roles were not reversed.  And I am rarely calm and appropriate when faced with a surprise such as this one.  No, I jumped back from him, knocking over my chair, and screeched, “There’s a SCORPION in your pants!!”

This news, or perhaps the manner in which it was delivered, sent him into a panic.  He began to stomp around the porch, slapping at his pants and yelling, “Get it out!  Get it out!”

He was really in a predicament since he was wearing Cowboy boots and the only way to remove the pants would require him to first pull them up more so he could take the boots off.  Pulling them up would be a good way to get the scorpion back in contact with his skin.

Fortunately, I saw the scorpion fall or jump out shortly thereafter and was able to yell the all-clear before he stumbled head first off the porch.  For reasons that I fail to understand, he was a bit cross with me.  He knows who he married.  He should not expect calm in the face of such stress.  I can be calm and level-headed through many different trials and tribulations.  But if it involves a creepy crawly, forget it.  I’m out.

Age is Relative

At dinner last night, Hal told his older brother that he had figured out why he (Daryl) was so mean to him (Hal) when Daryl was hanging out with his friend Tony.  Now, I already know why.  No one likes their little brother trying to hang with them – especially when that little brother is five years younger.  Hal pretty much hit the nail on the head:

“It’s because you are acting like a teenager.”

Jane jerked her head up, correctly interpreting that she, as the only teenager in the family, had just been slighted.  But it got her to thinking.  “Wow.  You know when Hal is a teenager, I might not be living at home anymore.”

“You better not still be living at home!” her dad said.  “I’ve got plans for that room.”

“But when Hal’s a teenager, I’ll be…”

“Twenty-one,” he finished.

“I could be attending the local college still.”

“But hopefully not living at home.”

Hal looked up from his Daddy’s lap and gave him a big hug.  “When I’m twenty nine, I’m really going to miss you.”

“Well, honey, you don’t have to miss me.  We can visit each other.”

“You mean you’ll still be alive then?!”  He sounded surprised but hopeful.

“I sure hope so!” Daddy responded.  “I’m turning 40 in a few days and my parents are still alive.”

“Mommy,” Daryl cut in, “You know that lady at church?  She’s got short gray hair and wrinkles?  She’s only 37.”

“Who are you talking about?” I asked.

“She always helps with the potlucks.  She’s only 37!”

Figuring out who he was talking about, I responded, “Um, honey, she’s older than 37.”

“But you look younger than her, Mommy!”

“I am younger than her, sweetheart.”

“But she said that if I kept doing what I was doing that one day that I’d make her older than her 37 years.”

“It was a joke,” Jane responded.  “She was joking.”

“Oh.”

Age is such a tricky thing for kids to get a handle on.

Before I Die

Jane has an interesting grammatical quirk. It pops up enough that I have made it my mission to correct it. It was on display at dinner tonight.

Daryl’s graded spelling test was sitting on the table. Jane and I were enjoying a quiet dinner together while the boys and their dad were at a Cub Scout event. She remarked on the test.

“I see he got an a hundred.”

“An a hundred?”

Laughing nervously, she corrected herself, “He got a hundred.”

“I’m going to beat this out of you if it’s the last thing I do.”

“It will be the last thing you do.”

“Oh, ho! Are you saying you plan to kill me as soon as you actually say it correctly?”

She started to squirm as the implication sunk in. “No. But when you are on your deathbed, I will come to see you and I will say, ‘Look, mom, I got a hundred on my college paper’…”

She trailed off as she saw my incredulous expression and began to consider that perhaps college was not that far into the future.

“…I mean… on my… on my… retirement paper… Yeah, that’s it. And then you will say, ‘Oh, you finally got it right my sweet dear!’ and then…” She let her head fall back with her eyes shut and her mouth gaping open.

I suppose I could be content on my deathbed if the only remaining regret in my life was that I had never succeeded in stopping my daughter from saying “an a hundred.” I don’t think I’d even need her to come lie about a retirement test to find peace.

Grandma was a Player

My grandmother’s name is Lucky. Not really, but that’s what everyone calls her. Her real name is Mary Lee. Her mother was Mary Helen and I always assumed she was called a nickname to avoid confusion with her mother, but it never occurred to me to ask until recently.

She had been very sick and was now recovering in a rehabilitation center. I was in town and stopped by to visit. She’s telling me about the illness and funny stories about people in the nursing home, when I notice her medicine cup on her tray. It says “Mary Lee”. So the people working there didn’t know to call her Lucky, which got me thinking about her name.

“Grandma, how did you get the name Lucky?”

“Well, I was in college and I had two roommates. One was Sarah, who was a big buxom Swede from Oklahoma City. The other was Mary Lou, a stout woman about 5 foot 3. We had to share rooms because the men were coming back from the war. There was a phone down the hall and it’d ring and ring until someone answered it. And then they’d call out: 213 and a name. We were always going down for the wrong person because Mary Lee and Mary Lou are hard to distinguish. Well, I kept going with her dates and she with mine.

“They had a directory, I don’t know how they put it together, but it was out pretty soon after the start of the school year. The men would see someone in class and hear their name and then they’d look them up in the directory and call them to go out. Well, I got tired of her taking all my 6 foot guys and me being stuck with her 5 foot 10 or less and I said, ‘enough of this!’ and I decided, ‘I’m called Lucky. No more Mary Lee.'”

“But what was the problem with dating guys that were 5 foot 10?” I asked.

“Well, there were ten guys to each girl so I figured I could keep to my standards and only see the ones I really wanted to.”

“But surely they saw you in class and knew the girl that came down wasn’t the girl they called?”

“It’s an Officer and a Gentleman,” she explained. “You’ve called a girl down and this is who showed up so you take her out. My housemom took me aside and said, ‘Now don’t flaunt it.'”

That line confused me until she went on: “I was almost 21. We were second semester Freshmen but I was older. I had been out in the business world. I acted more mature than the others and dressed better. We all dressed up for lunch and then again for dinner and going out to walk around Theta pond [Oklahoma State University], taking pictures and stuff. The freshman curfew was 8:00 but we agreed that I could stay out later as long as I didn’t make a big deal out of it. I never abused it. I used it to my advantage a few times,” she finished with a wry smile.

“You mean, you’d tell a guy you didn’t like that you had a curfew?” I asked.

“Well, yes, I’d look down at my watch and say, ‘Oh, my! It’s almost curfew. I better get back!” She laughed, “I was a mean bugger. I even got my mother to start calling me Lucky. We were setting the table and she said, ‘Lucky, put the salt over here.’ Janie [her future sister-in-law] was walking by and she said to me [here she scrunched her face up and adopted a very mean tone]: ‘You have a perfectly good Christian name and you should use it.’ I said, ‘pardon me?’ And she said, ‘You’re name is Mary Lee. Now you’ve even got your mother calling you Lucky.’ She made it clear that she thought I was being sinful and scandalous.

“She never did call me Lucky. It was always Mary Lee. That was really the only trouble we ever had. I would be driving home sometimes with Marie [my mother] asleep in the backseat when a car would come up behind me flashing its lights on and off. I’d pull over and it’d be Raymond [her brother] driving Janie back to school. We’d sit there on the side of the highway toward Stillwater. I’d like to see someone try to do that now. Anyway, it was real handy. Family and friends from High School called me Mary Lee. College called me Lucky. So it was easy to sort them all out.”