Once Upon a Scorpion
Before we had moved out of the mountains, we lived in The Queen of the Hills, Mussoori, a beautiful mountain town in the foothills of the Himalayas. We rented various houses to live in on the edges of steep mountain sides, but never stayed in one place for more than a few months at a time. Our shortest rental was only two weeks. Once we changed houses 11 times in 19 months. The reason was that no one wanted to rent to a young hippy couple with 50 children. Go figure that!
The worst house we lived in was also the house we kept going back to out of need for a house. It was on the back side of the mountain, the shaded, dark, wet, cold, gloomy side of the mountain. Of course, it was the cheapest. Its House Speciality was scorpions (not crispy deep fried)! Once, when our stay was only two months, we killed 25 scorpions inside the house. A day would never go by that I didn’t give a thorough check in all corners, sweeping frequently and shaking my shoes out in the morning. One morning, as I banged my shoe, a scorpion dropped out.
Himalayan scorpions won’t kill you, but their sting will certainly not go unnoticed; they are guaranteed to cause unmentionable amounts of agony. Interestingly, it was not in that house my scorpion encounter happened. There was a time when I was staying in a house with the girls while Ken stayed in a house with the boys. We also had kids of our own, who stayed with me.
It was night, and the baby would wake up at least once wanting to be fed. I, my kids and the girls all slept in one room. As usual, half way through the night, I heard my baby cry. I reached down to the floor, where I had placed a candle and matches so that I needn’t put on the light and disturb everyone. I slipped my bare feet into rubber flip-flops and walked in the direction of the cry. The baby was in a large drawer I had pulled out of a cupboard to use as a bed. I walked carefully with my candle held out in front of me. There was a definite sound of a “crunch” underneath my feet. I stepped back and held the light to see what I had stepped on. I could not see anything on the mottled cement floor. So, I decided to proceed.
When I reached the drawer, I could not find place for my candle, so I set it on the floor. Then I saw the large scorpion which I had delicately and brutally squished quite directly under my rubber slippers! I was horrified! Taking off my flip-flop, I swatted it again and again. It must have nearly been in pieces when I finished with it, but I was still not satisfied; I went to a shelf and grabbed as many books as I could carry and stacked them up, one on top of the other, and placed them neatly on the scorpion. I fed my baby, and went back to bed, prayed that the scorpion was thoroughly dead and quite unable to crawl out from under the books, and slept with my eyes open.
In the morning, the girls wondered at the stack of books in the middle on the floor. So, I told them what happened. That was it, as soon as I’d finished, hysterical laughter burst forth from all sides of the room! I no longer had that heroic feeling of saving them from that huge scorpion, no, I felt very much the opposite —like a worm, or a mega sized chicken. I guess now, to my brave girls, I was today’s joke! Admittedly, I was a true coward (but only regarding scorpions, and maybe snakes).