A Scorpion's Tale

Karen Radford Treanor 


Copyright 2019  by Karen Radford Treanor

Drawing of a scorpion by Gerry Wild.
Drawing (c) by Gerry Wild

This is a slightly revamped and updated version of a story from a book I wrote ten years ago, “A Tree in Mundaring”, several chapters of which have already appeared in Storyhouse.  It was one of my less practical forays into publishing—by the time I paid the artist, the paper supplier for the snazzy 110 gsm paper and the faux parchment covers, and the printer, I just broke even.  But it was a nice looking book and very popular with my neighbour hills-dwellers, who could relate to most of the stories.
I attach the original illustration by the artist Gerry Wild, I am sure he would not mind it being used if he is credited for it.
With all the useful things people tell you about living in Australia, why is it they forget to warn you about scorpions? When we lived in the hot, dry hills of Western Australia it didn’t seem that odd that we had scorpions—the climate and the critters went together. However I didn’t expect to find the little stingers in cool, damp Tasmania. Wrong again: if anything, we find even more of them down here.

It's entirely possible that there is a scorpion nursery or play school somewhere under my kitchen cupboards; I can't imagine where they all come from otherwise. Every summer without fail there is a period during which you can't put a foot to the floor without something scuttling towards or away from you, depending on its mood that day. I think it quite likely that scorpions, like the gentlemen of the road of old, have marked our fence to tell all their friends where the free eats are.

There have been scorpions in the shower, behind the toilet, hiding in the fringe of the rug, lurking in the fibres of the floor mop and throwing parties in the bottom of the laundry hamper.

You can lie awake on a summer's night and imagine the tiny giggles of scorpions plotting where they are going to spring out of next.

"OK, Harry, you shin up the shower curtain and when she pulls it closed, drop on her head."

"Ah, Bill, I did that last week, can't I jump out of her bureau drawer instead?"

"Hey, guys, I got it: let's hang onto the bottom of the kitchen sponge, and when she scoops the crumbs into her hand, we'll pop out and yell 'Surprise!'." says Louie.

"Here’s a yuck, let's tease the cat until he pounces on one of us and then make him so sick she'll have to take him to the vet. That should be good for $110 or so."

This is the sort of conversation I imagine goes on after we're all asleep. Last week I think Harry won with his idea.

"Tell ya what, I'll get into the kitchen sink and play dead. She'll scoop me up with a spoon, assuming her husband has killed me. She'll probably put me on the window sill to dry out so she can put me in a jar for the kids to take to "Show and Tell". While she's making breakfast, I'll move, just a little bit, and only when she's not looking directly at me. I'll inch my way along the windowsill until she begins to wonder what's going on. Then when she tries to scrape me into the water glass I'll spring to life and snap my pincers and thrash my tail and look really scary."

It was only the fact that I had used the last of the good whisky glasses to scoop up Harry that prevented my dropping it on the tile floor once he went into his act. After the initial heart palpitations had calmed and I realised that Harry couldn't get out of the wet glass, I had a good look at him.

He was a handsome beast in tones of tan and brown, with black points to his pincers and a black tail tip. He was a real stud muffin among scorpions, and I couldn't bring myself to kill him.

Instead I walked across the road to the state forest and decanted him on the gravelled edge. As I turned to go back to my house, the lady three doors up came out to get her newspaper. She looked at me. I looked at her. She looked at the empty whisky glass in my hand. She grabbed her paper and hurried back to her own house.

I sauntered home secure in the comfort of a good deed done. Somewhere there was a little girl scorpion about to get the surprise of her life.

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