My mother-in-law is in town for the weekend. This morning I walked downstairs to see the children dressed smartly, the table set with our nice china, and my mother-in-law serving up a lovely Eggs Florentine dish with the aroma of buttery homemade croissants wafting all through the house.
Kidding, kidding! It’s not that kind of house. My mother-in-law is in town, but the rest of it is just a little fantasy I wanted to indulge in as a sanity-preservation technique. What actually happened is that I walked downstairs to have a cup with a scorpion in it shaken in my face. But before I get into all that, allow me to give you some background:
Pardon the expression, but my mother-in-law is what they call “hell on wheels.” In a good way. She has more energy than both of my children combined, likes her TV loud and her cell phone ringer louder, is always on various one-woman-against-the-system crusades for justice that we’re never quite sure how she got involved in, and does not have a single non-confrontational bone in her body. She grew up desperately poor in east Texas, became a single mother after an unwanted divorce, and has carved out a better life for herself by sheer, tough-as-nails determination alone. She’s also one of those people who you just never know what she’s going to do or say next. If we could only get her her own reality show we’d be rich.
So, given what I know about her and what I know about my house, when I groggily walked downstairs this morning to hear her say in her thick east Texas accent that she and the kids found something outside they wanted to give me, I have no idea why my first thought was that it was flowers.
As I wiped sleep from my eyes and she ran up me, holding the baby under one arm like a sack of potatoes and a little children’s cup in the other hand, I should have done the math that my crazy house + my crazy mother-in-law = only one thing that could possibly be in that cup. And it wasn’t flowers.
Nay, it was a scorpion.
Allow me to list some reasons I found this disturbing:
- The cup was a very shallow children’s cup, only a few inches deep
- She was waving it right in front of my 11-month-old, who grabs at everything
- I had been trying to tell myself that once the scorpions had seen my exterminator-hiring wrath they’d fled in terror, never to be seen on my property again
- A scorpion in a vigorously shaken cup a few inches from one’s face is not generally what one wants to see in the first few moments upon waking
My mother-in-law chuckled when she saw the look on my face, laughing that I was so silly to be frightened since, after all, it was dead. Had I been able to speak or think clearly I would have pointed out that a) the fact that it’s supposedly dead does not address the issue that it is being held well within reach of the baby. I have my own little quirky rule that the baby is not allowed to grab and stuff into her mouth live OR dead scorpions. And b) THESE THINGS DON’T DIE! I have first-hand knowledge of this! OF COURSE IT’S NOT DEAD!
But I was not able to say any of this, only to point in horror as I backed away. Wanting to prove to me that she was not the sort of irresponsible grandmother who would bring a live scorpion into the house, she began vigorously shaking the cup to confirm its deadness.
Anyone want to guess what happened next?
Oh yeah. It moved. It started twisting around, trying to get out of the cup. My horrified mother-in-law panicked, not sure whether to drop the baby or the cup.
I grabbed the baby and she set the cup up on the counter and covered it with a heavy glass. Obviously my instinct was to dispose of the thing immediately but, as I’ve mentioned, I recently instituted a No Scorpion Handling policy. In the back of my mind I planned to deal with it eventually, but that’s not a pre-coffee endeavor. So I fixed myself a quick breakfast and headed upstairs to shower and get ready for the day.
When I came back downstairs my mother-in-law ran up to me and exclaimed, “JENNIFER! You will NOT believe what happened!” She went on to tell me that she’d dumped the scorpion out on the floor for the kids to look at, and when my two-year-old sprayed some water on it it came alive and started running around, trying to sting everything in sight. Ahem. Had we not just established that it was NOT DEAD?, I asked. She said something about thinking that it must have finally died after sitting in the cup for a good ten minutes (hah!), but it was all moot now since she’d put it down the disposal.
So it would appear that I was way too naive in believing that my scorpion woes were over. Though, to my credit, how could I have imagined that there are people out there who intentionally bring scorpions into houses?
The fact that this all happened before 9:30 AM on the first day of her visit leaves me slightly concerned about what this weekend has in store.
=============== UPDATE ===============
Later that day, the truth came out that the scorpion was indeed quite alive when my mother-in-law caught it outside. Though she did think that the hour it spent sitting in a covered cup in my kitchen would have killed it (hah). A couple of thoughts here:
- So. What if she and the kids had been outside when I woke up? I would have walked into the kitchen, seen a stray cup on the kitchen counter, and oh-so-naively thought, “Hmm, what’s in here?” as I picked it up to look inside. I’m not even going to think about what my reaction might have been.
- Speaking of things I’m not going to think about…so my toddler and crawling baby were involved in corralling an angry scorpion into a shallow cup. And I was worried that they might have too many cookies while their grandmother was here!
========= PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT =========
I keep expecting to receive a letter from the Texas Department of Tourism begging me to cease and desist with all scorpion-related content. I do feel bad that multiple people have vowed never to set foot across state lines again after reading my posts on this subject. I should note that there are only a few isolated neighborhoods around here that have this problem. I just got lucky.
Be the first to hear about comedy tour cities and dates!
Join my email list and I'll send notes a couple of times per month and will never share your email address.