A Dance With Three Shoes

Michael Grady | Sep 9, 2013, 6 a.m.

“It’s time,” my wife will say, and we exchange grim nods before I rise.

It is then, with a loaded sigh, that I forsake couch, ballgame and the comforts of suburban life to don the attire of a killer. In dark jeans, long-sleeved shirt and covered shoes—three of them—I pause at the patio door.

“Keep the lights off and the shades down,” I instruct her. “Turn the television up. Try not to listen.”

And out I slip—into the night.

Centuries ago, our pioneer forebears slipped out under the cloak of darkness to defend their homesteads from raiders. They did this so well—stripping the landscape of everything from Vikings to Confederates to aggressive Girl Scouts—there are very few things to fend off anymore. Unless you live in the West.

Here, domesticity’s dark crevasses are occupied by tiny poisonous land lobsters—creatures so obnoxious their entire backsides flip you the bird. When I stalk and kill these creatures, I am protecting my homestead from my own kind of invaders. And somewhere, I know, my pioneer forebears are rolling their eyes and saying, “Oh, please.”

I’m talking, of course, about scorpion hunting. The dance with three shoes.

Insects are a different thing out in the desert. In the Midwest, there isn’t much “fending off:” the ants and roaches come to you and killing them is really a matter of putting your beer down and finding one of your wife’s magazines. My first Arizona bug was a lonely roach, sitting on the closet floor of my student apartment in Tucson. When I raised a newspaper to kill it, it flew at me. It flew! Had it said, “resistance is futile” I would not have been less surprised. I closed the closet, kept my clothes on the floor and wondered if supercharged insects were God’s way of saying: “Stay in Michigan.”

It’s a lesson I didn’t remember when my wife first spotted a scorpion in our home. Back then, I had a Tom-and-Jerry concept of infestation: a scorpion, living in a little scorpion house, waiting to be driven away by animated hijinks. So I bought a blacklight big enough to open a Spencer’s Gifts, and found him glowing like an emerald on our block wall. When I killed him, I felt quite cocky about it. “See honey? Nothing to worry about!” I said, and as I gestured with the blacklight toward my trophy, the block wall glistened with a legion of other emeralds.

I won’t go into the details of what happened next. But it was like the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. With very tiny bulls.

Since then, I have learned a few things about hunting scorpions which may keep you out of the emergency room, off of “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” or both.

Go it alone—It is a grim harvest that you reap, my friend. So when you venture out, venture alone. It’s not just that scorpion hunting is risky (And it is risky, if you try to, like, body slam them.) But if you take your spouse, you will be unable to exaggerate the danger when you get back.

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