Day of the scorpion

Closeup photo of scorpion

 

I have, of necessity, become fond of scorpions.

This part of Italy – especially the house we’re living in – is full of them. At first I was scared. Scared of something 2″ long with a sting less painful than stubbing your toe. Eventually, after several encounters with these creatures (usually in my shoe or up the leg of a discarded pair of shorts left on the floor), I revised my approach.

Cartoons

I read somewhere that if you have a phobia of something you can cartoonise it in your head and make it comical … like giving a snake a silly grin, a pair of Groucho Marx glasses and a lisp.

I tried this with my scorpions. It didn’t work.

The scorpions gave no indication that they were prepared to pack up their lives and move on. And no matter how I tried I just could not make them funny. We had reached an impasse.

Then this happened.

The scorpion in the photograph stung me, on the side of my foot. It actually hurt quite a bit. I immediately googled ‘venomous scorpions in Italy’ only to find there were none. They are, it seems, actually a bit feeble here in Le Marche.

I trapped the beast under a bowl. (All the big glasses were dirty and in the sink).

Then I waited for Steve to come back from England, in five days time. The day before he was due back, I couldn’t resist a peek at my trophy. I lifted up the bowl and realised, to my horror, it was still alive: it rattled across the tiled floor on its crackly eight legs (who needs eight legs, for God’s sake?).

How could it have survived four days with no food or water? I do remember idly thinking, at about lunchtime on Day Two, that perhaps I ought to feed it something. I wondered about sharing a piece of the avocado that I was eating at the time, but I was too scared to lift the bowl at that point.

When Steve did get home, he and I managed to get a piece of¬† card (I’d have felt more secure with a piece of sheet metal, frankly) under the bowl, turn it over and then remove the card. The hope (deeply held) was that the scorpion wouldn’t be able to climb out of a china salad bowl. Mercifully, it couldn’t and it didn’t.

Now, to the point of this post.

I grabbed my camera and took a couple of what might charitably be called portrait shots of this creature that had been in my kitchen for days.

When I looked at the pictures, everything I had felt towards it previously changed.

The Savvy Scorpion

My fear was replaced with fascination which just as quickly became admiration. This critter is a masterpiece of engineering and design technology.

I could see in my pictures all the extraordinary details of its vast and comprehensive  Survival Kit. A scorpion is an arsenal on legs, a deadly(-ish) mix of chemical weapons and, basic but horrifically effective, conventional ones. It is a mobile garrison. I was impressed.  It has all bases covered Рfront (claws) and back (stingy tail).

I suddenly saw this tiny thing as a brave, well-prepared, resourceful creature that I could respect. It was obvious from the get-go that it wouldn’t be able to escape from the bowl but it never gave up scrabbling around at the bottom before trying to launch itself up and over the side.

Eventually I let it go. No words were exchanged.

I read up about scorpions and discovered that they can go for over a year without food and they glow in the dark. Now, that is cool.

There’s no need to ‘cartoonise’ them anymore: they hold a sort of wonderment for scorpions now. And that’s only a scuttle of a leg away from fondness.

About Tamsen Courtenay

I write. I take photographs. I worry and I laugh - both of them rather a lot. Inner stories, secret stories, are what fascinate me. My book, FOUR FEET UNDER, chronicling the lives of 30 homeless people in London, is now published, and it's had really terrific reviews. It was supposed to help change how people think about the huddled, damaged souls living on the streets and it seems to be doing its job. So, I am content.