I’ve Seen Bigger
I’m still angry, but I agree to hunt scorpions with my husband. He thinks it’ll be fun to use the blacklight I got him for his birthday. Maybe he’ll apologize. Our yard borders onto the state park, the light of the full moon silhouetting jagged branches of oaks and bleaching the dry grass clogging the seasonal creek. The beam of his blacklight shines a purple circle on fallen oak galls and brightens the white pet headstones. We walk in silence; soon he’ll say, I didn’t mean it, at least that’s what I imagine. Here’s one, he whispers. On the oak duff, a small scorpion shines an aggressive blue-green. The front pinchers, the segmented body like beads. I’ve seen bigger, I say. It’s scorpion season: one fell on me yesterday from the bedroom ceiling. We need to go deeper, he says. Between our property and the state park, he’d built a wood fence with a gate when the twins were just toddlers. Beyond the gate, a copse of coast live oak and a vast meadow slope uphill. Don’t go past the gate, I always told the twins. When I look back at our house, two shadows, mirroring the other’s movements, move across a brightly-lit window in the twin’s room: they must be recording TikTok dance videos. My husband opens the creaking gate and I follow him through the oaks. Tree roots protrude like arthritic fingers. His blacklight snares another scorpion, mouse-sized. It freezes then burrows into the duff. We continue into the meadow, through reeds swaying without wind. He says, We need to go deeper. I can’t see our house anymore. The meadow spreads on forever, my husband’s blacklight arcing the ground before us. I’ve been following him for so long and he still has not apologized. He points out more scorpions, each larger than the last, as big as a rat, a house cat, a skunk. Are they supposed to be that big, I say, and he says, Scorpions are of various sizes. We now walk under trees, not or any native species I recognize, the trunks growing so close that dark latticed branches become the sky. My anger hangs between us. He sweeps the blacklight again and I see a scorpion glowing. The size of a coyote. Tail curled, stinger dripping with venom. The whites of my husband’s eyes gleam and he says, We need to go deeper.
Lori Sambol Brody is a Scorpio and has found scorpions shining in the beam of a blacklight. Her short fiction has been published in or is forthcoming from Smokelong Quarterly, Passages North, Wigleaf, Craft, and elsewhere. Her stories have been chosen for the Wigleaf 50 and the Best Small Fictions 2018 and 2019 anthologies. She can be found on Twitter at @LoriSambolBrody and her website is lorisambolbrody.wordpress.com.