The Scorpion and Cinderella

It wasn’t until I noticed my daughter using a rag to clean up the carrot juice that I realized just how quickly my rage could be subdued by merely one selfless gesture.  I knew that I’d forcefully thrown the bag of large carrots, but had no idea that I’d pulverized them.  In retrospect, had I not thrown them in my boiling rage, then I suppose it would have been just another day.

We have a refrigerator at my house that wasn’t behaving properly. It’d been leaking water beneath the fruit and vegetable crisper drawers. The water eventually pooled to such a level that it ran outside the fridge and puddled onto the kitchen floor.  A full inspection of the fridge was required, so I transferred all of the contents to a second fridge that we keep in the garage. Eight trips, back and forth through the laundry room, is what it took. Eight trips barefoot. The last trip, I had only one item…the bag of carrots.

I was one step away from the door to the garage when, little did I know, I was also one second away from spontaneous combustion. A scorpion nailed me in the bottom of my foot.

It was a sharp piercing needle of fire—quick and full of malicious intent. Of course, the scorpion was only trying to preserve its life as 190 pounds descended upon it. But a scorpion is always on alert, and was not going to let a size 13 do anything without first putting up a fight. The moment my foot came within an inch of it, was the moment it sent its stinger into my skin, and, I’m sure, hoping the venomous toxins would travel as far into my nervous system as possible.

I recognized the heat of the sting immediately. I’d been stung before by scorpions, but never in an area this sensitive.  Anger unleashed itself as I violently threw the bag of carrots onto the adjacent kitchen tile floor, and shouted a few hundred expletives.  Understandably, I startled my daughter, Brookney.

“What the!?….Dad??”

I’m not even sure I heard her. I was too preoccupied with cussing like a sailor and trying to slaughter a predatory arthropod, whose existence I wanted to end.

I scanned the floor of the laundry room, knowing that if the scorpion made it beneath the washer or dryer, then there’d be a good chance it’d be hard to find.  However, scorpions have one deficit that was in my favor: they’re relatively slow creatures.  They don’t run, they scurry. As if lugging that big, venom-filled tail of theirs is such a burdensome chore that it inhibits any possibility of real running.

But the scorpion didn’t even choose to scurry.  Rather, it opted to be motionless in the middle of the floor, as if it knew the nearest place to hide was too far away.  Any attempt to move would put it at high-risk of being noticed, so it contracted its legs and pincers in an effort to conceal itself.  I can only presume that its decision to stay still must have been influenced by the vibrations of my maddening oscillations.

Within seconds I located it, then grabbed a nearby shoe.  I raised it high above my head, fully knowing there was no stopping me.  The piercing needle of fire in the bottom of my swelling foot was clearly telling me, “DO NOT LET THIS CREATURE ESCAPE!!”  Given the opportunity, it would strike over and over again.  To capture it, and then set it free somewhere far away outside, was not an option, nor even a thought.  I was locked in a primal and territorial state of mind, with only one objective: termination.

I did my best to hammer the shoe through the concrete foundation. One hit sealed the deal.

All that anger—all that pent up fury—how quickly it had arrived, and how quickly it had departed.

My foot was still screaming as the swelling increased.  I hobbled across the kitchen floor and took out a bag of frozen peas from the freezer and set them on the floor.  Standing, I gently lowered my foot onto the soft, icy bag and let its cold therapy begin.  I expected shock, but discovered an immediate sensation of comfort. And there, in a transition between my rage and relief, something unusual caught my attention:  my daughter was on her hands and knees, cleaning up pulverized carrot debris and juice.  What had once been a bag of large, healthy carrots, was now a catastrophe of hemorrhaged orange guts.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Uh…well, Dad…you made a mess.”

I say “unusual” because Brookney is not exactly the type of person to voluntarily clean up a mess. Particularly if it belongs to someone else.  Of course, if you were to poll all the households in the country, I suppose the findings would indicate that’s expected behavior.  “Nice job, Dad,” she’d say, “Mop’s in the garage.”

But there she was, working that elbow grease into the rag, because she knew it was the right thing to do.  She knew that a little bit of relief can go a long way. And if you’re lucky enough to recognize such an act, you might find yourself in an entirely better state of mind than the one you were in moments before.  The frozen peas gave me physical relief.  But Brookney’s unsolicited offer to clean the floor gave me an unexpected comfort—soulful in a way—and widened the gap beyond my fit of anger.  It was a Cinderella story of sorts, as she labored on all fours with her hair dangling like a drapery of tangled vines. Of all people…my daughter?  My mess?  The difference though was there were no oppressive step-sisters ordering her to do so.  Attacking this domestic chore was strictly under her own volition. “Dad,” she said, “I got this one.”

And if that’s not enough to comfort you—to help take the sting out of your foot—to remind you that some of the simplest moments in life are, in fact, some of the most touching, then you might want to have the blur in your vision checked out before you go completely blind.


Copyright Ros Hill 2017


Six Times Was All It Took

There is nothing more impressive than watching a grown man on a mission, as he walks over to a chair and kicks it. Kicks it as if it had actually done something horribly wrong and needed to be punished immediately. As if that chair had a mind of its own, manipulating cunning schemes designed to mess with your mind until the end of time. After all, it would only seem logical, rational, and fair to presume that because you just cut your thumb open with a knife while trying to carve the furry skin of a kiwi fruit, that the chair sitting over there in the corner (yes, the one intentionally hiding from you) is the real culprit for your now bloody problem. No second thoughts are needed. Just drop the knife, make a beeline to the chair, and kick the living splinters out of it. There, that’ll make things right!

I met a college student the other day at a local gym whose right hand was wrapped with an ungodly amount of that all-too-common, unstylish, flesh-colored, ACE elastic bandage wrap. So heavily wrapped, it was as if there was a football concealed inside. You could also say he resembled a fiddler crab with that one lone enormous claw (in this case, a mitten). He was walking around the gym trying to figure out if he could lift weights without enduring too much pain. After watching him finish a set of agonizing, grimace-on-the-face barbell curls, I became curious about his injury.

“So, what happened to you?”

“Oh, just a little accident.”

A “little”accident? Been juggling chainsaws blindfolded lately? “Looks like you really did a number on it. Break anything?”

He lowered the barbell to the floor, accompanied with the grimace that simply didn’t want to go away. Raising his massive mitten, he exclaimed, “Yes, I broke three bones.”

“And may I ask, what was your little accident?”

“It was a door made of steel. I punched it a few times.”

Looking at his bandaged hand, I couldn’t help but wonder: Just how many times was a few? Are we talking thirty punches? Forty?

 Hardly. He told me he hit the door six times. Six times he attempted to knock that door off its hinges and send it flying into tomorrow. Six times was all it took to realize he didn’t have a seventh punch left in him. The bones were screaming for him to stop.   He looked down at his mummified hand and spoke with profound wisdom, “Steel doors don’t budge.”

No kidding, Sherlock. And all it took was six George Foreman’s to figure that one out.

 Of course, it’s always the girl…

“My girlfriend just really made me angry. It was a stupid thing that set me off. Just stupid. Don’t want to talk about it.”

Well, good thing the steel door took the blame, because otherwise there might not be much left of her. I didn’t pry into the details of his personal affairs, but I can only imagine how the conversation probably went…

Her: Honey, I hate to break the news, but my parents are going to stay with us for a month over Christmas.

Him: BOTH of them?

Her: Yes, and their four dogs and the goat.

Him: Wait a sec. BOTH your parents and a goat?

Her: And four dogs.

Him: I got that, but a goat?

Her: They thought it was a stray puppy on the highway. Pulled over and put it in the car. By the time they got home, the goat was riding on dad’s lap with its head out the window, tongue lapping in the wind. So, he’s a keeper. They named him Buckle Up.

Him: Four hyper-yappy Pekingese dogs, your parents who are notorious for clipping their fingernails at the dinner table, and now a goat named Buckle Up? A month of this? WHERE’S THE STEEL DOOR!!!!!!?

Whatever it was that he couldn’t talk through with his girlfriend, he should’ve at least punched a bag of cotton balls, pulverizing each and every one down to their very last tiny fibers. Even a box of cereal would’ve sufficed. But he saw that 250-pound rectangular punching bag, and just had to pick a losing fight. In the heat of his anger, he tossed the Give-It-24-Hours rule to the wind. Instead, he opted for the least rational route and, in the process, racked up a not-so-pleasant medical expense of having to cover his $3,000 health insurance deductible.

Your girlfriend said something you didn’t agree with. It hit a nerve. It happens. But you shot off like lightening towards that steel door. This thing we do as humans, having to unleash our destructive energy on inanimate objects—aren’t there better options? Here are some suggestions (they’ll save you major medical expenses, as well as having to replace things you once purchased to enhance the beauty of your home):

  • Go for an all-out sprint around the neighborhood (even if you’re in your pajamas, GO! The neighbors will understand….”Oh, look Harriet! It’s the neighbor running like a crazy man. But bless his heart. Sure beats throwing the computer off the roof!”
  • Take your temper tantrum out to the backyard and try jumping rope with a 25-foot water hose.
  • Bike to the next town.
  • Hyperventilate till you faint and shut up.
  • Stick your head in the garbage can and scream like a rock star.
  • Try to hold ice cubes under your armpits for 10 minutes. When they’re all melted, the rage to deal with them will have completely neutralized all that venom coursing through your brain.

If those suggestions for calming your psychotic behavior are beyond your grasp, then I’ve got one more to offer (which, in fact, is probably the best advice):

Take your hot-headed disposition face-to-face with that steel door and, right before you strike the first blow, try unclenching your fist, turn the doorknob, and put one foot in front of the other until you find yourself outdoors in the therapeutic open air. Once there, take a deep, calming breath. I bet if you have any sense at all, you’ll soon discover a path of least resistance…

Go talk to your girlfriend.

Copyright Ros Hill 2015