DERNIER MOT - Scorpions
Up here in the Cévennes we get the most spectacular summer thunder storms; the skies darken to purple, sunrays slant across the hills, the dogs stop barking and suddenly all you can hear are the crickets nervously rubbing their legs before the first swollen drops of water burst onto the melting tarmac.
The first floor balcony has a small glass roof and a fabulous view over the valley which makes it a grandstand seat for watching the lightening glimpses of the mountains in silhouette, the clouds scudding past the pale moon, and the road glinting as the flood water rushes down the hill.
After a long dry spell the scent of rain is intoxicating; you can almost hear the dry earth drinking it in. Steam rises and across the square Old Eglantine starts bailing water out of her attic window. (Her roof is a sieve and she won't get it mended because for the last twenty years she's been expecting to die within the week.)
These summer storms can end as abruptly as they start; sometimes it's only minutes before the rain stops, the sky clears and the sun comes out again.
All of which is exciting but nerve-wracking because of the scorpions. They're black, about two-inches long and although I myself astrologically-speaking live with a scorpion, I hate the wretched things. I don't like the rattling sounds they make, I don't like their pincers and I really loathe their horrible curly tails.
Luckily they disappear in the winter; they either die off, hibernate, or migrate to warmer climes. I suppose they hate getting cold and wet. Which might explain why during summer storms they scuttle under our front door into our kitchen.
I remember when we first arrived in Moisson and I was enthusiastically slapping pink paint onto the walls in the dining room. Suddenly a portion of the plaster collapsed and a whole colony of scorpions bustled out of a gap between the wall and the floor. Terrified, I leapt backwards brandishing my paintbrush at them.
"Go away, you nasty things! Help! Help! Shoo!" I didn't have a weapon to hand, and daren't stamp on them in case they stung me though my flip flops, so I thrashed at them with the paintbrush. "Arg! Help! Scorpion alert! Get back in your hole, you yukky thing! Take that!"
No-one came to my rescue, the SP later explaining that he had been unavoidably detained by a wine-tasting session in Albert's cellar. So in my panic I painted all the scorpions pink and squidged about a litre of non-drip emulsion into their crumbling cubby-hole.
The next day, the SP blocked up every scorpion hole in the house with cement, but it took forever to track down all the inhabitants. Being pink rather than black, they blended in with the antique quarry tiles so that rather than seeing them we mainly heard them rattling and shuffling their way round the house.
Eventually of course, by dint of dedicated and relentless scorpion-tracking with binoculars and a large rubber mallet, we got rid of them all. But Eglantine wasn't impressed.
"Bof! They are not poisonous," she said. "Only a little bit worse than a bee or a wasp..."
"What about the dog?"
She looked at my funny white bichon, nodded gravely, and scratched her head for a bit. Dolly sat up and begged, her ears askew and her nose twitching hopefully.
"I don't know," said Old Eglantine finally. "I have never tried feeding a dog to the scorpions."
Laugh, let them laugh. But next time it rains, I'm still blocking the gap under the front door with newspaper.
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