The centipede always waited until I was home alone to show itself. One night I was sitting on my yoga mat on the basement floor and had a thought: What if that centipede is here somewhere? Seconds later it appeared, right on cue. I stood up, shouting, and it disappeared under a piece of furniture.
When I described the incident to my husband, he laughed. “Did you call me? Here I am,” he said, imitating an overly friendly, humanized version of the thing. I started referring to it as Mr. Centipede, a name that suggested to my husband I was ready to make peace with it. I wasn’t.
“Could you get some traps?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said, but then forgot.
Heading to the basement to change a load of laundry a few evenings later, I spotted it at the bottom of the stairs, just sitting out in the open. It was a fatal mistake. I clobbered it with a boot—seven or eight times because that’s how many blows it took to get it to stop writhing and squirming. Even after it was in pieces, the pieces kept squirming.
Later my conscience started to bother me. What had the centipede done to me besides being ugly? A quick internet search told me that centipedes are carnivorous hunters with venomous bites that, if large enough, will eat a frog or a small bird. (The reptile-eating versions are found in the tropics, not in Canada, but it’s the possibility that counts.) I also learned that they will bite humans and their bites can sting and even cause a rash. I went to bed feeling justified.
The next morning I headed downstairs to collect some clothes I had hung on the line. Just outside the laundry room door was Mr. Centipede’s larger, fatter brother. Score one for my second theory. I opened the closet door to grab a shoe and it disappeared under the baseboard. I was horrified to find another one on the sleeve of a shirt I had hung to dry. “Centipede revenge?” I thought. I headed back upstairs without the clothes.
Unnerved, my skin crawling, I decided to go for a walk to get the image of the creatures out of my head. I slipped on my shoes, bent over to tie the laces, and there on the side of my right shoe was another centipede. I kicked off the shoe and the centipede ran into the coat closet and disappeared. “Probably into another shoe,” I thought.
“Sorry you’re dealing with those bugs,” my husband later texted me from his conference in Denver.
“Not bugs,” I replied. “Bugs are flies, or mosquitoes, or maybe ants. These are monsters.”
“Got it,” he said.
The centipedes may have won this battle, but the war is not over.
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