LXXV. The Centipede

June 7, 2012 — I spotted an immense centipede in my bathtub the other day. Immediately I adopted the Buddhist attitude of not touching it. Let it live to journey on its way, preferably far away. That was in the morning. By noon it was still there. In the early afternoon it was still there. Late in the afternoon it was still there. Soon I would have to take a shower. This thing was two feet long – well, maybe a generous two inches, with long, graceful flowing legs and feelers like a Burmese cat’s whiskers. It was about the color of a Burmese cat, too.

It was too big to wash down the drain, and anyhow, the drain is slow, so it would just float around in the tub. I could pick it up in a thick wad of toilet paper and drop it into the toilet, but, you know, sometimes they don’t go down with the flush. And then it would just be in there.

I have a writer/gardener friend in New Zealand. So, in either case, I considered that where she lives it would swirl at the drain in the opposite direction from how it would swirl here. That could be fascinating to watch. Possibly.

My third alternative would be to scoop it up in some sort of a jar — hoping that it wouldn’t escape and scurry up my arm in the process —, clamp the lid on, hold it out the bathroom window and dump it out. Later I could go out to my herb garden two stories below and find it crawling on my strawberries.

Or, I could squash it. {{{  }}}

Emma would have squashed it. Disposing of bugs never flustered her. Without hesitation she did away with them. Were she watching me analyze and dance around a necessary procedure here, I’m sure she would say I’m on my own now and I’d just have to deal with it myself. It would be like the time when my daughter was a newborn and I asked Emma over the phone long distance if babies ever stop pooping so much. She just laughed.

On my current issue, I thought of the mess if I were to squash this bug. Whatever I squashed it with – shoe sole, broom, big stick – body parts of the creature would be stuck on the bottom of. I considered my friend Jean’s advice when I told her I didn’t blow the head off of one of Emma’s nurses because of the mess I’d have to clean up: “Ya gotta have a drop cloth.”

Towards evening I returned to the tub to contemplate the fuzzy behemoth. It hadn’t moved – millipede, maybe. No, gigapede. It was alive, though, I could tell: every so often it waved a feeler.

I decided to consult my women writer caregiver friends in my Linkedin discussion group. Some of them are expert gardeners and so I figured someone might know how to deal with this thing.

Answers varied from the callous “Stomp on it!” to the wadded toilet paper method, to – the solution as to what to do with a large, brown, long-legged centipede in the bathtub came from my friend in New Zealand.

“Don’t squash! Poor little thing,” she said. “Hold a jar over, slide a piece of cardboard underneath, and scoop it up. Put it outside,….chances are nature will get it! Will it hurt your strawberries?”

No, it wouldn’t hurt the strawberries. But it would freak me out if I picked one only to discover this enormous creepy creature crawling on it, or even beneath it.

Somebody advised that centipedes eat cockroaches. A compelling argument for saving this critter.

“Centipedes I don’t mind, cockroaches I do,” my friend continued. “Luckily we don’t get these down here. Stick insects I really like!” No cockroaches – a compelling reason to move to New Zealand.

“Centipedes in the toilet! Ugh!” she said.

Another member of the group said that karmically, this centipede might be a female and remember me when it has babies and teach her babies to kill all cockroaches in the area. In our case, it’s not cockroaches, per se, but large black waterbugs. When we moved into our house 10 years ago, we had waterbugs. I called the exterminator. A short time after the exterminator had come and gone, I walked down the back stairs into the kitchen one night in the dark in my bare feet. “How’d these blueberries get all over the floor?” I wondered. I turned on the light: baby waterbugs. I called the exterminator. We’ve been relatively waterbug free ever since. But one can never be too sure.

So, now, I had to size things up. I had to act before it got dark. I went around the house searching for just the right jar. I chose a little blue one and took it to the tub. Too small. I went back and chose another. Too big. Then, a third: just the right size. Next I had to select the right piece of cardboard. Being a writer and environmentally conscious (read frugal), I save the backs of writing tablets. This piece had to be not too big, but flexible, yet not too wimpy. I found the back of a four-by-eight tablet. It still had the top on that the paper had been attached to, so it had a handle. Perfect. I opened the bathroom window wide.

Tools in hand, I approached the critter. OK, now I had to figure under which end to slide the cardboard. If I slid it under the rear, the critter might run off. If I slid it under the front, it would see me coming and scamper up my arm. I chose the rear. I lifted the jar only barely enough to slide the cardboard under, then I clamped down the jar. Then I had to ensure the jar’s being firmly clamped to the cardboard on all sides as I hoisted the apparatus to the window. I reached my arms far out the window. I aimed the jar away from me. I made sure the wind was not blowing in my direction. I separated jar and cardboard. And, down sailed Cindi the Centipede.

I got back onto my discussion board: “Success!” I trumpeted. “Mission accomplished.

“I wonder if the two-story drop hurt Cindi?” I speculated.

My New Zealand friend said, “Well done! After all, they have plenty [of] feet to land on!”

—Samantha Mozart


6 Responses to LXXV. The Centipede

  1. Frederick says:

    I’m sort of new to your site and fishing back for good dinenr recipes, fyi. 2 things:1. I can’t see the pictures on many of your pages right now, when I normally can. Maybe just the campus internet that I’m using? I can see some of them, though.2. I HATE CENTIPEDES. I didn’t know the horror of the House Centipede until we moved into our house in May, and oh good lord I can’t handle them. This story scares the bejeezus out of me, as this is currently one in a rotation of my worst nightmares. Those damn things are everywhere.

    • sammozart says:

      No dinner recipes involving centipedes here. Maybe your house is full of centipedes because there were waterbugs and the centipedes came and ate them all. Yum.

  2. Marsha says:

    Adorably written, minus all the dramas queens that assisted in your decision, me being Ms spiritual mass murderer of insects that will possibly bite or sting. I had a black widow…yeeek… in a plant pot one time. Had no bug spray. My neighbor yelled from a distance,”Do you have hairspray?’. Oh of course, do I look dowdy to you? I froze it for all eternity, put it in multiple garbage bags, using Bar-b-Que forceps, took the forceps and all to the dumpster for the townhouse complex.
    And as I pointed out, dear Carol, your centipede was Florida size rather than Hawaii size of a cigar of a centipede.
    Great story!!

  3. Robert Price says:

    I was wondering if you were going to own up to the two story drop. Perhaps more like 70 stories in the centipede kingdom. Anyway, clever and entertaining. Thanks.