By Michael Fontana
I missed work Friday because a scorpion had grown from my spine. The scorpion was actually an extension of the vertebrae, with a stinger and claws to boot. It didn’t like people seated in too close proximity so it would sting their ass but good if they crept too close. You know how that is, someone who’s not respectful of personal space and wants to touch you before they decide that there’s room enough for both of you. That’s when the scorpion lashed out.
“Scoot your buttocks over,” the scorpion said in a distinctively brassy and feminine voice.
The recipient of the sting took a hop but definitely away from me, which won the scorpion plaudits from me.
“Who’s next? Huh? Huh?” The scorpion was on a roll now, bobbing in and out of my spine, snipping claws in the air. No one was going to mess around with her now.
Except for Monday, when I returned to work. My boss was all over the tale of my tail. My boss had hair slicked back with Brylcreem, strictly out of the sixties, all of it gray as well as his thin little risqué beard. He had beady black eyes and a nose striped with gin blossoms. Not a pretty sight.
“What’s this growing out of you then?” He said, pointing at the scorpion but not daring to draw close.
“She’s my bodyguard,” I said.
“Very funny. But let me tell you, if anyone gets hurt you will bear the legal liability alone, got it?”
Oh, I got it all right. My boss was probably one of those with a wee peccadillo for such critters, spent his bedtime animus dreaming of the formations he might make in a dune with such a beast.
“She’s in my custody,” I told him, even though it was a blanket lie.
“This is a meager excuse at best for missing work on a Friday afternoon,” my boss said. “I’ll expect a doctor’s note.”
“You’ll get one,” I promised. I sat at my desk but the scorpion was not amused. She chewed into the seat backing of my chair, she whipped her stinger around at anyone who passed. She was spoiling for fun and I was bringing none her way.
So I finally lifted myself off my seat and took a walk. It eased the pressure on my spine to move a little anyway, and it certainly freed the scorpion up for whatever gig she surmised. On this occasion the gig was to pierce the water cooler with her stinger so the liquid all ran out and she could have a splash in it. It embarrassed me because it soaked my clothes to make me look incontinent.
Other employees circled us and it was plain to see my distress at the incident. They were amused. They laughed and pointed fingers at my wetness. I pictured them shaming small children in a similar condition, they were so pleased about it. The scorpion soon began laughing as well, high pitched and squealing with it.
My boss hurriedly blustered onto the scene. “What’s this?” He said. He grabbed the scorpion by the tail, which prevented his being stung, but that didn’t mean the tail didn’t whip around and by default, him with it. He was like an untethered balloon there, bobbing up and down with the reflex motion of the scorpion’s tail.
“What’s the meaning of this?” My boss said.
Everyone, including me, was now laughing at him. The scorpion was having herself quite a time, flapping him around like a stale newspaper.
In the end this wore me out for the scorpion was still attached, after all. I seized her little head and squeezed and that caused her to drop my boss. He stood up, beet faced, and adjusted his tie before slinking away. I released the scorpion’s head but she wouldn’t sting me because it would be a lot like suicide to do so.
“Let go of my head,” she said, trying to deepen her voice to sound more masculine and menacing.
“I won’t. You need to control yourself. You’re going to get me fired.”
“Your boss is a blowhard anyway. What do you need with him?”
“His money every other week.”
“You should show a little more gumption and strike out on your own.”
“Well until I do, you need to exercise a little restraint.” I squeezed her head just a smidge harder.
“All right then, let go.”
I let go. She took a couple of random clicks at me with her claws but otherwise did no harm.
We went through what I would consider a sort of 12-step program for scorpions, informally. Every time she meant to lash out with her tail, I squeezed her head. It was training for both of us. She hated me gripping her that way, said I was violating her, but somehow still seemed to put up with it.
In time the scorpion started hanging off my back more, being less intense. She took up knitting and crossword puzzles. She crafted herself the cutest little caftan. Long story short, I was able to slough off the Vicodin and returned to work a happier and yes, far more productive, employee.
My boss meanwhile, learned the trick to her. He began to flirt. Severely. “How’s my pretty today?” He would ask the scorpion. She couldn’t quite blush, being severely red already, so she curled her tail up and down invitingly.
I objected the first time he asked her out for cocktails. “I won’t be part of this. This is crossing some employer-employee boundary.”
“You’ll be crossing the boundary over to the unemployment office if you don’t cooperate,” he said.
I cooperated. I sat at a bar nursing a beer with my back turned to the happy couple, who were drinking bloody marys like to beat the band. During their first kiss I heard the scorpion hiss with pleasure and I knew I was in deep trouble.
After a few months of this, my boss asked her to marry and she accepted. He liked the little stinger in the ass every now and again, I knew from far too personal experience, listening to the old monkey take his turn on the needle like a slab of wax. So on the wedding night I had to lay on my side, back turned to them, while they went through the motions of their kinky and bestial love.
“My darling,” my boss said with jowls flapping.
“My love,” the scorpion whistled like a tea kettle.
“My god,” I said. And I considered myself a heathen.
Thankfully they didn’t or couldn’t reproduce. But I was still part of this cracked relationship, flipping my backside to them whenever their passions overtook, which was far more often than you would expect from a codger like him and a critter like her.
That’s when I elected surgery. I spoke to my doctor about separating myself from said scorpion. She objected. “You can’t! I’ll die!”
“Modern science is full of miracles these days,” I said. “They’ll find a way to keep you alive all on your lonesome.”
“I like being attached to you,” she said coyly.
“Because it’s fun to do it all behind your back.” This made her titter with delight.
It was enough to provoke me to sign up for the surgery. They were able to remove the scorpion and keep her alive courtesy of myriad tubes and wires.
Her first independent action was to sting me in the ass.
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Michael Fontana is the author of two novels, Sleeping With Gods and The Sacred Machine. He lives and writes in beautiful Bella Vista, Arkansas.
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