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Scorpions, Coming to Terms
Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak, excerpts

Dec. 4, 2022

by Mark Saunders

Getting ready to move to the middle of Mexico, where my wife and I didn't know a soul, and where we could barely speak the language, brought out the worst in my planning skills and escalated my already high levels of anxiety. Early on, I fixated about confronting my nemesis: scorpions.

"A month before leaving for Mexico, we were safely ensconced in our Portland, Oregon, condo seven floors above the insects. I was obsessing loudly about scorpions. In thinking back, I was envisioning myself in full Napoleonic regalia, pacing from one end of the room to the other, a worried scowl on my face, hands clasped behind my back. Clearly, war loomed on the horizon."

Allow me to explain:

I attended Catholic school during my formative years. It was a period of neurobiological development when my spirit was forever saddled with classic guilt. It was also a time when our class was shown a movie based in rural Mexico that featured a young boy, stung by a scorpion, who, through the power of prayer, barely escaped death. He ran a fever. He became delirious. He slipped into a coma. Ultimately, he was visited by a saint and healed. Scorpion be gone. It was a miracle. The movie -- and the moral of the story -- tormented me from then on.

Although I had never actually seen a scorpion in person, I knew they were bad news and must be avoided at all costs. Yet, we had already committed to moving to San Miguel. What's a neurotic to do? ...Research.

"I learned that a scorpion is genetically configured with the most menacing traits of a spider, wasp, and lobster without the butter sauce. A scorpion has appendages and pincers sticking out every which way and a poisonous stinger tail that it arches over its back and plunges forward when attacking, much like cracking a whip with laser-point accuracy. It's as if the scorpion had been designed—more likely stitched together—during a powerful lightning storm in an underground lab by one of the Christophers, either Lee or Lloyd or Walken—a mad scientist with white hair."

A little knowledge might be a dangerous thing. But a lot of knowledge makes for another long string of sleepless nights. So, I did the only thing I could do and continued to look into scorpions. I couldn't let sleeping scorpions lie. The average scorpion lives three to five years, but some soldier on for up to 25 years. I discovered that more people are bitten by scorpions in Mexico than in any other country. My odds of survival were growing longer with every article I read.

"Further, I learned that when a scorpion is hungry it seizes its victim with the pincers, paralyzes it with the stinger, mashes it with its other appendages, injects enzymes into its victim and, once all of the tissues have become fluid, sucks it dry. Sort of like a Slurpee from 7-Eleven. Nothing but the empty carton remains."

And that's the problem with doing too much research on a subject without any context. Once we moved to San Miguel, in 2005, and settled in, my fear of scorpions was replaced by other fears, fears that were both more meaningful and real. I needed to know, for example, where I could get an extra set of house keys made and how much I should tip a waiter?

For the record, since 2005, I've only gone face-to-face with three scorpions, and I dispatched all three with a shoe, making the current score: Mark 3, Scorpions 0. Thanks to my unblemished record, I imagine the word is out in San Miguel and scorpions now avoid me like bugs keeping away from a tall can of Raid. My reputation precedes me.


Mark Saunders, an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and cartoonist, tried standup comedy to get over shyness and failed spectacularly at it - the standup part, but the shyness did improve. Mark is the author of the humorous award-winning memoir about dropping out and moving to Mexico: Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak, as well as Dogs, Cats & Expats, and is co-author of She Cooks, He Eats. He once owned a Yugo. (Please don’t ask about the car.)

Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak
Dogs, Cats & Expats
She Cooks, He Eats


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