The two bags of horse feed had been loaded into the trunk of my daughter’s Honda Accord at the drive-through feed store, and there was nothing left for the employee to do but take my payment and give me my hand-written receipt. But I had chosen to write a check, and this threw a kink into the works by drawing the transaction out longer than expected. The employee struck me as a taciturn fellow but seemed to consider it his duty to break up the prolonged silence.
He ventured a remark on the weather. I believe his exact wording was, “Hot.”
It was an abrupt, hasty little syllable, and I was a bit surprised at being addressed, but I readily agreed. It was indeed hot.
Another silence fell. I said, “Scorpions been comin’ into the house.”
He agreed in turn. Hot, dry weather makes the scorpions head indoors, and everyone around here knows it.
After another pause, he said, “Demon.”
“What’s that?” I asked. For a moment I thought he was suggesting that scorpions were of demonic origin, which is an idea of some merit, but not one I personally hold to.
“Spray ’em with Demon,” he elaborated. In an intuitive flash I inferred that Demon must be the name of an insecticide.
“I just step on ’em,” I said. I may or may not have felt a bit smug. Scorpions, snakes, spiders, they just don’t scare me like they do some people.
The guy nodded admiringly.
“Or let the cats catch ’em and eat ’em,” I added.
“Tough cats,” he said.
“Yep,” I said. It’s true. One cat in particular, a three-legged fellow we had years ago, was the scorpion-eatingest cat I ever saw. His energy and industry were really admirable, and much appreciated, as he was providing a valuable service to the family.
I considered mentioning this cat now but decided not to. A three-legged cat who catches and eats scorpions isn’t something you just toss into the conversation and move on. A cat like that requires explanation, exclamation, counter-remarks, and so on. It’s all very tiring and time-consuming.
“Well, I have to spray for ’em,” the guy said. He sounded almost apologetic, bested in valor by my cats. “I’m allergic to ’em.”
“Mmm,” I said sympathetically.
And with that, my check was written. I handed it over, the guy gave me my receipt, and we were good to go. The social contract had been fulfilled.
The guy scuttled off, and I got back in the Honda. The driver’s side window was down. No sooner had I shut the door than a second employee appeared from I know not where.
“Sorry, you sorta sneaked up on me,” he said sheepishly through the open driver’s side window. “What can I get for you?”
“Oh, I’m already taken care of,” I said. “You’re good.”
“Oh, okay,” he said. He walked off, then said over his shoulder as an afterthought, “Thank you.”
I did not reply with an automatic-but-inappropriate “Thank you!” I started the car and drove off, feeling successful on the whole, and took the feed home where we both belonged.