I had a nice lady — another cat lover, in fact the proverbial little old lady who takes care of cats — on the table when a darting motion caught the corner of my eye. The plague of disgusting drain bugs that accompanied renovations in the dead lady’s house has abated with the departure of the skips and work crews, but my first reaction was oh god have they gotten brave enough to run up walls?
No fear. It was just a centipede. It scurried behind the mirror. I don’t mean to sound blase, but they don’t multiply past a certain point and they don’t eat much, so I went on working on the lady’s shoulder. Going kung-fu on a centipede is one time-honored way to ruin a client’s bodywork experience.
It took me back to my college days. Bard had a main and a north campus, the latter consisting of two dormitories whose common rooms were sometimes used for classes. In a previous incarnation, both buildings had served as what used to be called “old folks’ homes;” the northernmost started life as a Downton Abbey sort of Gilded Age residence, but my building was constructed deliberately as a warehouse for deteriorating bodies, so that inmates returning drunk and incapacitated from campus parties could depend on grab bars when they staggered into the wrong restroom to hug the commode.
It was also infested with centipedes. And these were not your flickering, inch-long Tidewater centipedes, oh no; these were great undulating monstrosities with red heads and rippling legs, introduced to the campus by a privileged little-rich-boy Mercedes-driving sick fuck named (I think) Elliott, who thought it was cute to smuggle some South American plant past customs as a gift for a chick he wanted to prong. (The Campus News Bureau, located in the mail room, was quite positive upon this point.)
I was passing my old guitar back and forth with a friend one night, listening to the familiar sounds of a fellow student hawking “SAND-wiches! SO-da! Beer!” as he pushed a trolley in the hall outside, when a motion caught my eye. The great-great-grandfather of all centipedes was scaling the wall above my bunk; you could actually see its eyespots, and the movement of the legs was like a breeze over prairie grass. I gacked involuntarily.
My friend, who had been industriously emptying out the last of a tin of cookies from home, leapt into action and up on the bed, slamming the open tin over the Monster From The Amazon and deftly tipping it in before clapping the lid on top.
“I’ll just go flush this,” he said, exiting the room to sashay down the corridor crying in a fishmonger’s singsong: “CENT-i-pedes!!!”
Memory is bleak. The Centipede Hunter tried to kill himself the following semester, for no reason I ever understood, and the guy who sold sandwiches developed some sort of leg condition that left him on crutches. I don’t know if they ever got rid of the centipedes.
I put down some more diatomaceous earth after my client left, and hoped for the best.