When my nephew Niko was quite young, I took him to the Woodlands Park Zoo. Late that afternoon I watched a young man standing at a building; he kept peeping into the box he was holding.
I couldn’t contain my curiosity. “Excuse me,” I said, “but can I ask you, what’s in the box? You keep checking on it.”
He answered me with a solumn look. “I work in a grocery store. One of the stockboys was opening a box of fruit and got bitten by this.” He opened the box and we gazed down at a very large, very irridescent insect with huge pincers. “It was in the box hiding underneath the fruit,” he said. “The store manager’s worried it might be poisonous. I called and made an appointment to come in to the zoo and talk to their entomologists. We don’t know if we should send the guy who got bitten to the hospital.”
A decade later I used that memory to write a scene of Jeremy, a character in my first book Broken In: A Novel in Stories. The insect has morphed into a Thai giant centipede, and Jeremy is bitten. – Jadi
Jeremy unpacked the two crates of baby pineapples and stacked them on their sides in the bin. The sweet smell of the fruit put him in a good mood. Jeremy was humming ever so slightly under his breath as he broke the next exotic produce crate open and began to unpack its contents.
“F**k!” he screamed. The front of the store suddenly went silent and his coworkers came running.
Jeremy knelt on the floor cradling his right forearm and breathing in and out heavily. “Something just bit me,” he said in a strangled voice. He began to hyperventilate.
The day manager Lynnie Wendels pushed through the others wielding a metal stool. “Sit!” she commanded. She somehow got Jeremy onto the stool with his back bent over and his head down between his knees.
The others made a ring and offered suggestions. “Keep your head down, Jeremy! Just try to breathe, long slow deep breaths. That’s it, guy; you’re gonna be okay.”
“What was it?” Lynnie was still trying to ascertain what had happened. Jeremy raised his head and his face was damp from pain and shock. He held out his arm. “What in the -?” Lynnie didn’t finish the sentence. On the inside of Jeremy’s forearm, just above his wrist, two puncture marks stood out against the skin. The wounds were swelling and their red pulsated in angry color.
-from my chapter Punctured in Broken In: A Novel in Stories
NOTES: Jadi Campbell 2021. All photos and images © Uwe Hartmann.
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