Lousy stick figure cartoon by Erin. This is why my college art degree is best left unmentioned.

When your son is supposed to be at the bus stop, but instead he’s crouching three houses away, looking intently at the curb, you know something disgusting has caught his eye.

“You’d better get to the bus stop,” I call.

He doesn’t move. “Eeew. It’s alive!”

Perhaps you can see why I habitually walk the dog at bus time.

Henry and I trot down the street to my son. “Sweetheart, the bus ought to be—eeew!”

My gaze is pinned to a giant creepy thing with sixty-kabillion legs. I wish I could turn away, but the critter is horridly captivating. It’s as thick as my finger and easily longer than my hand. Its body is completely black with a bright orange head. Or maybe that’s the tail. Honestly, both ends are twitching so how can I tell?

A shiver laces its way down my back. I know exactly what this looks like.

Fish bait—the ugly plastic thingies that my dad and I sometimes use. I love to fish, but touching live creepy-crawly bait has always been out of the question. The fake creepy crawlies are gross but doable because they’re too preposterous to be real.

Right. I will never fish again. At least not with fake crawly things that are apparently swell imitations of real life and will ever after make me think I’m touching this loathsome wiggler.

What I want to know is how did it come to exist? And why, if it must exist somewhere in the world, does it have to be in my neighborhood, twitching on my curb?

I whip out my cell phone to take a picture. Yes, it’s morbid but no one is going to believe this otherwise.

As a camera, the phone lacks, um, let’s call it engineering finesse. When I look through the viewfinder, the bug looks ten feet away. I’ll need to move in.

Right about then, Henry does a little dance of anticipation at the end of his leash.

What am I, nuts or something? I’m going let Henry’s big, sharp, pointy teeth get in range of a mutant centipede while I squat down and snap a close up? That’d be a photo the world could live without.

I back away, pulling Henry with me, and then turn to my son. “You’d better get along to the bus stop.”

He’s still fascinated, albeit entirely grossed out, by our disturbing, orange-headed discovery. “Do you think it’s dying?”

What am I, an expert in creepy bugs?

“I don’t know. But I think I hear the bus. I’ve seen enough horrible critters for one day.”

Yeah, that was before the snake came along…

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