Samantha Collects Bugs

William M. O'Brien, Jr.

It was Memorial Day and school was out for the summer. Samantha Ellers was ecstatic. Now she was free to swim, hike, and do all the things that a twelve-year-old enterprising young girl would do in the summer. Also, she could devote a lot of her time to her bug collection, her pride and joy.

Her collection was huge. She had read a number of books on entomology and knew quite a bit about not only the bugs she collected but many species from far- away places. Along with cases with bugs mounted in them, she had several holding tanks with live specimens. And she kept her collection in a small servant’s house at the back of the lot away from the large, old house where she lived.

Since the main house was old, she had found many specimens in the crawl space underneath it, including an eight inch centipede and a pseudo scorpion. These two were easily among her favorites.

In the meantime, Samantha was larger than the average twelve-year-old girl, and, as such, received a lot of teasing, especially from boys. She laughed it off, and dreamed of ways at getting back at them. She didn’t exactly hate boys (she was beyond that stage), but still she was annoyed with many of them.

On the first day of summer, Nancy, Samantha’s next door neighbor and best friend, invited her to a movie on the first Monday after the end of school. They would celebrate their new “freedom” on the first day of the regular work week.

Standing in line to buy tickets, the two girls didn’t notice Mark Wise, a classmate, slip up on them. Positioned immediately behind Samantha, he reached down, grabbed the hem of her dress and raised it up to her shoulders.

“I just wanted to see if you had any on, Sam,” he laughingly told her.

“You bastard!” she exclaimed. With both arms she savagely slammed down her dress.

In the meantime, Mark and his two buddies, having already bought their tickets, quickly headed into the theater.

“I wouldn’t worry about those three assholes,” Nancy remarked. “They’re the class retards.”

“Yeah, and in the meantime, everybody and his brother has a good shot of my panties.” Samantha, still furious, looked around at the people near her. “I will get back at that prick,” she said in a stage whisper.

Her resolve for revenge did not leave her that afternoon. As a matter of fact, it remained in the forefront of her mind all during the film she saw. By the time she returned home, she knew exactly what she was going to do.

Her enormous insect collections including containers and jars filled with live specimens were carefully kept alive with climate control she had created in one small room of the outbuildings. In this part of her collection was a jar containing common household scorpions.

She knew that Mark Wise would be at baseball practice the next afternoon. Before the end of practice, Samantha would be there with the container of stinging varmints.

At the appointed time, Sam, wearing shorts, of course, appeared around the backstop and looked for Mark Wise. She found him nearby third base, barefooted, even though Sam knew his coach would scold him if he saw him. But Coach Milsap was nowhere in sight.

Good, Sam thought. Now where are his shoes.

Sitting among the spectators in the small grandstand behind home plate, Sam spotted a pair of likely baseball shoes next to the dugout near first base. Then she made sure everyone else on the field was wearing shoes.

As non-conspicuous as she could, she made her way under the bleachers toward the abandoned shoes and, without anyone looking, waited for a distraction to focus all attention on the field.

She didn’t have long to wait. A long hit to the outfield drew everyone to their feet. Everyone except Sam, who rushed to the shoes and quickly emptied two scorpions into each shoe. Then, while everyone was still standing, she put the jar back into her bag and made her way to the side of the grandstand. When everyone took their seats, she left the area, making sure she wasn’t seen.

While walking home from the ballpark, she thought about the scene of Mark when he put on his shoes.

“Boy, will he be surprised,” she said aloud. “I wish there was some way to inform him this was payback for what he did to me at the theater.”

She took the jar out of her large pocket and found that there was only one scorpion left in it. Then, she stopped, and let the horrid little creature out on the ground.

The next day she learned from a friend at the library that Mark Wise had been stung at baseball practice by a scorpion that had apparently crawled into his shoe. Later, he had to be treated by a doctor.

Good. Good. Sam gloated after finding this out at the library. Walking home, she thought. It worked great. I wish there was some way I could tell him that was me. After I remind him what he did to me.

Sam also had a small collection of live tarantulas. One she played with while lying on her bed in her room. She had named it Wilbur, and considered it her favorite pet.

Of course, her mother hated the little monster.

“She’s just a Arachnophobe,” she told her friends, who weren’t exactly excited by her pet themselves.

One evening while playing with her pet, she got the idea that she would play a joke on Mrs. Arbuckle, who lived down the street.

The woman had stopped her on the street one day and lectured her about her short skirt, telling her she needed to go home and put on something decent.

Flustered by the admonition from out of nowhere, she had thought earnestly about what she could do to get back at the old woman.

Now she had an idea.

She would slip one of her pets into Mrs. Arbuckle’s house. Not Wilbur, of course, since he was a favorite, but one that would scare the living hell out of the woman.

In the mornings, Mrs. Arbuckle would spend over an hour in her garden. When she did, she always left her back door open. Since her garden was large, sometimes she would be well away from her house with her back to the door.

When she was in this position, Sam would slip into her back door and turn loose her tarantula, Bruce. Her only regret would be the fun she would have when the old lady confronted Bruce inside her house.

The thought made her laugh out loud.

The next morning, Samantha met her friend Nancy out in front of her house. She knew her friend also had some problems in the past with old Mrs. Arbuckle as she had.

“That old bitch,” Nancy exclaimed. “Just before school was out I rode my bike up on her sidewalk and she yelled at me. She called me a little tart.”

“Yeah, you told me about that.” Sam laughed. “Now I have a plan of action that should show her a thing or two.”

Quickly, laughing, Samantha told her friend all about her plan to launch Bruce into the woman’s house. Afterwards, the two girls giggled while Sam explained how easily the plan would work.

“No one will ever know where the spider came from,” Sam continued. “They’ll think it just walked in when she left the door open.”

“And it will scare the shit out of that old witch.”

Samantha stopped a minute and quit laughing. “Nan, do you know if that old woman has a pet inside? Like a cat or something?

“No, I don’t think so,” the girl answered. “She used to have dog. It bit my big brother, I remember. But I don’t think she has anything in there now.”

“Great,” Sam grinned wide. “Bruce can have the whole house to himself.” At that both girls laughed again.

The next morning, Samantha, spider jar in hand, waited in some bushes beside the Arbuckle driveway for the old lady to come out the back door and head for her garden.

Again, she didn’t have long to wait. Mrs. Arbuckle left her house and made her way to the far end of the garden to her tool shed. When she went into the shed, Sam had no trouble slipping into the house.

She quickly released Bruce in the dining room off the kitchen and then peered out the backdoor to see if the old lady was still in her shed.

Not seeing the old woman anywhere, she slipped out of the house and down the driveway to the street.
At home she couldn’t wait to call Nancy and tell her what she had done.

“Bruce will probably hide until night and then go prowling for something to eat,” she told her friend and then giggled. “That’s when she’ll probably encounter him. In the middle of the night when she’s heading for the john.” This idea brought a loud laugh from both girls.

Two days later, Mrs. Arbuckle encountered the spider early in the morning while fixing breakfast. She abruptly fainted and hit her head.

Fortunately her son in law had come by and, when no one answered the door, used his key, entered and found her. He immediately took her to the hospital.

Sam heard about the incident from Nancy the day after it happened.

“Her son in law found her lying on the floor.” Nancy giggled into the phone. “He found the spider, too. He killed it. I bet he looked on the old lady for bite wounds before he took her to the hospital.”

“Poor Bruce,” Samantha replied. “Is she still in the hospital,” she asked, and laughed.

“Charlie up the street saw her coming home this evening,” Nancy replied. "God, Sam, she called me a tart. You’d think I’d run past her house buck naked or something.”

“I bet the old bitch is going to be looking high and low for more spiders.” Sam stopped to think a moment. “Maybe we ought to let in a few more of the critters.” She laughed. “Like a couple of those big grass spiders.”

“Those big gray things you find in the yard?” Nancy asked. “She’d probably pee in her pants.”

At that both girls laughed out loud again and slapped their knees.

Later Samantha was examining a large tank full of live roaches she had in her collection, which had outgrown the largest room of the old servant’s quarters into a much smaller adjacent room.

I turn these buggers loose, they’ll multiply and make millions. She laughed to herself. She picked one of the creatures out of the tank and let it run over her hand and fore arm.

She was interrupted by her mother.

“Sam, you put that nasty thing back in that tank,” the woman barked. “Those things carry germs, you know.”

“I will. Just a minute, Mama.”

“Now, Sam.” She put her hands on her hips. “I do not want those things getting anywhere near our house.”

Sam put the creature back into the tank with the others while her mother stepped up closer to her daughter.

“Why you have those things God only knows.” The woman, a few inches taller than her daughter, leaned over her and stared into the tank. “They are nasty, filthy. They carry all kinds of diseases. Not to mention all the food they spoil.”

“They’re helpful in some ways, too. Mama”

“How, Pray tell. How in God’s name can a creature such as that be helpful at all.”

Sam, kneeling, scooted around toward her mother. But she was stumped. How are roaches helpful, she thought.

“They make good pets.” She smiled up at her mother.

“Good pets, for God’s sake.” The woman looked around the room.

“I think you need to get rid of those things before they scatter all over creation.” Her mother abruptly turned and returned to the house.

“They’re also food for other creatures,” Sam yelled after her.

At the same time, Nancy entered, unannounced, as she always did.

“Oh, my God, Sam. Look at all those nasty things,” she said, staring at the large tank in fascination.

“Aren’t they cool,” Sam replied, smiling at her friend. “I’ve got more in another holding tank in the other room.”

“Where did you get all those things?” Nancy asked, squatting in front of the large tank.

“All over the place. You wouldn’t believe.” Samantha stood up and adjusted the lid on the tank. “One of these days, I’m going to find a use for these critters,” she giggled.

“We ought to put some of these things in old lady Hemphill’s desk at school. She’s still there. She’s department chair.”

“That’s a good idea.” Sam’s face lit up. “I remember you were really pissed at her.”

“Yes. All those lines I had to write.” Nancy stood and crossed her arms over her chest. “And I wasn’t even at fault.”

Sam laughed out loud, not at the idea, but of the thought of Nancy’s having to write the line “I will keep my knees together at all times” five hundred times after Billy Willis dropped his pencil three times and was finally caught trying to see up her skirt.

“We can get some bigger ones out of the tank in the other room,” Sam announced, standing and looking down at the swarming creatures in the tank in front of her.

“I think we ought to do it, Sam.” Nancy giggled and again squatted in front of the tank. “We can get to school early and put some of these in her top drawer so there should be some left when she opens it when she gets there. Since School’s out, nobody will be around.”

“Good idea.” Sam knelt down beside her friend. “Monday morning we can get there early. I’ll have ten or twelve of the bugs in an old lunch kit I have.” Samantha laughed. “We can get Charly to open the door for us. Since old lady Hemphill teaches life science, we can tell him we need to stow some things in her classroom for next fall.”

“That’s a brilliant idea.” Nancy turned to her friend. “Since there’s nobody there, we can even hide nearby and at least hear her reaction when she opens her desk drawer.”

“And the sooner we get the bugs in the drawer, they should stay there until she opens it.”

The two girls stood and laughed out loud.

“Serves the old bitch right.” Nancy turned toward the door. “I’ve gotta go, now. Next Monday it is. Get things ready.” The girl hastened out of the room and across the lawn to her house.

That Monday morning the two girls had the janitor let them into Mrs. Hemphill’s room, as planned, and then, without turning on any lights, let loose twelve large roaches in the woman’s top desk drawer. Then, carefully closing the drawer, they left the room, closed the door and entered a restroom across the hall.
Later, ensconced in their restroom hideout, both girls waited until they heard Mrs. Hemphill walking down the hall to her room to retrieve materials for the day’s meetings. Almost immediately a loud scream broke the silence of the empty hall.

“I hope she’s on the floor in a dead faint,” Nancy, giggling softly whispered to Samantha.

Silently, quickly, they sneaked out of the restroom and out of the building. Later they learned from a student who had come up to help Mrs. Hemphill later, that they had taken the drawers out of her desk and caught most of the roaches with Kleenex from off her desk. In the meantime, Mrs. Hemphill had come to the conclusion that this was no accident; this was a prank.

However, she was at a loss as to who had perpetrated it. Nancy had kept silent in regard to her anger at the teacher, and Sam barely knew her. She had just heard stories about how she treated her students.

Now Samantha was jubilant. She had a power that no one knew about, a power that she had used more than once to get even with those who, to her, had done wrong. Now she wondered who was next.

It wasn’t long before another target turned up.

Summer brought the usual prowling pranksters papering houses and upending garbage cans. And this summer found the Ellers’ home papered and the words “geek,” and “shithead” soaped on car windows in the driveway.

“I know who did this,” Sam said quietly to herself, examining the damage the next morning. But she did not tell her angry parents. Instead, she told them she had no idea who would do such a thing to her. Or maybe it was a “random hit. She had her own ideas.”

Donnie Mills, a good friend of Mark Wise, who had already felt her wrath, was the number one suspect. In fact, he had called her a geek more than once.

“And he was too damned stupid to think I wouldn’t know,” Sam gloated.

Just before the fourth of July holiday, Sam went to bed after fondling a jar among her collection marked Loxosceles reclusa.

“He’s really in for it, now” she whispered in her bed. “Tomorrow I will find out just where to put my little friends.” She laughed while playing with a pet tarantula named “Willy.”

The next afternoon she had found it. She would catch Donnie at the annual Fourth of July picnic and fireworks display at Mosley Street Park. Before dark there were always pick-up games of baseball, football and especially basketball, as there were two full courts at the edge of the park. And that is where Donnie usually doffs his shirt to play basketball. Hence, then he will be most vulnerable.

Sam would sneak up on the basketball court where Donnie was playing and sprinkle her little friends into his shirt. She would have to work in the daylight as, when night fell, Donnie, along with his friends would recover their shirts and find a place to sit for the fireworks.

By then at least one of the little bastards would bite him Sam gloated.

The Fourth arrived and found Sam headed to Moseley Street Park with four specimens in a jar small enough to fit in her purse.

When she arrived, there was Donnie, like she knew he would be, playing basketball. Nearby, though, there were two small boys poking sticks at an anthill.

Sam figured she would have to sneak up on the basketball court and squat or kneel to watch the game. Donnie’s shirt, which she quickly located between the court and the two little boys, would be right in front of her.

Approaching the court, Sam noticed the two boys had begun throwing firecrackers on the anthill, a practice which wasn’t allowed in the park.

Temporarily frustrated, she walked up, unseen by the two little miscreants.

“You two little turds,” she barked at the two. “You better take those crackers and beat it before I call the law,” She took out her cell phone and waved it at them.

When they started walking off, she turned back to the basketball game furiously in progress up and down the court.

She squatted as close to the shirt she identified as Donnie’s as she could. Quickly, before he could notice her presence, she unscrewed the lid of the little jar and turned it over on the shirt.

At that instant a firecracker popped directly behind her.

“Shit,” she exclaimed, and stood up and turned around, but the two boys were already several yards running away from her.

In a temporary panic, Sam turned back to the game, but noticed the participants were bunched up at the far court for a free throw.

Apparently she had not been noticed. She quickly screwed the lid on the now empty jar and redeposited it in her purse. Then, as the basketball game had resumed up and down the court, she quickly made her way back to her bicycle.

On her way home, she felt a faint pin prick just under the hem of her shorts just below her hip. She reached back and scratched but paid it no mind.

At home she and her family were preparing to go to the park for the fireworks display. Samantha gloated, hoping, secretly, that her little friends had already bitten Donnie. There was the fact that she wasn’t there for the end of the game when Donnie donned the infected shirt. But, of course, that would have been too obvious.

Arriving at the park, Sam began to feel sick, nauseous, from which, she guessed, something she had eaten at lunch. Her sickness became worse to the point of her throwing up in a bush. Dizziness followed, and Sam fell into a small tree.

Her family, alarmed, drove her quickly to a nearby hospital Emergency Room.

On the way, Samantha realized what had happened. She knew enough about loxosceles reclusa to realize that she had been bitten by a Brown Recluse spider when one of the four had fallen on her, unseen, when she had been startled by the firecracker while dumping out the jar onto Donnie’s shirt.

Of course she informed the ER Doc that she had been bitten by a brown recluse spider. Of course, her mother was very upset with her and, of course, she chided her daughter as she lay on a gurney in a room off the receiving area of the ER.

“Even I know those damned things are poisonous!” the woman yelled, bent over with hands on hips.

Mrs. Ellers was escorted out of the room by a nurse, while the doctor worked with her daughter.

Of course, Sam learned a lesson, on restriction for a month. Although her father talked her mother out of making Sam get rid of all the bugs, saying “isn’t this training for a future career.” Sam did swear to herself that she would never “inflict” her collection on an enemy again, although no one except Nancy knew what she had been doing with her specimens.

As for Donnie, he spotted one of the venomous creatures on his shirt when he picked it up. He shook the shirt out and others fell on the ground. He did not put the shirt back on for the rest of the evening, but figured the spiders had just wandered into his shirt when it was on the ground.

Again, Sam had gotten away with her mischief.

In a bit of irony later that night, Sam finally went to sleep with a sedative, and playful Horace, another tarantula, snuggling under the covers against her.