Weekend Wanderer: Stuck with an Uninvited Guest


My visitor is neither houseguest nor fish, but he definitely meets that three-day criterion for repugnancy.

He’s a skink.

I did not know what a skink was until he showed up last year. Encyclopedia Britannica says skinks as a subset of lizards – a far more benign descriptor than my skink deserves.

Skink bodies are disturbingly more serpentine than lizard bodies, making them look like three-inch long, vibrantly colored snakes.

Skinks look so much like snakes that when mine first showed up last spring, I had a raging fight with my husband that he was, in fact, a snake.

A raging fight that the skink was a snake. Not that my husband was a snake.

And as if a marriage-leveling fight over a skink isn’t bad enough, I did so via text. I took pictures, daring my husband to explain how this invader didn’t qualify as a snake.

His return text was that same picture. It was enlarged, the legs circled in angry red.

Well all right then.

It doesn’t really matter what species he is anyway. The fear my skink generates is the same regardless of his nomenclature.

My skink lives in the worst possible place. The concrete step beneath my front door has had a crack the length of the riser since the day I bought my house. I have always suspected ghastly creatures dwelled in that crack.

And I was right. My skink lives in that crack.

Unfortunately for me, my Teutonic sensibilities demand I deal with my fear rather than part with the funds a good mason would charge me to fill that crack.

So be it.

My skink first showed up last spring. I was headed out to pick up lunch when I saw him, lurking on the front step.

That’s how close I came to death.

The text fight with my husband ensued as I cowered in my house, the front door closed and locked. How could I pick up my avocado toast if The Demogorgon insisted on living in the crack of my step?

My skink, like The Demogorgon, has returned with the advent of a new season. I tread cautiously each time I cross that crack in the concrete. I know he waits for me, holed up in my step like I’m running some kind of badly masoned bed and breakfast. One of these days, as I step over that crack, he’ll dart out and …

Wait. And what?

What am I afraid he’ll do?

Huh. I don’t really know. But when I think about him leaping out of that crack as I step over it, my heart races like I’m halfway through my HIIT class.

That’s pretty typical of phobias, says The Washington Post. Women are more likely to admit to phobias, as are people with other anxieties.

I’m guilty of one of those things, but not the other. I’m an introvert, not socially anxious.

Except I’m maybe a little bit socially anxious.

Phobias like mine have the nasty habit of making sufferers’ worlds smaller and smaller as we try to avoid the object of our fear. We often resort to coping mechanisms like – direct quote here – “drinking alcohol” or “distracting … with technology.”

Which is why you’re getting Stranger Things references and you almost read this week about my affinity for summer beer.

Herpetophobics like me avoid the outdoors. Sure, I’ve hit many of the trails described here by the Bucks County Courier Times. But that’s only because I accidentally married an outdoorsman and I know that trees are better for my kids than Stranger Things.

The accidentally-married-an-outdoorsman thing is a long story. We can get into that later. For now, let’s just say he has a cabin in the woods and has scheduled time there for our family to watch the cicada uprising.

As if that’s not bad enough, I just discovered – thank you again, Washington Post – that copperhead snakes love to eat cicadas.

Pennsylvania has copperheads. When you’re herpetophobic and married to an outdoorsman, you get familiar with websites like this pretty quickly.

Last week, I was pulling weeds as I chatted on the phone with my outdoorsman husband. Pulling weeds is a mental challenge. I risk coming face to forked tongue with the herps that make me so phobic.

I was reaching for a weed when I saw the shed cicada skin.

I told my husband if I screamed, it was because I had encountered a snake while weeding.

So when I did scream, he was nonplussed. “Snake?” he asked.

“No!” I yelled. I had shifted from weeding to beagle pooper scooping. The bag tore. I was pooper scooping bare-handed.

“Goodbye,” he said, knowing well that handwashing would not be sufficient. I’m also a bit of a germaphobe. A hand covered in dog poop demands a full shower.

And now that I’ve said all of this, I’m not sure why my husband comes home. There might be a clock on that.

The future might find me alone with my skink, the only vertebrate in my house not impacted by my fears.