I recently gave my six-year-old daughter a scorpion.
It was small, and it was dead, and it was encased in a rectangular block of sucrose, a lollipop. I purchased it online, from a company called Hotlix, and I paid way too much in shipping and handling because I ordered it last minute. The scorpion was not much bigger than a wasp, and it was suspended in an awkward pose, its stinger bent at an unnatural angle. Still, it was a scorpion, and even a feeble scorpion is fearsome enough.
To understand why I gave Anwyn a scorpion, you have to know about the scroundrels. The scroundrels are a group of strange little creatures that have been a part of her life pretty much forever. They look sort of like unwatered Gremlins and were born in our imagination during a long road trip years ago. Now, whenever we’re driving somewhere together, before I’ve even put the car into gear, Anwyn gives me a two-word imperative from the backseat: “Scroundrel story!” Sometimes I forget where our story left off. She never does.
Over time, the two of us have worked out a pretty detailed portrait of the scroundrels. Their likes, their dislikes, their vices, and their virtues. As far as food goes, the scroundrels love to eat scorpions. They sprinkle dried scorpions on their cereal, mash scorpions into their fruit smoothies, fry scorpions up for dinner. Most of all, they love candy-coated scorpions.
So one evening, curious, I typed “candy” and “scorpions” into Google. Lo and behold.
There is no formula for the perfect gift.
I’ve given tons of duds. I’ve also often gone for the easy win, the pink and the ghastly. On the rare occasions that inspiration and luck collide, however, I like to think my gifts to Anwyn make her marvel a little, and blur the boundaries between imagination and reality.
When she opened that sloppily wrapped lollipop, when she turned it over in her hands and held it up to the light and studied the arachnid inside, I watched her eyes grow wide. That candy-coated scorpion was a visitor from another universe, a universe we’d created together, and its existence helped validate the existence of that other realm.
We’ve discussed whether or not to eat it. The online reviews say that the candy part of the lollipop tastes decent enough, and that the scorpion part tastes sort of dry and husky but not too disgusting. I’m kind of keen to give it a go. Anwyn, though, is inclined to save it, to keep it safe, in case a scroundrel ever shows up.