Susan looked at the corner by the bedroom door.

“What’s that?!” she said, an edge in her voice. “Is it a bug or a door stop?” She wasn’t wearing her glasses.

“It’s just the door stop,” I said, looking over to the corner where the black rubber bumper of the stainless steel stop did look a little dark and ominous.

At least, that’s what I thought she had seen as we were pulling our things together in Playa Hermosa for the late checkout and ride to our next stop in Costa Rica.

It’s not like there wasn’t reason to think bugs might be the size of golf balls. Across the street from the Tree House where we’d stayed the night before, a red and black tarantula lunged at the small stick being used to tempt her from a tea-cup-sized burrow in a bank cut for the road.

On the night-time walk that followed the tarantula tease, we saw sleeping toucans, and a green pit viper poised to strike at some unsuspecting rodent.

Koki, our guide, said the snake would first stretch to the ground, then pull itself back into the semi-coiled “S” that we saw hanging. The snake had pits in its head that sensed heat, he said, that told the snake when to strike, and the snake couldn’t strike too short, or too long, so it calibrated the distance before hand.

The victim would scamper away after being hit, but the snake would be able to follow with it’s sense of smell detecting the odor of its own venom. When the animal was dead, or incapacitated, serpent would arrive to its meal. The viper didn’t need to eat often, so it could afford to be patient, hanging from the branch, semi coiled. Koki said he’d seen snakes hanging in the same position from the same branch, for weeks at a time.

The Tree House hotel was a series of elegant cabins of varnished wood and glass perched in the canopy of the Costa Rican rain forest.

Tree House

At first Susan wasn’t sure she would want to do the zip lines, but after the first one, she was all smiles as we flew from tree to tree, one line itself 800 meters long. We’d walked the the trails the day before, we climbed vines and huge trunks trellised with roots descending from parasitic plants high above to nourishment on the forest floor.

We were a couple of kids, the rain forest in Costa Rica not  unlike the Oregon woods where I grew up. Susan told me she’d broken both bones in her left wrist when she jumped out of a tree to get away from a spider as a 12-year-old tomboy in New Mexico.

We did everything we could in the two days we had in the rain forest, then on the third, it was time to move on. We caught a ride to Playa Hermosa along the north coast, to a hotel on the beach where the food and weather were perfect.

I ran for miles on the sand then read and outlined the conclusion of the book “Butterflies” while Susan jumped rope and worked out in the room. Eventually it was time to pack up and head to our next stop, Playa El Joba. Susan sat on the floor, as she often does, amid bags and and clothes, reorganizing her packs. I had all my stuff spread out on the bed.

“That really IS something!” she said, leaping to her feet. I walked over as she pulled her bags back, and about 24 inches from where she had been sitting, a black scorpion the size of my thumb sat facing the room.

scorpion under glass

I got a glass from the counter and put it over the scorpion before it could scuttle off and disappear, then a card from the desk to slide under the glass so our stinging roommate could be put outside on the sunlit deck for a few camera shots, then off the deck he went, back to the vegetation below our second floor room.


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About Erik Dolson

Erik Dolson is a writer living in Oregon

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