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  • Writer's pictureJayne Lisbeth

Florida Life

It was about 10:30 pm when I heard the first scream erupt from our kitchen. I had been examining my image in the bathroom mirror. “Damn, is that another wrinkle?” I asked myself in exasperation.

I started brushing my teeth, the soothing sound of the electric toothbrush whirring in my ears. Did I hear another scream? I wondered. Nah.

By the time my tooth brushing routine had ended I could no longer ignore the hysterical screams exploding from the kitchen. A home invasion? A fire?

“JAYNIE!! Bring me a shoe! NOW! A shoe!”

A shoe? What does my beloved want with a shoe?

My blood ran cold as I raced towards the kitchen. I tried to calm myself with a reasonable explanation for Tim's shouts. Too many sci-fi and Star Trek episodes? Hallucinations? A stroke? I arrived in the kitchen, my heart racing. There, I saw my beloved scampering about. He was chasing someone or something and he was angry.

My dear husband was holding one of my dressy sandals overhead, which he had retrieved from the front door. He hovered over his prey, a quivering roach, or Palmetto Bug, the more polite Florida moniker for this detestable insect. “ YOU MOTHER….!! YOU’RE DEAD!” The offender lay kicking helplessly on his back until suddenly he flipped over and ran. My kitchen had become a modern-day Roman Colosseum, with myself, the helpless observer and my dear husband, the Gladiator.

The battle continued, “I got you, you mother—---. Oh, NO, you don’t!” “GOTCHA! You bastard! You think you’re so smart? WATCH THIS!” Clearly, my love was losing it. He stomped across the floor, upending my kitchen mat in his haste to corner his escaping prey.

SPLAT. Tim smashed the offending large, black, winged and antennaed offender. Won’t be wearing those sandals again anytime soon, I thought. Tim danced around the corpse gleefully, the victorious slayer of intruders. I couldn’t believe he was this thrilled over the murder of one of ‘gods little creatures.’ We both looked over the remains of the murder scene.

“That was an amazing dance routine, my love.” We looked at one another and started giggling, then guffawing. How could any sane individual be so excited over the death of a roach?

Life in Florida.

I am reminded of another Life in Florida event which occurred the first year we lived in our new nest. It was Halloween, 2006. I had been sorting clothing from my closet to box up for Goodwill when I saw it.

“Ha-ha.” I said to the enormous, black hairy spider, as big as my palm, who was adhered to my pristine, freshly painted closet wall. “Very funny trick for our first Halloween in our new home.” I sneered at the offending adornment, which I assumed was Tim’s Halloween joke. I reached out to remove the Halloween spider decoration from my closet wall.

IT MOVED. Quickly. It raced across my closet walls and disappeared. I screamed. Immediately, instead of calling 911, I called Tim at work. He was in the midst of teaching an art class. I yelled at his director, Jeanne Paul:


Jeanne, in her wisdom, talked me down. After my hysterical description of the attack, she said, “Oh, Jaynie, it’s just a wolf spider.”

“JUST A WOLF SPIDER?” I yelled indignantly. That was my earliest initiation to Wolf Spiders in our brand new, fully renovated, freshly cleaned and rejuvenated home. It wouldn't be the last.

There have been other Florida Natural Life experiences. Tim brought home a baby alligator one day which he had rescued from a gutter. “Alli” was about two-and-a-half feet long. Her hisses weren’t threatening. Her teeth were. After dancing around with Allie Tim returned her to the Hillsborough River. We often wonder where “Allie” is now.

Our most unusual uninvited guest made himself comfortable in our shower during our three-week vacation and absence from our home. All we wanted to do after a long day of flying from Portland, Oregon to Tampa, Florida was take a hot shower and crawl into bed. I stepped into the shower and noticed the drain lid had popped off. That's odd, I thought. Tim and I then discovered the intruder, a large Cuban tree frog.

He was sitting comfortably among my hair and skin care products on the shower floor. He seemed to smile with his golden eyes, as though saying, "OH, you're back! Welcome home! Great accommodations."

While we occasionally happily discover tiny tree frogs hopping across the living room floor in the spring, this guy was huge. He sidled over to the drain, saying no doubt, "I'll be on my way. Till next time! Ba-bye." No. He had to be ousted immediately.

My naked gladiator sprang into action, easily caught the uninvited guest and evicted him into our jungle backyard. Thankfully, he has never returned.

Another day I shared with my grandchildren the long, shedded skin of a black snake. I was showing off its lovely patterned castoff to the rapt attention of my grandchildren. “Is that what I think it is?” my dear daughter-in-law asked me, peering over my shoulder. She rushed the kids back into our home, thinking, no doubt, that her mother-in-law had finally gone round the bend.

Last night Tim crept up behind me with something cupped in his hand. “What is it?” I asked warily. “A surprise,” he said with a smile. He opened his hand and an extraordinarily tiny gecko clung to the edge of his thumb. He was adorable, about 1-1/2 inches long, yet big enough to look around with his enormous black eyes. Tim had discovered him blending into the beige color of my office carpet. He scooped him up. This little guy wanted to survive, clinging to the safety of Tim's finger. I was thrilled.

Even with the roaches, mosquitoes, termites, lizards, baby tree frogs, alligators, rats and snakes, there are still adorable geckos.

Our gecko occasionally hangs out on our front porch

Most days there is nowhere else I would rather live than in Tampa, Florida. The geckos offset the bad and the ugly with their good. After all, they eat bugs.

The Florida Life, an acquired state of mine.

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