Getting bites out of life

April 15, 2001|By Phil Perrier

LOS ANGELES -- When my family lived in the country (my parents were hiding from the IRS), our dog, Mitzy, appeared to be tormenting a small critter in the tall grass while walking with me across a field. I was 8.

On inspection, I found Mitzy's prey to be a bedraggled rodent. It appeared to be a mole -- small, gray, squinty eyes, pronounced overbite. As I held the trembling creature in my hand, he bit my finger. Hard. I frantically shook him off, but it took several terror-filled seconds. I felt the hurt a small child feels when he attempts to save a bedraggled rodent, only to be bitten. Another painful lesson learned. There were more.

Bloodthirsty dogs: While jogging in Asheville, N.C., several years ago, I happened upon two women walking their dogs in a neighborhood park. As I passed, one of the dogs, a particularly mangy mutt that looked like a cross between a German shepherd and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, jumped at me and bit me my leg.

"Lady, your dog just bit me," I screamed. I learned the textbook reaction of dog owners after their dog bites someone: Denial. "No, she didn't," the woman blurted.

Evil insects: For flat-out creepiness, nothing compares to an insect attack. My wife and I were enjoying a little R&R at a cabin in north Georgia when I awoke early to a shriek, "Something just stung me," she yelled.

Just then, I felt a burning sensation in my right buttockal hemisphere. Ripping back the blankets revealed a scorpion the size of a man's hand. The horrible creature glared at me, his erect stinger glistening with blood -- my blood. One thought overtook my brain: "Must kill."

With catlike quickness I grabbed a monkey hand back-scratcher and brought it down on the little devil with deadly authority. The scorpion was on a one-way trip to hell.

Killers of the deep: While scuba diving in the Cayman Islands, I was taken to a place called "Stingray City," where divers sit on the sea bottom in about 15 feet of water and feed stingrays. Dozens of stingrays swarm all around you. We were told stingrays posed no danger because they can't bite, having plates instead of teeth.

As soon as I hit the bottom, a stingray bit me. Hard, right above the elbow. I grabbed the dive master and pointed furiously at the welt on my arm. He shrugged. Then the same stingray (I'd recognize him anywhere) came back and bit me again -- on the same spot.

He may not have had teeth, but he had some mean plates, and he knew how to use them.

Upon our return to the boat I told the dive master, "Hey, that stingray bit me -- twice." He responded, "No, he didn't."

He would say that.

Phil Perrier is a free-lance writer and a stand-up comic who lives in Los Angeles.

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