Today I've delved into the archives and fished out a story I wrote in April three years ago. Most of you have read this, or perhaps not. Either way, I trust it's still as funny today as it was then. I'm not even going to read over it until it's re-published, to ensure I don't tinker with the original work (it is so tempting to change the past, to make it reflect who we are in the present, though alas, we can not).
Having spent the week in the garden, I'm surprised to have found only one tiny tick attached to my forearm, which I removed without hesitation, without panic. With a warm winter behind us - the average temperature 50.4 degrees, including nights - everything is blooming three weeks early, at least. The insects are early, too. On Wednesday a swarm of 5,000 honey bees moved into the garage wall by way of a pipe that used to connect to the hot water heater that has since been replaced with a tankless. Ricky Coates, bee expert extraordinaire, removed them, took them somewhere they could have their own private hive. He said the bees are early this year, and he's expecting a busy bee removal season (no pun intended).
So in anticipation of a buggy, though they are predicting a mild summer, I share with you, again, Tick Envy.
p.s. I just changed one little thing at the end of the story just now, right quick, because I remembered I got one teeny tiny fact wrong the first time around. You won't even notice, it was so small.
I was on my way out the door to pick up my sister, thought I’d pee and primp first. Pulling my pants up I noticed something that wasn’t there before. A tick, small and grey, had buried its head in my crotch, along the crook where the leg bone is connected to the hipbone.
I’d been warned the previous afternoon by my neighbor, Carol, that the ticks were back, that she had found two already. I was thinking of the dogs then, examining a red place on the Dachshund’s chest.
“Oh, that’s just where the collar rubbed her skin. Or else it’s a hickey from the Papillion.”
I had forgotten the strides in personal growth and mental strength achieved last summer. I had come full circle with the tick issue. At first I was terrified, disgusted and helpless by the thought of a tick, much less a live one on my person. My eyes caught glimpses of them in the mirror, saw phantom ticks, moles playing tricks, moving across my body. I learned from my mother that ticks aren’t so bad, just little spiders that happen to suck blood. She works in the ER, and assured me our area has a very low occurrence of Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Fever.
“All you do,” she said, “is swab the little bastards with rubbing alcohol until they get sleepy with suffocation, then twist them off.” By late August I was picking them off like a girl in a field of Dandelions. Grab, twist, drown in alcohol, move on. I conducted thorough tick checks every time I came in the house. Was brave about it. Guess I lost that learned bravado. This first tick of the season really freaked me out.
“Mom,” I called down the stairs. “How do you get a tick out? I mean he’s already got his head in there!” I’d forgotten the procedure.
“Just swab it with alcohol and it’ll let go,” she called up.
I stumbled across the bathroom to the closet, fumbled for the alcohol, a cotton ball, and dabbed the fucker, isopropyl dripping down my inside thigh.
“Damn it.” I said out loud. “Let go fucker.”
“MOM! He’s not letting go! How much alcohol am I supposed to use?”
“I don’t know. Enough until it lets go.”
“How the hell did he get here? This is so bizarre!”
“They like warm, hairy places,” she called up.
“But it’s not like I was running around with my pants off. Ahhh, he won’t fucking let go!”
I dabbed and dabbed and pinched with my fingertips and pulled, but he wouldn’t let go. I was terrified of pinching off the body, leaving the head inside, sucking away to no end.
“When I get the energy I’ll come up there and pull it out,” she called up. I held back tears. “This has to be menstural,” I thought. I soaked another cotton ball, wrung it out over the tick like a mini waterfall, or Armageddon flood.
A text message from my sister came through:
“wat r u doing”
“waiting for mom to get the energy to remove this tick from my crotch”
Mom came upstairs, passed the open bathroom door without speaking or glancing my way. She’d been home from a ten-hour shift maybe five minutes when I first discovered the beast. I tried a different approach. I cooed to the tick. “Please let go little guy. My blood isn’t even that tasty. Wouldn’t you like a nice swim in this intoxicant I poured for you?”
When she came back I had my leg stretched over the counter, sprawled, head down. I was whispering to my groin.
“Show me,” she said.
“He’s right in my crotch.”
“I can see that.”
She had a long pair of stainless steel tweezers in her hand, leaned in, flipped it around a bit.
“It’s not moving,” she said.
“Not much. But I didn’t want to twist the head off.”
She clamped the tweezers down, pulled it out, studied it.
“Did you get the head? Are all eight legs there?”
“I can’t see.”
I bent over her shoulder.
“I think I can see all the parts. I guess if I get a fever, then I can worry.”
“I’ll tell you when to worry,” she said.
I pulled my pants on, first swabbing thoroughly the place where he’d settled in, just to be sure, just incase a foot was left behind. Two deep breaths and I headed down the stairs to get my sister. “I’ll go,” mom said. “You start dinner.” We were in the kitchen now. She stood in the door, keys in hand. “My day started with a young black man with a tick in his arm, wanted me to pull it out.” I stood still, recovering, empathizing. Without irony she finished, “his tick was much bigger than yours.”