May 12th, 2008

breeden

Ursula Vs. The Deer Tick

So I spent the weekend hangin' out with my dear Kevin, and the fact that we didn't kill each other after 48 solid hours in one another's presence is always a good sign, particularly since I apparently talk in my sleep quite a lot. (Nothing incriminating, unless you count the thing with the bomb.)

The not-killing was particularly gracious of him because Saturday morning, I arrived at the stupid hour of 7:30, with my new spotting scope (an early birthday present from a good buddy with a wildlife photography bent) and dragged him out to Jordan Lake to look for birds.

Now, it should be mentioned at this point that Kevin is heavily involved with the Boy Scouts, which as an organization sound A) only slightly less complicated than the Freemasons, and B) way cooler than the Girl Scouts. (He claims that this is because the girl scouts largely derive from a rather Victorian mindset about girls, which, granted that my experience was heavy on the squaredancing and the bake sales and awfully light on the getting-lost-in-the-woods, I cannot argue. I still don't know how to make a fire without a box of matches and several metric tons of crumpled newspaper.) Herding me through the woods, therefore, was no particular strain, since he's used to hordes of cub scouts, and as feckless as I occasionally am while birdwatching,* there's still only one of me to keep track of.

Also, I'm told that following my ass through the woods involves a distinctly better view.

So we had a pleasant several mile hike, undaunted by the trail being flooded out through a good chunk of its length, forcing us to wander aimlessly through the woods. "You look for birds, I'll look for the trail markers..." and I saw a couple of regular birds and a Prothonotory warbler, which isn't a lifer but always makes me happy to see. We made it out alive, and went home, and then...it was time for the Tick Check.

For those blessed to live in less hospitable climes, the deer tick is a native of much of North America, which latches onto warm-blooded beasts, bites a hole in their skin, sticks their head in, and sucks their blood until they grow massively swollen and drop off to waddle somewhere and lay eggs. If you live in a semi-rural area and have a dog, even with all the advances in modern vet medicine, odds are good you'll spend some time de-ticking the dog, and possibly yourself, and if you don't de-tick correctly, you pull the body off and the head is left attached under the skin, which then requires tweezers and patience.

This is gross. It's also mildly dangerous, in that deer ticks carry Lyme disease and more rarely, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Generally if they don't stay attached too long, you don't have to worry too much as long as you keep an eye out for symptoms, but you want the ticks detached as quickly as possible. Therefore, after a tromp through the woods, one performs the Tick Check. One performs it despite the fact that I have never had a tick on me in my adult life. It Is The Law.

Tick Checking involves the least erotic form of nudity available outside a nursing home. You strip down, and you look for small scuttling parasites that might have glomped on to you, and then you get a buddy to check the bits you can't see. Since ticks congregate in warm sweaty places...well, you can imagine. This is not fun. Your skin generally tries to crawl off your body, and the mettle of one's friends can be told by how closely they're willing to examine your ass for wiggly bits.

Poor Kevin looked like a tick amusement park. He must have brushed up against something unfortunate, because there were at least half a dozen on him--shoulder, thigh, ankles, and two that had settled in together on one hip and were discussing how to redecorate. He patiently detached and dispatched the lot of them, and only then performed the dance of the skin-attempting-to-crawl-onto-the-ceiling.

I, meanwhile, appeared to be clean, as usual. Maybe they just didn't like me. Fine by me, another point for Ursula, another loss for tick-kind in general--

"No, wait," said Kevin, "there's one on the back of your knee."

"Ah," I said. "How unfortunate. Be a good chap and remove the noisome creature from my flesh, will you?"

At least, I think that's what I meant to say. I believe what came out was "EEEEAAAUGGHGHHH! GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF! GETITOFF!"

There was a moment when Kevin may have been wondering if he was going to have to knock me down and sit on me, the way he does his border collie, before he was going to be able to detach the thing, but I managed to quiet down.

"Well," he said, prying the wee beastie expertly out of my flesh, "good to know that there's at least ONE thing you're completely girly about..."

This may have been a low blow, but as he was removing the tick, I was not about to call him on it, or indeed, do anything but gibber.

Okay. One tick. I can handle that. Horrific, and I'll have to watch for the red bullseye mark, but not that big a deal.

Eventually my skin stopped crawling.

The next day, Sunday, being mother's day, we drove over to visit his parents, and as we're cruising down Highway 1, I feel an itch on my left foot.

I reached down to scratch, felt something, looked down, saw a tick crawling across my foot--the little bastard must've been waiting in the car until I got back in.

"Ah," I said. "How unfortunate. I've acquired a parasitic stowaway. I must remove it from the vehicle before it decides to bite."

Again, what I meant to say. I believe that what came out was "AAAAHHH! FUCK! There's a tick on me! KILL IT KILL IT KILL IT!" followed by violent thrashing of feet and screeching.

Did I mention that I was the one driving?

"You could pull over," said Kevin calmly.

"KILL IT KILL IT DIE YOU LITTLE LEGGY FUCKER DIE--"

"Really, you could pull over," he said, slightly less calmly.

"--AAAAHHH ITS ON THE FLOOR WHERE IS IT I KILL YOU--"

"Seriously, if you pull over, I could remove it..." he said, in a maniacally calm tone I most recently heard from my buddy Brooke that time I nearly went through a guard rail on the Blue Ridge Parkway because she spotted a hawk over the sheer dropoff on the right and I was trying to ID it.

"AAAAUGH IT'S UNDER THE GAS PEDAL!"

I careened partway into the other lane, narrowly avoiding a minivan trying to pass me. Kevin groped for the oh-shit bar on the passenger door. The minivan swerved out of my way, and as they passed, I got a dirty look from the passenger.

"DON'T GIVE ME THAT LOOK, BITCH, I'VE GOT A TICK!"

"You really might want to pull over..." said Kevin, who was either curling into fetal position or trying not to laugh, possibly both.

I pulled over.

Couldn't find the damn tick. Yanked out the carpet and beat it wildly against the pavement, yelling "DIE! DIE!" No tick.

After awhile, we continued on our way. Eventually my skin stopped crawling.

Partway through a lovely evening at his parents, I scratched my shoulder, felt something, saw the ENEMY strolling across my hand, and made the involuntary spasm of horror. The little bastard had crawled up my pant leg and traveled the entire length of my body to reach bare flesh. And then I had to utter a phrase that one really does not wish to utter to one's boyfriend's Very Nice Parents, namely "Pardon me, but I believe I just flung a deer tick on your carpet."**

Sigh.

We could not locate the tick then either. It had vanished like Houdini. I made a great many apologies.

Eventually my skin stopped crawling.

We went home. I was disrobing for bed, and THERE IT WAS. The little bastard had apparently landed on my lap, found a breach in my clothing, and sank its ticky little fangs into my hip.

"Ah," I said. "How unfortunate. Can you get this thing off me?"

Believe it or not, that's what I actually said. The tick had tried to kill me in the car, it had inflicted notable social awkwardness, and at last, it had bitten me. It had won. There was no panic left. I was the tick's bitch.

Kevin plucked it off, started to flush it, decided better of it--this particular tick had demonstrated remarkable fortitude--and drowned it in alcohol instead.

Eventually, my skin will stop crawling.



*Seriously, I'm not that bad. Honest. The tide comes in ONE TIME while you're out on the estuary, and they never let you forget it...

**Particularly when his mother is on heavy antibiotics because she JUST had a bad run-in with a tick. Lord.