A TICK . . . WHERE?
(The Scream, by Edvard Munch, 1893)
Now this is a true story going back to when I was about 4 or 5 years old, so I don’t have clear memories of everything that happened and how it all started. What I do remember clearly are the memories that were not part of the normal, everyday routine, and what I’m going to tell you of what I remember are events that stick in my mind as if they happened only yesterday.
When I was about 1 or 2, starting around 1953 and up until I was about 6 or 7, my parents and I would drive from Chicago to Cuba, Missouri every summer for a week’s vacation. Always with us would be one of my Dad’s older brothers, Russel, and his wife Rose, their daughter Carmella (10 years older than me), and their son Joe and his first wife, Millie (both 15 years older than me.) Also along for the ride was one of my Dad’s older sisters and her husband, Sarah and Jack — my beloved Godparents — and their two kids, Vivian (3 years older than me), and Jack, Jr (11 years older than me.) We’d all stay at this very cool lodge, in these quaint and yet pretty modern, individual log cabins. I can still remember the big dining hall, with the long table filled with pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, fried chicken, baked ham, mashed potatoes, and all sorts of good things to eat. We’d go fishing, canoeing, hiking through the woods and through these caverns known as Jesse James’ Hideout. I always rode on my Dad’s shoulders; I remember it was always cold, shadowy and damp in those caverns. At night we’d sit around a huge bonfire, listening to folk songs and country music, and I’d play with these two huge, lovable Collies that belonged to the owners of the lodge. There was also the lodge’s caretaker, whose name I can’t remember. My Dad called him the Old Prospector, and he used to call me “Activity,” because I never ran out of energy and got myself into all sorts of things.
Now, one time — and I recall nothing of the events leading up to this moment — I must have woken up in the morning hurting “down there.” My Dad discovered that I had a wood tick in the side of my penis. The nerve of that fella — the wood tick, I mean! I remember lying in bed with my pants down, my Mom and Dad on either side of me, holding my hands. Standing around me were my beloved Uncle Russ and Aunt Rose, Carmella, Joe and Millie, my loving Godparents, Aunt Sarah and Uncle Jack, and Vivian and Jackie, Jr. They were all looking down at me, and I remember my Uncle Russ taking a huge drag on his cigarette, blowing the ash off the lit end, and then kneeling down to draw the head of the tick. And I don’t remember anything after that.
Until the day she died, my Aunt Sarah, God rest her soul, who loved to tease me, would embarrass me in front of friends and family with the story of the tick. Even my cousin Carmella, to this very day, likes to tell the story to her husband’s family, or anyone else who will listen, and I’ll yell and say, “My cousins saw me naked!” Carmella will always say, “Oh, don’t blush. I changed your diapers when you were a baby.”
I still have a brown scar where my Uncle Russell used the heat of his cigarette to draw out the head of the wood tick who dared to invade the privacy of my private parts.
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