I stopped typing out my lesson plan for English Camp and looked up.
“Ticks. We have deer ticks out here so you may want to check yourself.”
Autumn didn’t look up at me as she explained the surrounding wildlife and their snacking habits. She just clicked away at her computer as though this information was not paralyzing and delicate.
“Check myself?” I asked again. “Where??”
My sudden outburst attracted the attention of friend and neighbor, Julie, who was on the floor cutting out a cardboard cow for the English Camp (Country Fair Themed this year).
“You only need to worry about them if you’ve been walking in tall grasses,” she said encouragingly in her posh British accent – although Julie is Czech, she learned English from the Brits she met playing World of Warcraft. Now she studies in the UK and has taken up other British habits like making tea for people and baking Victoria Sponge Cake.
“Tall grasses…Julie, that’s like everywhere!” I whimpered.
Celeste, an American team member in for the English Camp looked up from her phone.
“Julie, don’t scare her,” Celeste said, amused at my panicked expression.
“No,” Autumn stopped working and looked at me intently. “They’re deer ticks so they’re only in places wild animals would go.”
“Right,” Julie said from the floor. “They crawl up on the ends of the grass and hold their arms out like this and grab on to things that walk by. But there are only two kinds of diseases you can get from them: Lime Disease and Encephalitis. You can get a vaccine for one of them before you get bitten…but I forget which…”
“Are they big? How do I know if I have one?”
“You have to check,” said Julie, standing up and moving next to me. “Your underarms and behind your knees, warm places generally are where they like to go.”
“Sometimes they’re in awkward places and you have to get someone to help you,” Autumn said coolly from behind her computer.
“And not all ticks are disease-carrying,” said Celeste from the couch.
“So if I just look, I’ll see them?”
“Well…” Julie hesitated, “They are small.”
Celeste was now smiling with bemused pleasure as I sat up, legs tucked beneath me, eyes wider than the tea saucer Julie had set in front of me ten minutes prior.
Autumn got up from the couch and grabbed a pen from the counter.
“They’re pear-shaped, their butts,” Julie explained, holding out her arm to Autumn who was now poised with writing utensil. (She has since corrected me – via extended discussion with Autumn – that they are in fact drop-shaped).
“About this big,” Autumn said, making a mark the size of a pt 36 period.
“That looks just like a freckle!” I said in frustration.
“Yes, but it will have legs,” said Julie.
I groaned and Celeste let out a mirroring chuckle.
“Just show me when you get one and I’ll show you how to take it out,” Autumn said helpfully. “Because you can’t just pull them out.”
“Yeah, you don’t want to leave the heads in your skin,” said Julie. “You know,” she added as an after-thought, “I think the infection rate is only two percent…”
I felt myself turn several shades of pale, which is an accomplishment for me because I’m already basically glow-in-the-dark.
“Are we talking about ticks or zombies, here?” I asked.
“It’s not hard to get them out,” Autumn said ignoring my quip. “Just take them and push them down and then twist them several times.”
“There is some debate about whether to twist them clockwise or anti-clockwise,” informed Julie, taking a sip of her tea. “Also, you should smear the area with soap so they stop breathing.”
“I never use soap,” said Autumn dismissively.
“I don’t understand,” I said, trying to process the information. “I have to touch them? I can’t just hold up a match until they wiggle out from the heat.”
The girls exchanged amused giggles and told me that was a bad idea.
“But you use tweezers anyway,” said Autumn. “And you can rub them with soap or with oil to make them come out.”
“Well…” Julie had that look – the look that meant she had information that contradicted whatever had been shared but wasn’t sure if it was appropriate to correct the sharer.
“What?” I asked. I could feel my concern quickly morphing into paranoia.
Autumn smirked. “Go ahead. Tell her.”
“There are two theories about the oil,” Julie said, straightening her back into lecture position. “One is that the oil makes them drowsy and cloudy-headed and they’ll come out. The other is that the oil will make them sick and they’ll vomit the poison into your bloodstream.”
No one said anything.
I sat back in my seat and thought about life and bugs and vomit.
“I think,” I started slowly as the girls watched the color come back to my face, “that if God wants me to get Lime Disease as part of His sovereign, eternal plan…worrying won’t stop it.”
I took a deep breath.
“And,” Julie piped up, “You can buy a spray!”