Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Ticked Off

I’ll never forget the day I found a tick on my belly.

I was taking a shower and noticed a tiny black spot about two inches to the right of my navel. I picked at it, thinking it was a piece of dirt, but it wouldn’t come off. I looked closer and saw that it had legs and its head was buried in my flesh. I screamed like Janet Leigh in “Psycho.” But I wasn’t being stabbed by Norman Bates in drag. It was worse . . . I was an “all-you-can-eat” buffet for a blood-sucking parasite.

My cries of terror summoned my hubby, who came charging into the bathroom.

“What’s wrong?”

“A tick!”


“On my stomach! Get it off!”

I ran out of the shower and grabbed a towel.

“Let me see,” hubby said. I showed him the spot. “It’s a tick, all right.”

I stared at the disgusting creature on my belly that seemed to expand with each passing minute. The bug, not the belly.

My knowledge of ticks was minimal. I knew what they were (ugly insects) and what they did (sucked your blood). I hoped hubby knew more about ticks than I did and could dislodge the critter without too much fuss.

“I’ll need turpentine and a match,” he said.


“Ticks need to be burned off. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Lie down on the bed while I get my tick First Aid kit.”

I wasn’t very comfortable with this suggestion, but I figured he knew what he was doing. He sounded so confident. While he went for the supplies, I put on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt and lay down on the bed. He came into the bedroom carrying an old shoebox.

“Okay, sweetcakes. Let me see your tummy.”

“What are you going to do?” I asked nervously. “You’re not actually going to douse me with turpentine and light a match, are you?”

“Not right away,” he said, as he rummaged through the box. “First we’ll try a less invasive technique. Suffocating it with Vaseline.”

As I lay on the bed, watching the tick’s legs wiggle. I started to freak out again.

“Hurry! Do whatever you have to do, but get it off!”

Hubby dipped his stubby index finger into the Vaseline jar and proceeded to cover the tick with the slimy goo. I watched in curious horror; I’d never seen anything like it. The tick was covered in Vaseline and its legs started wiggling faster and faster.

“It can’t breathe,” hubby said.

“Of course it can’t breathe. Its head is buried in my skin.”

“Ticks breathe through their backs.”


“It should pull its head out any second,” he said.

We watched as the tick continued to squirm. After several minutes, it finally stopped. But nothing happened.

“It’s not coming out!” I screamed. “Get more Vaseline!”

“No,” hubby replied calmly. “That doesn’t seem to be working. Time for Plan B.”

“What’s Plan B? Not the match, I hope.”

“Nail polish.”

“Great,” I said. “I’m lying here with my belly smeared in slime and the tick gets a manicure.”

Hubby patiently wiped the goo off the tick and then pulled out a bottle of “Sunset Mist” nail polish from his magic box. With the intensity of an explosives expert defusing a bomb, he carefully painted the tick, which turned a bright shade of cantaloupe orange.

“That oughta do it,” he said. “This is another method of suffocation, but because the nail polish is toxic, the tick should move out pretty quick.”

Again we watched the tick’s legs wiggle. But the head remained firmly attached beneath my skin.

“What now, Einstein?” I asked.

“Time for the last resort.”

“You mean . . . ?”

“Don’t worry. I’m not going to use the turpentine. Just a match.”

“Are you sure you can’t try another smothering technique? Avocado dip? Pepto Bismol? Bacon grease?”

“Relax, sweetcakes. I have everything under control. I’m just going to light the match and gently tap the tick on its back.”

He struck the match and I watched the flame, eyes wide in horror. I was motionless and held my breath. I feared that any sudden movement might cause him to lose his concentration and he would miss the mark.

Slowly and with purpose, he moved the flame closer to the tick.

“Stop it!” I shouted, and blew out the match.

“What did you do that for? Don’t you trust me?”


“Okay, what do you suggest?”

“Call my mother. She’s from Oklahoma. She knows all about ticks.”

Hubby didn’t argue with me. He knew I was right. Mom was a tick expert. She also had a Ph.D. in chiggers, black widows and yellow jackets. He picked up the phone and dialed her number.

“Luana has a tick on her belly. How do we get it off . . . tweezers . . . yeah . . . okay.”

He poked around in the shoebox and found the tweezers, holding them like a surgeon brandishing a scalpel.

“Now what . . . grab the tick as close to the head as possible . . . pull firmly, making sure not to leave the head in . . . what happens if the head breaks off . . . infection . . . uh huh . . . antibiotics . . . yeah . . . gangrene . . . amputation . . . right.”

I started to feel faint. I watched as he followed Mom’s directions. He grabbed the tick close to the head and yanked. Before I could say “Lyme disease,” the tick was out, squirming between the tongs of the tweezers.

“I got it!” Hubby beamed like a proud papa. He thanked my mother and hung up the phone.

I sighed with relief. The ordeal was over. But now Hubby was scrutinizing the cantaloupe-colored tick like a deranged entomologist.

“What are you going to do with it?” I asked.

“It’s still alive. I wonder if I can use it for fish bait.” Hubby left the room with the tick still in the tweezers.

I got up from the bed and rubbed the spot on my belly where the tick had been feeding. Who would have thought that a little bug could cause such pandemonium. As I reached for my sneakers, I spied a small black dot on my arm. Another tick. His tiny legs squiggled as he made a glutton of himself on my “A” positive. Party’s over, pal.

“Honey,” I yelled. “Get the bacon grease!”

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