‘Doc, I got a tick.’

& My college roomie Jerry Davies, rest his soul, was a worse hypochondriac than I. One Sunday evening he returned from a woodsy in the hills above Boulder and settled in to study, which he did often. I did what I often did, which was go to bed.

Late in the evening Davies discovered, just above his navel, a tick. Oh. My. God!

I was rudely shaken awake.

“Cox! Wake up! I gotta tick!”

I rose on one elbow, blinking into the fuzzy room (my glasses — which I wore only because they were cheaper than a guide dog — were somewhere out of reach). Davies stood there beside my bed, holding his shirt out away from his hairy stomach, which indeed displayed what appeared to be an industrious tick.

“Get a cigarette,” I croaked. Still holding his shirt away from the creature — apparently fearful it would brush against it and break the dreaded little head off under his skin — Davies fumbled for a cigarette, and lit it.

“We gotta hold the heat up against him until he backs out. Can’t leave that head inside you.” That was the extent of my familiarity with the handling of wild ticks. Still lying in bed, up on an elbow, I trained my feeble eyesight and moved the cigarette closer. Closer. Closer.

“Ow!” said Davies. “You burned me, you son of a bitch.”

“Well, the damn tick won’t move,” said I, taking a drag on the fag.

“Try again. And be careful.”

I tried again. Nothing. Tick didn’t move.

“Look,” I said. “Just be careful with it and leave it there. I’ll take you over to Wardenburg Health Center in the morning.” Davies assented, grumpily, and prepared for bed. I must have been dozing at that point, but I woke up just before he turned off the light. He was lying like a board on his back, under a little tent he had built with coat hangers to prevent the sheet from rubbing on his stomach and breaking off the little bastard’s head.

When I awoke, Davies was lying there snoring under his tent, his unwanted partner still attached.

“Get up, Davies. I’m taking you to the health center.”

Somehow he got into his clothes — the shirt was the baggiest he could find, and he held it out from his stomach as he climbed into my car, and was still holding it there as he disappeared into the campus clinic.

Later, he told me what happened.

“I was sitting there in this doc’s office on his exam table, holding my shirt out, for about an hour. Then the door opened and the doctor came in.

“‘What’s the trouble?’ he said.

“‘I got a tick.’

“‘Well, lemme take a look.’

“So, I lifted my shirt up and he bent over and put his fingers on the little sucker and said ‘This one?’ and plucked it right off my stomach. Pop. Just like that. And he drops it in the wastebasket.

“Then he looks at me with this kind of shitty-looking twist in his mouth and says, ‘Anything else?’

“I wanted to ask him if the head was inside me, but I felt like a fool. I don’t think it’s in there.”

I don’t think it was in there either. Jerome Clark Davies, one of the best (who I’ve earlier told you about here  and here) lived 72 wonderful years. And, as far as I know, he never complained about his belly button.

& Missing woodsies, I’m outta here.


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