Thursday, July 5, 2012

Literary Roadkill

Writers are miners and scavengers.  We dig into our own and others' pasts for good stories and we scour our present for usable material.

While there are current-day Hemingways out there, living grand adventures at sea or in exotic locales, personally I inhabit a more mundane world.  My daily dramas consist of my righteous anger at that driver who cut me off, or the despair over the old van that, yet again, needs repair.  Or perhaps you'd like to read about my epic struggle against the hordes of Sunday shoppers at the grocery store?

Yes, it's the stuff of, not.  Alas, my commute and daily chores aren't particularly literary award-worthy.  Or publishable.  So when something out of the ordinary crops up in my pedestrian existence, well, I immediately check see if it's rich vein or a dead-end.

Imagine my excitement, then, when this week I faced a monumental battle in the realm of motherhood.  My child was diagnosed with...head lice.

(Pausing so you can scratch your head and give into that convulsive shudder).

Anyone who's dealt with these pernicious critters knows that my daughter's contagion meant all out war.  Armed with prescriptions and sprays and lice combs and laundry detergent, we marshalled all household forces and forged into battle.

After our initial charge of stripping bedding, spraying and vacuuming carpets and upholstery and treating the infested head, I quickly discovered the demoralizing truth.  Defeating the enemy requires both a head-on attack and a siege.

Here's a little peek at the characters in my war story:

My daughter and her hair:  A nine year old, mercifully compliant and a reader able to sit still for long periods of time.  The hair is long, thick, wavy and prone to snarling.  As was my daughter by day three.

Her cousins:  We'd just ended a visit with them when the diagnosis came.  The one cousin who stayed with us all week, was, of course, the girl with the long, thick hair (but straight, thank goodness).  We sent them back to Texas, potentially carrying the enemy with them across many borders.  Fortunately their dad, my brother, is a seasoned veteran in the Pediculousean Wars, and sent many reassuring text missives.  But no cookies.

Me, Commander Mama: I am patient (mostly) and armed with good bifocals and long fingernails.  Plus I work with public health professionals, with access to good generals to choose my weapons and guide my strategy of attack. 

My husband and mother, the infantry:  Willing to pitch in, they fought brave struggles against the Sisyphian mounds of laundry, and carried fresh containers of soapy water to me (and the occasional adult beverage of my choice) to aid me in my siege.

Mine enemy, the louse:  The adult louse is yucky and fast, but susceptible to chemical warfare.  When louse becomes lice, expect a protracted engagement.

The Nits, aka, the secret weapon: Unfortunately, even when you've vanquished the foe, he and she leave behind sleeper cells, the tiny nits that hide in the dark depths of the hair, like pod-people waiting to hatch a new round of soldiers.

As for the initial battle, well, the term nit-pick took on a whole new meaning.  Imagine something less than the size of a head of a pin, clinging to a single shaft of hair, that needs to be tightly grasped and dragged down the length of the strand to detach it.  Trust me, if you find this enemy, tremble in fear and prepare for tedium.

We came, we combed, and hopefully we conquered.  Alas, the war is not yet over, as I must return to the siege daily to find soldiers that remain behind our lines, waiting to hatch their evil plans to bring forth a second wave of destruction in seven to ten days.

Are you still with me?  God bless you if you are. 

I'm pretty sure there's no gold here, just roadkill.  It's gross, but it's not gripping (well, except for the nits, which grip and grip and grip.), and you'll wish you hadn't looked.

But even if it's just fool's gold, I decided I could still try to cash in on my little personal Public Health hell, perhaps with a moralistic song for the kiddie set - think The Wiggles(TM), with wiggly bugs:

(cue banjo and tissue covered comb)

Pickin' cooties with my mama
While I sit in my pajamas
patiently beneath the morning light

Though she's using all her fingers
Still those buggies they do linger
I suspect we'll be here
till a long hair past midnight

What?!  What do you mean you're not buying my album?  I'm crushed.


Okay, how about a simple Seussian tale:

There's a louse in my house
And he's leaping on my head
Hoping to make it his new bed

If it's warm, he'll call the swarm
And tell them that it's nice
And then my lonely louse will turn into lice

Do you like nit eggs in hair?
Do you like them everywhere?
I do not like them, mother dear.
I do not want them here or there.

Can we get them with a comb?
Have they made your head their home?
Mother dear, this rhyme is sick
And you are making me go 'ick'!

(Sigh.  Deeper sigh.  Long, drawn out sigh of surrender.)

Yes, fellow artists, there are some itches you just shouldn't scratch.  So I leave my lousy drama on the side of the road, hoping that it doesn't hitch a ride with you.

   But don't worry about me.  I'm going to a conference next week.  Between flight delays and long hours of meetings, I'm sure I'll strike gold yet!