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The Case of the Almost Deadly Chicken Pox

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The year was 1995, and my family had just returned from a two week vacation to New York, with stops in Philly, equipped with plenty of public transportation rides under our belt. Dad insisted that if we were going to head off to the Big Apple, we were going to do it like real city slickers. None of that Georgia hick stuff- No guided tours, no fear of navigating the big city. In New York, we would do as New Yorkers. And we did. Just a little shy of two years following the ’93 bombing of the World Trade Center, he insisted we go to the top. Mom argued in favor of the Empire State Building, but luckiliy she lost the battle, and so we cruised the express elevators to what seemed the top of the world. To my twelve year old mind, I had found my place of belonging. Immediately, I saw endless possibilities open before me- laid out in busy streets filled with colorful, vibrant people. Culture and learning was bustling, loud, and brilliant at every turn. I. was. in. love. I found inspiration in the movement of people, the speed of subway systems, and the calming, evening ferry ride back to Staten Island. On the last ride over, I tossed a quarter into the Hudson and promised myself I would one day return. For now, it was time to return to the crop dusters and abandoned strip malls of home.

Soon enough, Mom and Dad returned to work, and I spent a few days keeping Grandma company before school started. That’s when the red bumps started appearing. I noticed when I put on my bathing suit, I had five. Then, when it was time to dry off, I had twenty. Also, they itched like hell. Grandma told me not to scratch, so I tried not to. I don’t remember when exactly things took a turn for the worse, but turn they did. I woke up one morning to find that my former red bumps had turned into inch-plus sized blisters, filled with mystery fluid. Worse, they covered my entire body. I couldn’t open my mouth without a blister popping.

In keeping wth political tensions at the time, most of which I was completely unaware, my Mother began to get nervous. What kind of devious witch’s brew of a disease did I have? Some sort of mutated, genetically modified chicken pox? Was I patient zero in a biological attack? She even consulted with her nurse friends who said I looked like pictures they had seen in medical textbooks of Smallpox patients. My breathing had become affected by the pus pockets in my throat, and I couldn’t eat. So, off we rushed to the Medical College of Georgia, but not without first stopping at Checkers for something to eat, and in my case, to drink. We pulled up to the drive thru, and the window clerk was visibly horrified by what she saw in the backseat. She motioned for all of her friends to come over and take a look, and pretty soon there were five people, their mouth breathing faces pressed to the Checker’s window, jaws on the floor.

Eventually we made our way to the hospital, where we overheard the admissions clerk say I looked like “Someone beat the devil” out of me. At this point, I’m naturally feeling pretty bad about this whole chicken pox thing. We were told multiple times that I would be permanently disfigured from the blisters-that they were very similar to burn injuries. Turns out I had Chicken pox laced with Staph, not smallpox, much to my Mother’s relief. I was not a victim of biological warfare, just a victim of being born before the varicella vaccine. All in all, I spent over one week in the hospital and missed the first two weeks of fifth grade. This is all retrospectively funny only because I survived. Antivaxxers: You’ve been warned.

In response to The Daily Pose ft’s writing prompt: “Retrospectively Funny.”

Photo Credit: http://www.nonaiswa.org/wordpress/

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Washed Clean

There were very few reasons I was excited to head back to Georgia. As various outlets continued to report the news of mutilated bodies, all women, and all naked, washing up on the banks of the Satilla River, I suddenly couldn’t wait. I had always been a sucker for the dark and dangerous; and the sordid, wicked tales of verses carved in blood, washed clean in the brackish waters of the lowcountry proved no exception. I generally dreaded the long stays at the overbearing family compound. The seemingly endless week spent at the suffocating homestead I had married into, where foreigners dwelled who deigned to live with perpetually open doors, a land in which knocking was considered too stiff a boundary to observe. In this place of southern Baptist tradition, a set of Calvary Chapel tapes is considered the antidote to all of life’s problems, so long as you’re on enough drugs to listen to them.

When in Camelot, you pretend to be one of the Kennedys. Or something like that. So, on Sunday morning, it’s customary to attend church at the compound’s personal chapel. I sit uncomfortably next to my Father in Law in one of the ancient wooden pews. Sam continuously refuses to respect our family’s position on religion. Of course, he blames me, maybe because I’m openly secular and believe religion is a personal choice, or, as I’ve often considered, perhaps he’s tortured and resents my honesty. Either way, on this particular morning, the message appears to be of the usual fare: Adam was sleeping, the snake tricked Eve, Eve ate the fruit because she’s stupid and gullible, therefore human birth hurts, therefore women are evil. At last we adjourn, knowing full well that the only good woman is a dead woman, plenty of which have been found along the root littered banks of the river recently.

I mull this thought over, even as we eat and I dutifully (and repeatedly) refuse the meat. The verses. What were they? I decide to take a look at the local newspapers. The Bible verses, which were carved into the twelve women’s breasts and buttocks, many of them the same, are listed in The Florida Times-Union. Most seem to refer to virtuous women, or the inherent dangers of affiliating with women who do not “feareth the Lord.” As I sit reading, Sam walks up, and in his usual fashion, finds it necessary to warn me of my impending doom. “That preacher today made a good point, you know it? Evil disguises itself. And if you can’t recognize evil people, you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.” You will learn to be like them and endanger your soul. Proverbs? Horrified, I close the paper and struggle with the realization that Sam has been playing God. All those sins, the many lessons conveyed in the blood of unvirtuous women, were now washed clean by him in the dark, murky waters of the Satilla.

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