Thursday, April 13, 2017


Some of my Facebook friends and I were having a discussion about ticks the other day. For one thing, we were saying how we used to play in fields or in the woods when we were kids and never once even saw a tick. Nowadays if we tried that, we’d probably end up covered with so many ticks, we’d be plucking them out of our skin for the next 10 years.

“I don’t know where they all suddenly came from,” one of my friends wrote, “but I sure as heck wish they’d go back to wherever it was!”

“Global warming,” another one said. “That’s what brought them here.”

“No, they hitched a ride here from Connecticut, where they were plentiful, and then they started breeding like wildfire,” yet another said.

As the conversation progressed, I found myself wishing I could return to a time when I was able to go for a walk in the woods and not have to come home and immediately strip down and search for ticks hiding out in my body folds…especially since my body has more folds than an accordion.

Anyway, the Facebook conversation reminded me of another conversation I’d had not long ago with one of my friends. She’d called on a hot summer day to excitedly tell me about Keith, the new man in her life.

“We’re going on a romantic picnic this weekend,” she said. “He knows a spot way off the beaten path where there is a beautiful meadow with a pond in the middle of it, and a big shade tree near the shore.”

“Sounds nice,” I said. “Hey, you can do what we used to do when we were kids that was so much fun. Lie back on the blanket and look up at the clouds and make pictures of out of them! You can learn a lot about your new boyfriend that way. I mean, if a cloud looks like the shape of two balloons to you, but it looks like a bra to him, well, he could be a pervert!”

“Blanket?” she repeated, ignoring the rest of my words of wisdom. “Are you kidding? Ticks would be crawling all over it within minutes. I’m bringing lawn chairs. And I’m going to wear long pants tucked into my socks, long sleeves and a wide-brimmed hat, just to be doubly safe. I’ve heard that ticks can climb up trees, sense when a warm body is nearby and then drop onto your head as you pass by.”

That was a new one to me. Still, as I envisioned hundreds of little paratrooper ticks skydiving out of the big shade tree and landing on her hat, I found myself thinking that her picnic was beginning to sound somewhat less than romantic.

“So what are you going to bring to eat?” I asked. “A picnic basket stuffed with fried chicken and potato salad?”

“Fried chicken and potato salad!” Her habit of repeating my words was beginning to make me feel as if I were talking to a parrot. “All that cholesterol? I want to win Keith’s heart, not clog it! Besides that, poultry and mayonnaise don’t travel all that well in hot weather, and I sure as heck don’t want to give him food poisoning.”

I giggled. “Yeah, imagine how you’d feel if the two of you started kissing and he suddenly pulled away, grasped his stomach and threw up! You’d wonder if it was due to your bad food or bad kissing!”

My friend didn’t laugh. “Actually,” she said, “I was thinking of bringing something like rye crackers, hard cheese and fresh fruit. Oh, and a nice red wine. That should be safe enough.”

“That sounds fine for appetizers,” I said. “But what’s your main course?”

“You have no concept of what a romantic picnic is all about, do you?” she asked.

The last picnic I’d been on was back in 1970, and it was with my parents, so it was pretty safe to say it wasn’t romantic. Still, I’d never pictured a romantic picnic to involve sitting in lawn chairs while wearing three layers of clothes and nibbling on dry crackers. I mean, picnics never were depicted that way in romance novels or movies.

I decided to tease her. “So, are you going to go skinny dipping in the pond?”

Again, her tone was serious. “No, there are supposed to be ducks in it, so if we swam in there, we’d probably end up with a bad rash.”

“A duck rash?” I asked, thinking she was joking. “From what? An allergy to feathers?”

“No, it’s from this parasite they carry. It’s called shizzy-something. It burrows into your skin when you swim. Haven’t you ever heard of swimmer’s itch?”

“Yeah, but I thought that was from sitting around too long in a wet bathing suit.”

“Anyway,” she continued, “I can hardly wait for this picnic. I mean, Keith was the one who suggested it. Isn’t that just the utmost in romance?”

“Uh, run it by me again…exactly what’s going to be so romantic about this picnic?”

“Boy, you really are clueless, aren’t you! What can be more romantic than just the two of us, alone in a meadow, sitting next to a duck-filled pond and feeding cheese, crackers and fruit to each other?” She paused for a moment. “Do you think the fruit will attract bees? I’m pretty sure Keith said he’s allergic to them.”

Visions of her boyfriend, puffed up like a balloon and scratching duck pimples as he whispered sweet nothings into her ear, immediately popped into my head. I stifled a laugh.

“Well, have a great time,” I said. “Call me and let me know how it went. And don’t go getting any mosquito bites in painful places now!”

“Mosquito bites!” Parrot Woman once again repeated my words. “Thanks for reminding me! I almost forgot to buy repellent! I don’t want to end up with the West Nile virus.”

Listening to my friend rattle off diseases as if she were a medical encyclopedia made me realize two things: (1). she probably was a hypochondriac and (2). picnics obviously weren’t what they used to be.

Personally, I think she would have been a lot happier if she’d have had her picnic under a big beach umbrella on a slab of concrete next to a swimming pool loaded with chlorine…with a guy who was a doctor.

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