Yesterday, I demonstrated how no good deed goes unpunished, even if the good deed involves reuniting a dog owner with his two lost puppies. But there's more to the story. A tale of horror. A virtual Hillbilly Mom's Treehouse of Terror, if Mrs. HM was a yellow cartoon character with her own long-running TV show. Humor me, people.
My niece, the puppy-saver, had stopped by my mom's house to work with The Pony on a college reading project. She came up to the kitchen to tell me her puppy tale. In her gesturing, I noticed two oozing sores on the back of her left hand. They were side-by-side, not quite touching. The left one was the size of a dime, the right one the size of a quarter, and both were chartreuse in color. Not being one to mince words, I squealed, "Eewww! What's wrong with your hand?"
Niece: "I don't know. I went camping and floating, and when I came back, it was like this. I think it is from a sunburn. It kind of bubbled up, and then the skin came off the top. Or maybe it was from before I went camping, because I got a new bed, and I was putting on the sheets, and I skinned the back of my hand on the headboard, and a little bit of skin pulled off. I'm grossing out, because the SUN did that."
Mrs. HM: "You need to go to the doctor. That's an infection."
Niece: "You think so? My dad is so mad that he won't even speak to me. He says I have some kind of skin cancer and my hand is going to fall off because I won't go to the doctor. I'm too busy to go to the doctor and sit around in the waiting room."
Mrs. HM: "Go to the doctor. You need an antibiotic."
Niece: "Maybe I'll go tomorrow. I wonder if a dermatologist would have as long a wait?"
Mrs. HM: "Probably not. It's a $40 copay instead of a $20 copay."
HM's mother, playing the part of Grandma: "There's always the emergency room."
Mrs. HM: "Uh, yeah, for a $100 copay IF they allow it, or she'll have to pay for the whole visit, because it's a weekday during normal doctors' hours, and it's just an infection."
What is wrong with these people? Surely we are not really related. Let's not forget that my mom had a doctor recommend amputation for her FAT RED PINKY FINGER when she poked it with a needle and some 40-year-old Bactine to drain an infection, leading to surgery to clean up the bone. Or that my sister, Niece's mother, had a huge abscess on her index finger a couple years ago, and the doctor had to slice it open with a scalpel, at which time a lot of foul-smelling goo shot out. No way that Niece got that infection from the sun. She must have had an insect bite or a skinned spot and dragged it through the river water on her float trip, or dipped it down a Port-A-Potty after a rowdy evening around the campfire.
But that's not the horrible part of this horror story. Niece said that she might go to the doctor tomorrow, then proceeded to tell me the puppy-saver story. I sat raptly at the kitchen table while she stood next to it, gesturing like Helen Keller on meth. She reached the part about finding the poodle puppies, wet with dew, and picking them up while they squirmed and licked at her face. I smart-a$edly asked, "Did the puppies lick your hand?" And then IT happened.
Her sore-riddled hand swatted the plastic straw of my large mug of ice water!
I inhaled sharply. The look on my face would compare to that of Mary's step-father, when he asked Ben Stiller's character, "How'd you get the beans above the frank?" I know that Niece had to see the revulsion in my eyes. But as a young woman of 21 absorbed in her story, the real reason for my discomfort did not register.
Niece: "Yeah. Don't worry. It's no big deal. I washed my hand since the puppy licked it."