By Niles M Reddick
Three years into our marriage, we purchased our first ranch home with no down payment thanks to help from a bank that gave us two mortgages; one was for eighty percent and the other for twenty percent with an extremely high interest rate. We stayed there five years, owed as much as we did when we bought it, and replaced the flooring, roof, the heat, ventilation and air-conditioning unit, kitchen countertops, and even the landscaping. Fortunately, the value increased, mostly because of a growth explosion in the city, and we sold high, netting a thirty percent profit, which we plunked onto the next house.
We didn’t have a lot of time to look for that first house because of start dates for our new jobs, so we had driven the realtor crazy looking at more than forty houses in three days, putting in a contract on the fourth day, and solidifying the deal on the fifth. There were things Beth had wanted I could care less about: fresh paint, no wallpaper, and the three bedrooms on the first floor. I, on the other hand, felt an office, fireplace, and wood floors were the most important things. The house we both finally agreed on had a long laundry room that could double as an office for me, except when the washer was on the spin cycle and vibrated the computer on my desk. I did get a fireplace, and Beth got the fresh paint and no wallpaper. Unfortunately, I lost out on the wooden floors, but Beth got all the bedrooms downstairs in case we had children.
Because we had an antique rattan sofa and chair set Beth’s dad had given her as a college graduation gift for her first apartment, it was more chic than comfortable, so I often lay on the carpet in front of the television to watch movies on the video player or episodes of Seinfeld or Friends. Before we went to bed, I thought a mosquito had bitten me on the outer upper thigh area. A red bump felt irritated and warm to the touch. I put a little antibiotic cream on it and went to bed. The next morning, I didn’t even think about the bump, but the second day when I was taking a shower, I noticed the bump was darker, larger, and there seemed to be rings around it, like someone had tattooed my upper thigh with an image of Saturn and her rings. I decided I would stop by the clinic for a check since I’d never had a mosquito bite look that way, I feared the West Nile virus since it had just found its way to the states, and whatever it was seemed to be spreading fairly close to my genital area.
The nurse took my vitals, temperature, and didn’t give any non-verbal communication hints when she had a peak, but the doctor came in, looked at the chart, mispronounced my name, looked through his bifocals he wore on the tip of his nose, and said, “Looks like a Brown Recluse got you. Still early and not a lot of damage, but it’s killing the tissue. The rings give it away. We’ll get you on an antibiotic.”
“Brown recluse? A spider bite?”
“Oh yeah. Could be anywhere in your house. They often live in dark places, cracks and crevices, and under carpet.”
“Carpet? I knew we shouldn’t have bought that house with carpet everywhere.”
“Yes, well, I’ll look at it again next week after you’ve been on the meds. Hopefully, we won’t have to take any skin.”
After the bite healed, I had the ring for some time, but that didn’t stop me from having the carpet ripped up and wooden floors installed throughout the house. I insisted on being there with bug spray, but never saw a Brown Recluse. Beth washed the linens and I had an exterminator come monthly.
I still check my skin if I have an itch and scratch. It seems to take a lot of time to do so, and at times, if I’m in a conversation at work, I have to excuse myself to check. Co-workers see me going to the restroom more than usual. Once in a while, a co-worker might find me in the restroom with a pants leg pulled up to the knee, my sock down to the shoe, or my button down shirt open, my using a flash light to check my skin closely in the mirror, but at least they know I don’t have diarrhea, a bladder issue, or am hiding alcohol to drink.
Niles Reddick is author of the novel Drifting too far from the Shore, two collections Reading the Coffee Grounds and Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in thirteen anthologies, twenty-one countries, and in over three hundred publications including The Saturday Evening Post, PIF, New Reader Magazine, Forth Magazine, Boston Literary Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, With Painted Words, among many others.
PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL.