Wednesday, June 06, 2018

a hair of the dog

Once upon a time there was a scorpion named Al who lived in Mexico. He once lived in a shoe, but he was booted.

His real name, as I should have told you before, is really El Alacrán. But that's such a fuss to pronounce that we usually call him just Al. The only people who use his formal name are his mother, when angry -- or political "pollsters" who always call at dinnertime.

One day Al was going about his predatory arachnid business when it started raining. And not just any rain. If asked, because he was a noted raconteur, he would have sworn he had just missed getting on board Noah's ark. His smarmy cousin Gordo took the last scorpion seat.

As the flood rose, he relied upon his remnant fish genes to eel his way through the deluge. When he thought he could swim no more, he grasped onto a vertical surface. With his last strength, he edged above the surface of the water, folded himself up, and slept.

That is, he slept until an evil ogre grabbed him. Whether he stuck his assailant like Sam stuck Shelob, he would never know. The ogre smashed him.

The end.

Well, that is the end of Al's story. My version is a bit different.

For the last couple weeks, our daily temperature and humidity readings have been having a race to the top -- and it is hard to say which wins on any given day. The numbers are in the 90s.

It is days like this that the best we can do is to hope that the rains arrive to drive down the humidity -- at least, temporarily. And those hopes were realized last night. With a spectacular storm that was equal parts lightning, thunder, and rain. And plenty of each.

As almost always happens, I had told myself for two days to pick up the leaves and flowers that my cup of gold vines slough. If left on the ground, they clog the patio drains. And that is what happened last night. The rains came down, and the drains clogged up. Sufficiently clogged up to transform the patio into a wading pool.

Because more rain is in our forecast, my first duty this morning was picking up the soggy masses that had clogged the drains. Some of the leaves and flowers were stuck on the walls.

One clump looked a bit different. It was leaf brown. But it looked a bit like a variety of caterpillar known for its sting.

Instead of using a stick to nudge it (which would have been the smart thing to do -- even a monkey would have been smart enough to use a rudimentary tool), I grabbed it gingerly with my right thumb and forefinger.

Fortunately, it was not a stinging caterpillar. Unfortunately, it was a stinging scorpion. A rather large scorpion. And one of the beige variety that pack the worst wallop in these parts.

This was no half-sting. I have experienced that once before in San Miguel de Allende when I grabbed a medicine vial where a scorpion had taken up residence. Both times, my right forefinger receive the brunt of the sting.

I have mentioned before that my scorpion stings have been no more eventful than a wasp sting. And that is exactly what this one felt like.

There was a sharp immediate pain that quickly turned into a spreading numbness throughout my finger as the venom took effect. Had my finger been a cockroach, it could not have escaped.

I did not seek medical treatment. Instead, I self-medicated with ice on the entry point to stop the spread of the venom.

None of the other symptoms that necessitate medical care appeared. No dizziness. No closed throat. No frothing at the mouth (though had that occurred I could have signed up as a sufferer of TDS).

Before I wriote this essay, I rehearsed it with friends. Of course, they all had their own individual remedy. Northerners were big on suggesting large doses of benadryl -- whatever that is.

But my Mexican friends had the best suggestions.

Drink milk. Why? The milk will get in your blood system and slow the spread of the venom.

Do not eat shellfish. Why? The salt will cause the venom to be more powerful.

To be fair, if I asked a northerner for the scientific basis of home remedies, the answers would seem just as quaint. If you think that is not true, try to keep a straight face when someone tries to explain why bags of water tacked to decks somehow manage to frighten flies.

But, this was my favorite. My friend Alan asked me if I still had the exact scorpion that stung me. I did. I bagged it up to take to the doctor if my symptoms worsened.

Here is what he told me to do. Cut off the stinger and put it in a glass of tequila. Smash up the stinger and drink it all. The venom in the stomach will counter-balance the venom in the blood stream.

I laughed. But there is a grain of truth in the methodology. After all, the anti-venom injections offered by medical staff is simply a more sophisticated (and, I should add in all fairness, scientific) approach.

I did not try any of the methods -- either northern or Mexican. Just like a wasp sting, the venom has numbed my finger and part of my forearm.

But it has not numbed it enough to keep me from typing this essay for you.

After all, poor Al gave up his life for your entertainment.

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