The bugs in North Carolina finally got me. Either that or I'm infected from Jasper biting me and sending me to the emergency room twice in as many weeks.
I don't actually know whats wrong but let me tell you, it hurts.
"Oh Mike, what hurts?" You ask.
Well, everything hurts. My entire body feels like I was dropped from an airplane. Muscles, bones, skin, hair, it all hurts. It hurts to breathe, it hurts to sleep, and it even hurts to lay down.
Some folks have said its Lyme's disease, others have said Fibromyalgia, and yet others have said I'm just a baby and to suck it up and drive on. So, based on those few arm chair diagnoses I'm either chronically ill or I'm a wimp. Clearly I should see a medical professional and get to the bottom of it.
I mentioned that I have to see a doctor to The Neighbor Lady this afternoon.
"Well if yer whole body hurts then how they gonna know whuts a good place ta start lookin?"
"Seriously? Really?........Be honest, are you really in nursing school?" I stood there without any particular kind of look on my face and waited for her to answer.
"Actually, I used ta go ta nursing school but I'm not goin this semester."
"OK. Then when was the last time you actually took a class?"
"Well, I was gonna be a vet tech but they wanted too much money for the class so I didn't go."
Everything started to make sense.
"Soooooo.......wow.....um......." I looked at the ground and drew in a big breath and brought myself up to my full height. "You've pretty much lied about everything since we moved in haven't you?" I looked at her quizzically.
"Well not really. I worked at tha vet clinic fer a while. But they said I needed ta be downsized before I could come back. I got stuck in a kennel door an some other stuff happened."
I had to keep from laughing in her face so I turned around quickly and put one hand on my mouth and one on my stomach. I squinted my eyes shut and bit my lip but it was no use. A little BREEEEP of air escaped my lips and then a full blown horse whinny. I bent over and guffawed and stamped on the ground. There isn't a single veterinarian who will risk a lawsuit by saying someone has to "be downsized" before they can return to work.
"COME ON! Did you really work at a vets office? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA......wait......oh man....hehehehe.......don't......wait.......hahahahahahahahaha. Or did you......woooooo...... volunteer at the animal shelter?" I was a wreck, tears started to well up in my eyes and my whole body hurt from laughing.
She looked at the ground and said, "Well I worked with a veterinarian and he said I shud go ta school ta be a vet." She looked hurt at that point so I did my best to compose myself and be kind.
"Well you know that those things are very different. A conversation with a veterinarian and actually working in a vets office as a vet tech and going to school to become a nurse are......well.....anyway, how come you didn't.....oh you said the classes were pretty expensive. I remember now." I felt like maybe I had recovered enough and let my grip on my laughter go just a little. Then I thought about her being "Downsized" from an animal shelter and I "BREEEEPed again.
"Hahaha......oh man....I'm so sorry.....um.....so you got downsized from the animal shelter?......hmmmmaaaahh.......ahahaha...." I felt like Austin Powers looking at a mole. "Isn't that volunteer work?" I knew I shouldn't have asked that question because the answer was probably going to put me in stitches and I was already in pain from being sick.
"Well I volunteered ta work with tha dogs cause we used ta raise dogs. So I was gonna work with tha dogs, like walk em an feed em and stuff. But then they said I had ta clean the kennels so I was like, OK, but some of tha kennels is big and some is little and I had a hard time in tha small wuns."
"Oh, yeah I see what you mean. But they should have accommodated you somehow." I was a little unhappy thinking about a heavy person being dismissed from volunteer work just because of their size. I do have a heart. I'm not a cruel person.
"Well, akshully, I got stuck wunce an some dogs got loose. But it weren't my fault. I got my shirt caught on the door handle ta one of tha outside gates an couldn' git it unhung.
"Well tha director she sees me wriggling an a cussin an she opens da inside gate ta come help me an then dem dogs jus run past her an run past me and they snarlin an gittin stuck by my legs an she is hollerin at me ta close da damn gate but I can't cause I'm hung sideways in tha sumbitchin gate an all them dogs just go shootin' past me inta tha parkin' lot." She flapped her arms while she talked and it looked like maybe a dozen dogs got past her.
"But that weren't so bad cause we caught all them dogs but whut made me mad was da director was pullin an pushin on that gate ta beat hell but I was hung in the middle of da sumbitch an she about kilt me.
"I's all scratched and banged up an Kevin said I should'a sued em fer vi-lence again's me but I never did."
She didn't seem to be completely finished with her explanation so I just stood there using every ounce of Jedi power in me to keep from breaking a smile. Clearly this was a troubling event and compassion, not laughter was the appropriate response.
"An then once I sprayed poop water on a bunch of dogs by accident and they asked me ta not come back." She smiled.
"BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA" I was laughing so hard that it felt like I was gonna crack a rib or maybe my head might pop off. I just looked at her and held my chest and head and breathelessly choked out the words, "poop....water?.....How the heck?" between gasps and giggles.
She continued, "Well tha directer lady she tells me ta clean the kennels. Employees is s'posed ta do that but she were still mad from tha dogs git'n loose. So I take tha dogs outside an then I'ma start ta cleanin da floors with da hose. But ya aren't sposed ta shoot water at tha poop cause it shoots under the covered fence a'tween the kennels an into tha dogs cage on tha other side. Ya sposed ta pick tha pile up first. So I's just sprayin an a singin' away an blastin all the mess I could see under the tha little space at tha back a each kennel.
"Well, them poor dogs on tha other side were in bad shape. They was howlin and carying on. Some of em was chuckin an slippin in it. But I couldn' hear em a'tall cause I had earplugs in and my iPod was on really loud cause them dogs carry on so loud all tha time. Well, I's almos' done and one of tha other girls come runnin at me and yanks tha hose out'a my hand. She looked madder then hell an she was yellin but I didn' hear her right off so she takes me ta the other side of the covered gate and oh my gawd them dogs on tha other side was jus terrible. Shakin, and reekin and wet. Sum was covered in heave an some in poo. I was terrible sorry fer them. So they didn't wan me ta come back after that."
"So did you help wash the dogs off?"
"HELL NO! There was gobs of poop shot half up the wall on tha other side tha room! There weren't a single dog that didn't have crap all over it. I wasn' gonna stick aroun after that!" She grinned from ear to ear.
"Were you using a fire hose? Because other than a fire hose or a high pressure hose there's really no way to do what you did."
"Oh the hose is a differn't story." She said. "That darn thing could peel bark of a tree if ya weren't careful. I guess a girl let tha pressure git built up wunce and was gonna rinse her flip flop off but it pert near blew a hole in her foot. She sposed ta lost a toe or a toe nail or sum such thing."
"Good lord! Were they using an industrial water cannon?"
"No its jus this big red tank with a cylinder an wheels on it and a hose and ya got ta start it up afore ya can spray. It gots this big'ol pistol handle thing at the end of tha hose and ya gotta use two hands when ya squeese tha trigger or it'll jump back and hit ya in tha teeth. Earywun hated that damn thing. Most of us got hit in the mouth wunce or twice. Sumbitch was evil but it werked like sumthin' else fer git'n dog shit of da floor."
"OK. Please stop. I understand." I held my hand up and leaned on one knee. "No more, please. I'm in so much pain right now and if I keep laughing I might stroke out or something. Oh man.....whooo!" I stood up and shook my head a little and smiled. "They should have done a better job training you with the equipment and I bet everything would have been fine. That wasn't your fault. Don't let anything like that hold you back. Just get back out there and find something you like an be sure to ask lots of questions if you aren't sure of something. Cause really, it sounded like you were a little cavalier with that high pressure hose, right?"
"Well I's havin fun Mike. You never saw nuthin till ya watch piles of dog crap go invisible a'fore yer eyes. I mean that water come out the end of that wand thing like a laser beam an them piles jus' vanish." She held her hands out fingers extended with wide searching eyes.
"HAHAHAHA, OK, OK, I believe you. But really I gotta go home. I should lay down before I fall down. Just keep your chin up and don't worry about saying you were a nurse. I completely understand and so will Dawn. Talk to ya later."
"OK, Mike, hope ya feel better soon. Jus make sure you don't catch a stroke or sumthin. Ya wann sit at our place till Dawn gits home? Ya welcome ta lay on tha couch if ya want. I'll make ya sumthin to eat."
I smiled from ear to ear, "Really? You'd make something to eat?"
"Ya want wun of them loaded baked potatoes you like so much? Prolly be good fer ya ta git some real food in ya if yer sick."
"Um, yeah! Actually I would love that! Heck yeah!" Her loaded baked potato contains cream cheese, regular cheese, sea salt, whole chunks of bacon, fresh chives, fresh parsely, sour cream, and heaven knows what else. Oh, and they are HUGE! There isn't a restaurant in the world that serves a loaded potato like hers.
About an hour later I was laying on the oversized leather couch watching cartoons with The Neighbor Ladies son, Connor. He's three years old and he is one of my best friends. Pretty soon The Neighbor Lady walked into the living room with a big plate and a tiny plate and got us both set up with drinks and napkins and stuff. We sat there together eating our loaded baked potatoes, watching cartoons and giggling up a storm. I was feeling better by the minute.
When The Neighbor Lady came back in to check on us, she commented on how cozy we looked sitting on the couch together. We grinned and both leaned to look past her so we could see the tv. She stepped to the side, shook her head a little and smiled a great big "Mom" smile.
"Um, say, you know how you wanted to be a nurse? Well, you are actually way better than a nurse. You are a great mom, a great cook and a great neighbor. There isn't a nurse around who could take your place. You really made me feel better and you didn't need a nursing degree to do it. Thanks!"
I thought she was going to respond with a thank you or a smile but she just blinked, covered her mouth and tried to say something but it caught in her throat. As she turned around I could see her eyes were watering a little as she walked back into the kitchen.
"You OK Ashley?"
"Ahem, ahem, um...ya....Thanks fer tha compliment Mike. I'm glad you like yer potato."
"Oh, me an Connor are completely content. This is the best medicine in the world right now. You are a real angel."
We finished our food and then, with our belly's full, cuddled on the big leather couch, in the middle of the next cartoon, Connor and I both fell asleep for an afternoon cat-nap.
The Neighbor Lady really is a "Nurse" after all.