Now this is the sequence of thoughts that quickly took place in my mind:
"That's a weird looking tree. HOLYFUCKTHERE'SAGIANTSPIDERBEHINDMYCAR!!! Wait, that's just a spider on my rear-view mirror. WAIT,THATSPIDERISONMYREAR-VIEWMIRROR!!! What kind of spider is that? WHERETHEFUCKDIDITGO?!? IS IT CRAWLING ON MY HEAD?!?"
That's all I remember because the adrenaline rush put me in a state of hyper-alertness. My mind was no longer in control and animal instinct took over. The next thing I remember is pulling up to my home and turning off the car. Or I shrieked like a little girl and swerved into oncoming traffic. It's hard to be sure.
Maybe just Houston. I don't know if the rest of Texas are shitting their pants in fear of cold weather. For the past few days news reports have carried nothing but the impending doom of an arctic burst of air that dropped high temps into the mid-30s. Tonight we are expected to get an inch of snow with some rain and sleet. Go just 50 miles north of Houston and this isn't news. This is winter.
Here's how ridiculous this bullshit it is, the mayor CLOSED the city of Houston for the morning. I'm not sure there's a school that will have class tomorrow. Lots of the local folks I know on FB don't have to go into work. I don't know if I'm working tomorrow or not yet, I have to call in the morning. I just saw on the news that one of the busier areas of downtown is virtually abandoned like the cars along Lakeshore Drive. Except that the cars are buried under feet of snow, and there hasn't been a drop of precipitation yet. I'm at home because I don't have a social life. So don't start pointing fingers and saying, "But Brendan, you aren't out either..." I didn't rush to the grocery store after work to stock up on supplies for ONE NIGHT. I hit up the liquor store for beer to enjoy while I sit outside waiting for the snow like a normal human being. Maybe not that normal.
So, next time you're in Houston and you meet a rough and tough, rootin' tootin' "cowboy" and they want to start some trouble, pick up an ice cube and torment them endlessly. But be wary of the concealed weapon they most likely have to protect themselves from terrorists like you.
So, six weeks ago I started having problems with my eye. It was putting on a show for the world by changing through various shades of light pink to deep, blood-red. To those that haven't seen my eye, you missed something impressive. Well, you're missing something impressive. It's still coming and going. I delighted in closing my left eye, that was perfectly fine, and then stare at people with my blood-red eye as though I was placing a hex on them. I have been treating it with medicated drops, but it doesn't seem to be doing a damn thing.
Then, perhaps, a week after starting the grind of putting drops in to exorcise the demon living in my eye I found a bump over my right eye. It didn't itch. It wasn't some large infected pimple. It was just a bump hanging out over my eye, whistling as the ladies walked by. My mom mentioned in passing that the bump looked a bit like one my dad had early in the summer when he had shingles. I'd had shingles four or five years ago, but it was on my torso. I was familiar with the pain associated with having shingles. The day after the bump appeared, I started feeling like absolute shit. I thought I'd caught the vile pig sickness, H1N1 flu. I had no fever though, so not the flu. The flu-like feeling that I was having is a symptom of shingles, however. I also started having radiating pain from the bump back through my scalp. Not really painful, just noticeable. I went to the doctor the next day and was given Valtrex.
A short aside, Valtrex is prescribed to those with herpes. Thanks to the marvels of the internet I discovered that shingles is a form of herpes. It's nothing like the STD version that "herpes" is associated with. It's not even the same virus that causes chicken pox like I thought previously. Maybe it's a mutation, but the internet didn't tell me that.
I finished my run of Valtrex. The bump was gone and no new bumps appeared. Having shingles on the face is nerve-racking because if it spreads to your eye, it could ruin your vision. BUT, no new bumps, so nothing to worry about. Then a week or so after I was done with the Valtrex my neck started to bother me. It was a bit stiff. A similar feeling to having slept funny and waking up with a crick in your neck. I took some Tylenol and had a heating pad on it to loosen up the muscles. Then a week after doing this I woke up and had a searing pain in my neck/shoulder on my right side as I tried getting out of bed. I woke up on my back and had to roll back and forth like a turtle so I could maneuver into a position where I could then stand. The odd thing was that just laying on my back was causing pain as though I had a massive bruise on my shoulder. A few hours later I laid down on the ground and had the heating pad back in place, but this time it just caused the pain to increase. Luckily the effects that Tylenol was having on my body hadn't changed, so I at least found one way to ease the pain.
I was stiff for the rest of the week (last week), experiencing the occasional pain radiating down my arm, but for the most part having a constant pain in my neck/shoulder. Once the weekend rolled around I was starting to feel a bit looser. The more likely scenario was that I had just grown accustomed to the pain, because Sunday morning I made the mistake of stretching upon waking. Immediately I winced and stopped moving, breathing, and thinking. The simple of act of stretching had caused me more pain than I had experienced the entire previous week. It was so much that it made me whimper and nearly brought me to tears. It was quite extraordinary. Unfortunately, it being Sunday, I had no opportunity to see a doctor to see what kind of remedies I could use. Tylenol was able to cut through the fog of pain as well as it was previously.
Today, Monday, I was able to get in to see a doctor and after a quick look through my history she told me that my neck pain was likely caused by lymphatic drainage. I didn't get all the details, but the virus that caused my shingles had built up in my lymph nodes and was now draining out through my nerves, starting at my neck. The radiating pains were now spreading further down my arm and to the middle of my back. I was given an anti-inflammatory to help calm my wild nerve endings. I was also sent to an ophthalmologist to have my eyes checked to be sure the shingles hadn't spread to my eyes and caused any damage. The diagnosis there was the first decent news I'd had in a while; allergies. I was given some drops and told what to look out for in case something should arise.
Now I just have to sit and wait to see if the anti-inflammatory meds do their duty. It should be improving within the week, but if not, I call my doctor and get something else. This entire experience has been interesting, if not annoying. I had a bit of a scare when in the doctor's office and was asked if I had lost any strength or feeling in my right hand. It took me a beat, but I realized that there is a very real possibility of experiencing some nerve damage. I'm fairly certain that I got it early enough, but there's always that slim chance that I waited too long to see someone about my sore neck. Saturday I had a fleeting thought that the neck pain had been related to my shingles, but I never gave it a second thought. I was certain I'd just sprained a muscle.
The pink eye turned out to be nothing, but the sore neck could have caused me some real problems. Isn't it ironic?
Secondly, I've begun to really pay attention to ants. I can't tell the difference between one ant species and the next, although red ones are pretty easy to point out. There's the new "raspberry" ant that I heard about early this year on some news special detailing their invasion of nearby areas and causing a ruckus. I'm not sure how they've become such a predicament or why they've chosen to attack me. What I do know is that I refuse to lose to an ant known as "raspberry".
My first skirmish was during a short week where the rest of my family were out of town. I went to heat up some water in the microwave and discovered a dozen ants running around inside AFTER running it for two minutes. Apparently, ants do not consist of enough water for the microwave to kill them. Science Fiction movies from the 1950s began to spring to mind images of 50-foot tall ants destroying the city thanks to the appliance hanging over the stove. I watched them scurry around for a minute or two, I swear they were running faster than normal ants and the mutations were beginning. Then I decided to wet a paper towel and scoop wipe them up into it. Then I slammed the microwave door shut and turned that fucker on. Through the door I could see the ants crawling about on the paper towel and then suddenly curling up in agony under the intense heat. It was almost as fun as burning the little bastards with a magnifying glass.
A month or six weeks later I was out tooling around in my car (Do kids still say "tooling" when referring to driving?) and while stopped at a light I opened up the center console between the seats to get some gum. When I closed everything back up I glanced into the cup holder adjacent and saw half a dozen ants roaming free and effecting my gas mileage with their microscopic weight. I quickly tried smashing them all with my fingers with a deadly poke and prod. One did evade me by escaping into a crevice that my meaty fingertip couldn't fit no matter how much I tried to force it in. Skip ahead to the next morning, and as I open up my car to run some errands I see dozens of ants running all along my running board. I think it's called a running board. It's the area that is perfectly covered by the door when in the "closed" position. Upon further inspection I found ants venturing into the car and finding bits of crumbs in the floorboards. Admittedly, I freaked out and used an entire can of bug spray in an attempt to kill them all. I let the bug spray marinate in the car for an entire day. I'm not entirely sure if sitting in the car with those fumes would have killed me, but I wasn't taking any chances. The next day I found another dozen ants sprinkled about my car, so I spent another can of spray and wasted another day marinating my car. This time, I got them all. At least I didn't see them boldly venturing forth into the open to face the wrath of my fingertips and aerosol weapons of mass destruction.
Last week we caught a trail of ants walking over the tires of the cars parked out front, but not going into the cars. They were walking around on the surface of the tires and the brakes in an attempt to create a new nesting area. The ants were carrying what looked like egg sacks, larvae, or whatever the hell you call that stage in their development. I can't remember freshman year biology from high school. So the hose and the bug spray came out to blast the shit out of the little maggots.
The latest encounter occurred just last evening. Ten or so ants were swarming my dogs rawhide bone and, thanks to my previous experiences, I knew that I had to discover the trail leading to their entry point. They lead back to the small bathroom next to the garage and into a small hole in the molding. I was expecting the grout around the toilet to have a gap that had failed to hold them at bay. They decided to focus their assault on the wood-front instead. I can't even imagine the encampments that they must have built and fortified amongst the walls. Their entry point in the bathroom isn't even on the wall shared by the garage. I had to wipe the image of their fortifications from my mind and get to the business of spraying these little shits with the water-based poisons at my disposal. It provided me with a strong blast and knocked the ant-bastards for a loop when hit directly. I also thought the poisonous liquid would travel back into the hole much better than it's misty counterpart. I killed all the ants that were in visible range.
Now I must be vigilant and wait for their next attack. I will attempt to locate the point of entry from the exterior, but due to the large diameter of the house and the heavily grassed areas it appears to be a truly daunting endeavor. The determination of these ants is a problem and I see no possible way to crush that. Their sheer numbers are also a force in and of itself. I don't know how I can hope to combat an enemy with numbers well into the millions, possibly billions. I just hope that the folks at Target don't get suspicious of the numerous trips and purchases of high-powered WMADs (Weapons of Mass Ant Destruction) and report me to the authorities for mass ant-icide.
ONE! There's this PSA that is trying to deter people from drinking and driving by stating that "cops are on the lookout" and you shouldn't risk the ticket. It was kind of cool when I first saw it. They show a few cars driving down the road, swerving of course since they drivers are drunk, and to illustrate this, since the swerving wasn't enough, the car is filled with the alcoholic beverage of the driver's choice up to their waste. I think they're trying to pickle themselves. I'm pretty sure their fingers and toes were pruny. Is this a national commercial? I'd hate to be talking about this and then you haven't been able to see this piece of cinematic brilliance.
I've seen this commercial hundreds of times. During those hundreds of viewings I've realized something. The cops in this commercial are absolute idiots. Every time they show one of these mobile martini glasses getting pulled over, the cop asks, "Sir, have you been drinking tonight?" "Ociffer, what would ever give you that idea as I roll my window down and alcohol comes pouring out covering your shoes?" They show a guy blowing into a breathalyzer, but only one or two of these guys gets arrested. What happened to the others?!? How did they avoid ending up in the back of the cruiser? Did the one guy take a swing at the cop?
Okay, enough of that one.
TWO! Domino's Pizza is now advertising this free chocolate cake with the purchase of some tasteless piece of shit that they're trying to clear out of their warehouses. But, not only is it a chocolate cake, it's also filled with CHOCOLATE LAVA! Just think about that name they've given to their chocolate filling, will you? The image I see is that the moment I bite into this cake my face and the entirety of my digestive tract will be scalded with this substance that is supposed to be a delicious treat. I want to meet the ad-wizard that came up with that name and punch them in the face for taking a job that I could do and he's doing nothing with it. I could use a job like that.
I did happen to realize the need for a way to quickly access the story. So, to the right, just under my Twitter feed, you'll notice a new section of links called "Short Story". Chapter 1 is posted there, and depending on the length of it all, I'll post each new chapter there. I'll add links to the end of each chapter to the subsequent chapter so it's easier for you to get from one to the next. I may just post the first and newest chapters under the "Short Story" section. That's something else I'll have to feel out, but HEY, it's over there!