A few days after Miss Claws had joined ranks, Deidre noticed a small, red spot on her forearm. The area, while only the size of a nickel, could only be described as angry and seemed the likely fallout of a spider bite, arachnids being imbued with all forms of evil. She put salve and a Band-Aid on the wound and kept an eye peeled for further developments.
Things developed. And not just with Deidre. No, it seems that if a renegade spider was at the root of the mystery bite, he was climbing stairs and repelling down banisters with the finesse of a military sniper, taking a chunk out of each member of the family while they slept, because each morning showed a multiplication of red marks across arms, heads, and legs at a rate that was sure to draw the attention of the CDC in short order if something wasn’t done. Deidre decided to take one for the team and go see the doctor right before New Year’s Eve.
“Looks like you’ve got ringworm,” he said, with just a cursory look at the spot that was closer to the size of a quarter now.
“Ringworm? Are you kidding me? How could the entire family have ringworm? I keep a clean house!”
The doctor peeled the latex gloves from his hands, so that he could write a prescription. “You get any new pets lately?” A vision of Miss Claws on her two-inch legs filled Deidre’s mind, and she nodded numbly. “That’s it then.” He ripped the paper from the pad and handed it to the lady who was now considered a Carrier. Deidre went straight to the pharmacy, made a pit stop by the local hardware store for cleaning agents that boast of a skull and crossbones label and that require a photo ID for purchase, and then drove home to care for the wounded.
As soon as she walked into the house, she realized the enormity of the task. That cat had been everywhere. Deidre surveyed the pillows, the blankets, and the upholstery on their three couches. She thought about the bedding since Miss Claws had visited each child with impartiality, leaving none slighted. She thought about every time her children had picked up that fiendish feline and held her communicable flesh close to their faces. She was pressing her head with her palm to stem the developing migraine when Mary Todd walked in on this reverie, cradling the kitten and singing it a lullaby.
“Look, Mommy. Miss Claws likes it when I sing to her.”
“I’ll sing her a song,” Deidre said, pulling the kitten from her daughter’s embrace and holding her at arm’s length the way you would a potato that you’ve recently found at the back of the pantry drawing a pension.
“Mommy! Where are you taking Miss Claws?”
“Miss Claws needs to go in for some shots, honey,” Deidre replied as she placed the kitten in the carrier and turned the lock. “She’ll be back soon.”
Deidre hopped in the Expedition and tore out for the vet’s office, apprising Todd of the situation via telephone. The vet assured her that it was common for kennel pets to come with a complimentary dose of ringworm, and that her standing in the community should still be safe. Deidre took the pills and ointment he dispensed and hoped that would be the end of it.
That wasn’t the end of it. Two days later her mother called, complaining of a weird outbreak of red spots among the other branch of the family. Deidre took a deep breath and told her the likely cause, and you would have thought she had used the words bubonic plague given the reaction on the other end of the line. Things got worse from there.
Neighbors on either side of them called, concerned about unusual patches, and one little fellow was even missing a tuft of hair dead center on the scalp. Todd’s mom fell victim as did the playmate of Hershel the dog, a sagacious canine who had tried to tell the family that they were better off without the feline to begin with.
So as they rang in the New Year, the final body count came clothed in a parody of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”: 8 kids a-crying, 4 adults complaining, 2 dogs a-whining and a kitten under a Christmas tree. But as daily pills were swallowed and hearty doses of ointment applied, Deidre had to hand it to Todd: he’d finally found the gift that keeps on giving.
© 2012 – Traci Carver