Monday, August 31, 2015

TRUCKIN' AND TICKS


Hello…U there?


No answer.

He waited in the cab of the truck while the guys in the warehouse unloaded the container. The A/C felt so good—the temperature in Brampton was a balmy 35 degrees.

He tried texting again.

It’s Drew. U home?

Still no answer.

He lay back and enjoyed the coolness.

She was on her way to school; her son had to get his timetable changed. She waited outside in the car while he went in and did his business with the counselor. She took her phone out of her pocket and turned it on. Right away she noticed the strange number. Then she recognized the name. A smile formed on her face and she texted right back.

OMG! Where R U?

Seconds later: Dixie and Shawson.

What you doin’?

Waiting to get unloaded. I’m in the cab enjoying the A/C.

She dialed the number and they had a chat while they were waiting.

“How’s it going, bro?”

“F**king hot up here, man.”

She laughed. “Hasn’t been too bad. It’s just this week that it got like that. So how long you up for?”

“Well, I gotta job in Guelph and then I got Wednesday off…Thursday…I’ll be heading back on Thursday.”

“Heading back home or heading back to New Brunswick?”

“Well, I gotta drop off the truck and then maybe the next day I’ll head back home.”

“Right on. So you got a few days with us. When can I pick you up then?”

“Well, they’re still unloading. I’ll text you when I’m ready.”

Her son got into the car.

“Okay, Jack’s done with school, text me when you’re done there.”

“Yah, okay, bye.”

“Bye.”

“So did you get everything all fixed up?” she said, starting the engine.

“Yah, everything is good. And he almost forgot to change my lunch break, but I got everything I wanted.” He sighed in relief.

“Good. Wanna stop for a pizza?”

“Sure. Who was that on the phone?”

“Your Uncle Drew. He got a few jobs up here; gonna spend a few days with us.”

“Great. I never saw him in a while.”

She smiled. He was excited.

She drove to the mall and he went in to get the usual: extra-large with extra cheese and garlic sauce.

Around 3pm Drew texted her that he was ready and she went to pick him up at the Petro Pass. She watched as he walked toward the car. She noticed right away that he had lost some weight since the last time they had seen each other over a year ago. He stood almost six feet tall and walked with purpose. He was the kind of guy you didn’t want to meet in a dark alley. He was compassionate at heart, but you never wanted to get under his skin; he didn’t take any shit from anybody.

He got into the car and his hearty laugh filled the small space.

“Holy f**k, who was sitting here?”

I laughed. His knees were pushing against the dashboard.

“The lever is on the side.”

He grunted, pressed the lever, and he fell back toward the back seat. “Aww, that’s better.”

“You must live awfully close, I just texted you five minutes ago. Either that or you drive like a maniac.” 

His belly let out another laughing fit. It was the kind of laugh that filled a room and made other people want to laugh along. His voice was deep and clear. He was very articulate and when he spoke you were compelled to listen. He was a great storyteller.

“Yah, our place is at Dixie and Clark. Not far at all.”

They made quite a raucous while driving back to the house, chatting and laughing. 

He had been a truck driver for about five years. He had a home and family back in Newfoundland and got a job in New Brunswick for the summer months, where he stayed with their brother. His trips were usually in the Atlantic, but occasionally he got a trip to Ontario.

Jack came out of his room when they entered and Drew was surprised to see how much he had grown. 

They sat down to the table and chatted the afternoon away. Dinner was cooked and served and still they chatted.

“On my last trip I got bit by ticks!” Drew blurted out.

Jack and his mother looked at each other. “What!”

“Yes, man…”

Drew continued while they listened, wide-eyed, fully engaged.

“I got this truck that was used by another driver and whenever that happens, I clean out everything. I use my own blankets and pillow and make sure the mattress is shaken out and covered up. But, this guy, see, he had a dog in the cab who was sleeping in the top bunk. I never really paid attention to the top bunk because I wasn’t sleeping there so I just left it alone. So, coming back from the trip—Dartmouth—I feel something on my neck. I didn’t pay attention to it because I thought that it was just a nipper (mosquito) because there was one in the cab. I kept brushing at it. So I’m driving along at 100 clicks, then I feel something on my neck. I put my hand there (he put his hand at the spot where he felt the tick, just near his right ear) and I felt something. Well, I took my fingers (still re-enacting) and I pulled it out of my hair, but I couldn’t see what it was. I pulled over right away and turned on the cab lights and when I looked down, it was a f**kin’ tick! And then I lost it, it fell on the floor, and let me tell you, when I started driving again, I put her on cruise control and drove with my feet off the floor (he replicated the stance) until I got to Al’s (brother).”

Jack and his mother were chuckling, but feeling squeamish.

“When I got to Al’s I told him what happened, but he just passed it off and laughed, thinking it was just a bug. But while I was talking to him something bit me again! (He touched his neck.) It was another tick! I showed it to him and then he believed me. Then another one bit me on the leg! (He slapped his right calf.) Al went and got a baggie and I put them in the baggie. We all got nervous then. He told me to go have a shower and get all my clothes and bed clothes and wash everything on hot water. And while I did that he started going through my t-shirt and shorts I had been wearing “with a fine tooth comb” but he didn’t find any more. His wife, Nell, got on the phone with the hospital and they told me that I should go in right away. So I went, and took the ticks with me. The doctor who examined me was so fascinated that he asked me if he could keep the ticks to show his students—he was teaching med students I guess. So I said to him, well, I don’t want ‘em, Buddy.”

Drew gave a big hearty laugh and Lily and Jack laughed right along with him.

Jack spoke up. “Did he say they were the ticks that cause Lyme disease?”

“He examined the bite marks and luckily, none of them had burrowed in the skin. He gave me the pills (for Lyme disease) though, just in case.”

Lily and Jack shivered.

 “He said that they were American Dog Ticks. They don’t usually carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, but they can cause something called Rocky Mountain Fever.”

“Holy shit,” Lily said. “You vacuumed out the cab pretty good the next day, huh?”

“Damn straight!” he laughed again, slamming his hand on the table.

“But where could they have come from?” Lily asked.

“I don’t know, but it’s a wood tick, so it musta been on the dog. ‘Cause see when the driver let his dog out, he musta just let the dog roam around in the woods. And those ticks are smart, they stick to the leaves of small trees and brush and when the dog or other animal passes, they let go and hitch a ride. It’s all woods once you get on the other side of Montreal. New Brunswick is all woods, mostly, and Nova Scotia, too, even though it’s a big rock, it’s mostly woods. So that dog could’ve picked up the ticks anywhere.”

“It’s weird, eh? When we were kids we never saw bugs like that or even heard anyone talk about it. And we pretty much lived in the woods. It seems like it’s only recently that we are hearing more and more about these things.” Lily reminisced.

“I guess it’s the climate change or the media, or both I guess.” Drew surmised.

Jack started to yawn. It was late. Drew was looking pretty tired himself, and he had to get up early. They stayed up a little longer discussing ticks and bugs, and then went to bed.


Drew went to work in the morning and when he got home in the evening, they chatted and laughed the evening away again. Drew told some more truck-driving stories. Thursday came too quickly and before they knew it he was on his way again, eastbound. Lily and Jack missed him as soon as he was out the door, but that was okay, they knew that they’d see him again and by then he would have some more fascinating stories to tell.










https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dermacentor_variabilis

http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/geographic_distribution.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyme_disease

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocky_Mountain_spotted_fever