Yes, I share my life with a dog, and she is prone to getting these nasty little creatures attached to her. I probably have been thinking about them too much.
With apologies to Eugène Ionesco and Franz Kafka
The tick seems to be growing larger. I mean the tick in general terms, the tick as a species, not a particular, individual tick. Isn’t it really a dazzling multiplicity of species? Many, many differing kinds of ticks? I don’t know if all of them are getting bigger, or if it’s just the ones I see. Maybe they are a specific type, I’m not sure. But I see them getting really big, whatever they are. But the problem, the problem as I see it is I think I may be the only one who has noticed, noticed the great swelling of the tick. How these things can be, the growth of the tick and my apparently isolated observation of this phenomenon, I couldn’t possibly say.
The other day I pulled a tick from inside my dog’s ear. Nothing unusual in that; she gets ticks regularly. I pay attention, you know, because of tick born diseases and such. But this one was different. This tick. Did I say “the other day”? No, this particular event was some time ago. I don’t know, months maybe. I must have said “the other day” as it still seems so fresh, so pertinent, and it was, as I’ve said different. Larger. And not just because it was engorged with my dog’s blood, it was big. Fat, ugly, grayish brown.
They have always repulsed me, ticks, and yet they fascinate as well. I have had a horror of finding them on myself. Fortunately, I live alone, well, just me and the dog. I think I said my dog before but I reject that construction. No animal can be “mine” or anyone else’s. These animals share our lives and we assume a certain degree of responsibility for their well-being. That’s why I check her for ticks many, many times a day, even if we haven’t gone out. Better for her, better for me. This one day sometime ago was a bit of a shock. It was the largest tick I had ever seen, up to that point at least. Fat repulsive thing. It seemed to stare back at me as I tweezered it from inside her ear. Do ticks even have eyes? I don’t know, but I think this one did. It put up even more than the usual struggle, due to its size. At least it didn’t burst and spray me with dog blood as some of them have done. I nearly vomited as I watched it swirl around in the flushing bowl and vanish from our lives.
Nothing much happened for a few days and then I saw my first tick on a human other than myself. This was an even bigger shock, as you might well imagine. We were on line at the pet store getting dog food when I saw the woman just ahead of me adjust her neck scarf and there it was. Huge, bloated, the largest tick I had ever seen. I was too stunned to speak: what does one say, “Madam, there is a monstrously large thing on the back of your neck just below the hairline”? Anyway, I couldn’t say a thing; I turned away and put the food back on the shelf and left as surreptitiously as I could. I would share my food with the dog for a while.
I don’t work, that is to say I don’t have a job. Checks arrive, I cash them and I live. When I cashed my next check I saw another one. How the teller didn’t notice the thing attached to her cheek astounded me. Against my usual bent I spoke up, this time. I said, “How are you today?” She said, “Fine sir,” as she handed me my bills with the briefest of nods. I left.
I thought about this for some time. I thought about perception, visual stimuli, and sensory experience. I would have thought about evolution and entomology but I know nothing about those subjects. I read St. Augustine on consciousness but he was no help. What was happening? I fell into restless sleep after searching the dog for vermin. Fortunately, nothing.
I didn’t go out for a while after that, being afraid of what I might see. Eventually hunger put us both out the door of the flat. I could see the dog had lost weight and that wasn’t good. I have no mirrors so I couldn’t tell about my own state. As soon as we hit the street I knew it was a mistake. The vertigo nearly put me down but what is one to do? You have to eat to live, and I am responsible for the dog. But I could see what was happening. Everyone, but everyone, had a tick, a really big tick, about the size of a backpack, and in about the same location. People were walking around with a giant, living blood sack attached to them and they either didn’t notice or didn’t care. The world was spinning I was spinning the dog was barking and no one, but no one seemed to think anything about any of it.
It was then I noticed that the people were looking at me. At me, as if there were something wrong with me, not them! Some of them were so rude even as to point. A little girl in a red dress with a bulging tick on her shoulder started to cry as her mother turned her gaze from me and they moved off. I looked at the dog and the dog was still barking but barking at me, at ME! Ungrateful bitch, what have I done but care for you I thought I could suck the life out of you but the sense of falling increased and then I really was down, all the way down, on my belly, as my several thin legs with some difficulty hauled my bulk in the direction of the screaming running people and I was overwhelmed with a powerful and seemingly unquenchable thirst.