I saw a squirrel with no tail in my yard yesterday. I kid you not. This is not a metaphor, nor hazy Ozarks double-speak for “carpetbagger” or “Nascar fan” or anything; it was a real-deal squirrel sans tail jumping around the front lawn, nervously chewing on nuts or bits of tree or whatever passes for squirrel fare these days. Seeing that is one of those bizzaro brain-benders that make you wonder if you’re having some sort of mental episode. It was as out of place as if the cat came in the house and started paying bills on my laptop and barking at the dog. And nothing looks more ridiculous than a squirrel with no tail hopping around, looking like a miniature beaver, all while likely being mocked by his companions for his naked ass. Was he aware, or self-conscious? Did it throw off his sense of balance high up in the trees? Was he (I’m assuming it was a he, since really, no respectable she-squirrel would EVER leave the home without her tail perfectly groomed and intact) the victim of a cat assault or the fan belt under the hood of a neighbor’s ’91 Saturn? Was it hard to get a squirrel date? Without the tail to shake, it just looked like he was violently shaking his rump, an angry rodent stripper forced to scavenge on the ground for nuts, having fallen out of a tree and into a life of shame.
Of course, I saw all of this as a parallel to my own current situation. Only the best of the raging narcissists can turn a maimed squirrel into being about them, but nonetheless, it was there in front of me. I recently became intimately acquainted with an infection of sorts. After participating in an urban adventure-style race that included wading through a creek that even the homeless population won’t use as a bathroom, I noticed a swelling in my knee. I thought this was the result of being a near-40yr. old non-runner trying to cover 9 miles without really training, but I had once again misdiagnosed my own hypochondria.
I woke up a day or two later with the knee swelling to the size of a grapefruit, both intriguing and repulsing my co-workers. A doctor’s visit followed up by an ER visit landed me with the diagnosis of a MRSA infection and a bottle of pills, the size of each being meant to gag mules. Now, MRSA is no joke, and is sometimes referred to as “the flesh-eating mofo of bacterias” by scientists and doctors. Tell people you have MRSA and watch as they recoil in horror, thinking to themselves that you’re actively spreading The Plague with reckless abandon. It makes you feel like a disabled Darth Vader of sorts, where people look at you with a mixture of fear and pity as you attempt to Force choke your enemies, slouched over your walker with tennis balls on the front. In reality, though, MRSA lingers everywhere, from Wal-Mart shopping carts to tables in the most tony of upscale eateries, lurking as only bacteria can, indiscriminately and invisible. Sometimes it finds idiots like me to unleash itself upon, and since I’m an award-winning host, it would be downright rude to turn down a potentially limb-threatening guest; Mother Dearest would frown upon such lack of social graces.
Despite the best efforts of this killer super-disease, though, my flesh isn’t being eaten, and thanks to a nurse practitioner friend who treats these things with the kind of aggression normally displayed by the leadership of North Korea, I’m on the mend. On the mend, staying away from work and most people, lest I somehow open up my wound, and somehow jam a knee in their mouth, thereby spreading my own form of passive-aggressive leprosy. No making moonshine. No playing fireman. Swallowing horse-gagging pills and wondering if that squirrel missing his tail wants to hang out for a little while, talk about our infirmities, complain about the weather and discuss life as a social outcast as we nervously hop around on the front lawn.