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 Poison Oak Pleasures

 By Ed Williams

Sometimes I have to wonder why certain things were invented or created – stuff like mosquitoes, dandruff, athlete’s foot, or ticks. If you want to take it one step further you can add in things like gout, Mathew Lesko, constipation, or the hiccups. All of these things are totally worthless, and I’ve wondered more than once why they’ve been inflicted upon the human race.

That’s a pretty somber beginning for a column, huh? I think so, too, if the truth be known. I might as well go ahead and come clean here, because writing the column this week is very difficult for me, and the reason it’s difficult is due to one of the “top of the list things” there’d be on a list of worthless items – I’m suffering from a bad case of poison oak, and it’s about to drive me nuts.

Don’t ask me how I got it, because I haven’t a clue. I haven’t walked around barefoot any recently, and only yesterday did I cut my grass, and I was already wrapped up with poison oak by that point. Any place that itches I can’t scratch – not the top of my head, not the little black ant who happens to be crawling up my left forearm, and I have to scrub down like a surgeon before I can even think about touching any of my private areas. My ankles have so many red blotches on them that they look like a series of angry islands, and I’ve just recently detected a couple of small ones on my neck, armpits, and stomach. I’m starting to look like someone at a performance art exhibition who begs passers-by to toss Campbell’s Tomato Soup on them, and that‘s nothing to brag about.

My personal appearance, therefore, is grotesque. The itching is even worse. Besides the unbearable tingling that‘s a constant, the worst thing is that the places you need to scratch the most are the very places you shouldn’t - I wish I could scratch my crotch for about ten minutes, which is not nice to say, but it’s the truth. Ditto for my armpits and the back of my knees. If someone put a washtub full of ice before me, I swear that I’d get naked and jump in it without thinking twice. Heck, without thinking once.

Y’all think that I’m getting lots of family support during this personal time of crisis? HA! If I had a good case of leprosy I wouldn’t be avoided any more than I am now. Forget hugs or smooches or any other types of physical affection from anyone, heck, forget even a handshake. Will just turned one down that I offered him a little while ago because, in his words, “Dad, I’m afraid your crud will run down my arm and start doing weird things to me.” Nothing greater than the love between a father and son, I suppose. That was such a downer that I decided to go over to The Wellness Center, work out, and get a sympathetic pat or two on the back from my friends there. I threw on my gym shorts, drove over, and had just gotten up on the Stairmaster when one of my good buddies, Will Zachary, walked up. He asked,

“Ed, what’s going on?”

My clever retort, “Not much.”

We chatted for awhile, then Will glanced downwards at my ankles and said, in a voice loud enough for approximately sixty percent of the gym to hear him,

“Ed, what are those big red spots on the sides of your ankles? It’s like you’re some kind of a red spotted Dalmation or something!”

I heard a few snickers, and when I looked up I felt like every eyeball in the building was locked onto my ankles. Without even thinking, I sort of crossed them to hide them, which had the net effect of spreading the spots even more. For the rest of my workout I was avoided like the plague, and the word going around the gym was that I had an affliction that ranged anywhere from poison oak to some kind of incurable disease. Needless to say, I left the Wellness Center a little less than pumped up, exuberant, and renewed.

So now I sit here writing this with ankles redder than China, trying to balm my deep inner pain with some Breyer’s Butter Pecan ice cream. I guess some worthless things will always be around, and all any of us can do is to make the best of what they bring, which is a good thought to keep in mind as I get ready to entertain a few of my distant relatives this coming weekend…

About the Author
Ed’s latest book, “Rough As A Cob,“ can be ordered by calling River City Publishing toll-free at: 877-408-7078. He’s also a popular after dinner speaker, and his column runs in a number of Southeastern publications. You can contact him via email at: [email protected], or through his web site address at:

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