(I found the first wood tick of the season; here’s my favorite wood tick column.)
I sat in church last Sunday and marveled as I usually do at how one’s mind tends to ramble past thoughts much more freely there. Is it the austere tones of the interior decorating? The largeness of spirit? The communion with fellow human beings?
Maybe it is telephones that don’t jangle, and other earthly tedious demands upon one’s mortal soul. Did you ever notice that there are no bills due in the Bible? Well, maybe that one big one.
As I sat there, my mind flowed on past daily concerns, while the pastor linked the Exodus with something that wasn’t yet clear, but had some connection with how people are alike but different.
The words of the sermon were a river that carried my thoughts into my relaxed consciousness, one after another, each replacing the previous one. What a nice, relaxing place to focus on the next life.
“I will bring one more plague upon Egypt and the Pharaoh…” went the words of the sermon, which momentarily caught my attention, only to shortly be replaced by the polka dots of the collar worn by the older woman sitting in the pew ahead of me. The dark of the dots against the white background was somehow mesmerizing, as each seemed to change places with the other.
And then one of the dots moved.
“Then go to the Pharaoh and tell him that thunder and hail…”
Outside the window, the sun went under a cloud, but my mind jerked to a halt, as it tried to get back to the dot that had moved. I looked back at the collar. Nothing. “When the rain and hail had ceased, the Pharaoh again sinned…”
The Pharaoh sinned again. The dot moved again. I removed and cleaned my glasses. Such a phenomenon as this could have an easy explanation. I put my glasses back on. Nope. That was no moving polka dot on her collar. It was a nice fat wood tick, and yes, it was on the move.
“Locusts shall cover…” Yes, yes, yes, I thought to myself. The land and a couple of collars, besides.
Let’s see, I’ve been in northern Minnesota long enough to be able to figure out what one should do in this situation. Fortunately, the tick was moving left to right, and not up, so I had a moment to select the proper solution to this dilemma. An old story told by a favorite uncle came briefly to mind. A fellow was asked: “How did you get that black eye?”
It turned out, much to the asker’s disbelief, that he had gotten it in church that Sunday, when the rather stout lady in front of him had risen to sing the next hymn with her dress pinched firmly in her rear, um, stoutness. “I knew she wouldn’t have liked that,” said my uncle, “so I reached forward and pulled it out, at which she blacked my eye.”
The next week, the friend met my uncle once again. This time his other eye was black. “I don’t suppose that happened in church, did it?” asked his friend.
“Matter of fact, it did,” replied my uncle. Once again, they had all stood, and the dress was once again entrapped. The fellow next to me reached over and pulled it loose. “I knew she didn’t like that, so I pushed it back in…”
I tried to focus. What to do, what to do. Might I tap this extremely proper lady on the shoulder, and say…what? She was notoriously hard of hearing. I’d have to about holler. She would turn around and demand me to repeat what I had said. What would I say? What was proper? Black eyes aren’t any fun.
Moses was smart. What would he do? Moses was parting the Red Sea while the tick was heading for breakfast. I briefly prayed. Nothing came. I tried to get the guy next to me to notice. He thought there was something wrong with my neck.
Right then, the lady felt something, or reached back for a hair tickling her neck, and brushed that tick back toward me, toward…where? I couldn’t see it. I examined my front, my lap. It had disappeared.
What was that crawling inside my shirt? Could it get there that quickly? Couldn’t be that quick. That must be a psychological itch. Nope. I felt that. That was a wood tick. I hate wood ticks. The sermon was only half over. Moses still had to get to the promised land. He said: “Stand firm. Do not flee…”