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Smell the Coffee: Summer bugs and ugly ducks

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Much as I love and enjoy my daughter, I was still sort of looking forward to her being at the beach for a week, giving me seven days without tripping over towels on the bathroom floor, without trying to sleep with the TV on, without smelling macaroni and cheese or Ramen noodles or hearing the never-ending rapid tapping of her texts.

I was going to have a grown-up week of quietly reading or watching the shows I wanted to watch, or taking long, hot baths without anyone tap-tapping on the door. The week would be mine for staying up late and not driving anyone to rehearsal or home or to the mall or from it.

And I got what I wished for. In a manner of speaking.

Almost as soon as my girl left for vacation, the void she left was filled by something more maddening than she at her most hormonal -- a summer bug. I don't mean the whapping-at-the-porch-light kind of bug, but the kind that had me convinced a porcupine had crawled down my throat and lodged there.

So while I wasn't driving anyone anywhere except myself to the doctor (twice), and I didn't trip over towels or smell teen foodstuffs cooking, the week wasn't much fun. Especially the part where I stayed up most of the night.

Mine was one of those bugs that grew more powerful toward the end of the day. By bedtime, it had donned suit and cape and wielded a maddening tickle-cough. It would light throat fires that burned in a way that made it impossible to sleep when I tried to lie flat.

A few days in, I became so desperate for rest that I decided to try sleeping in the recliner.

Except the recliner was leather.

There's a name for leather recliners that you try to sleep in when you're sick. They're called a "luge."

As soon as I'd drift off to sleep and my body would relax, I'd begin the slide, awakening to find myself dangling over the footrest or puddled on the carpet. I have to say this for myself: I wasn't a quitter. I was determined to sleep on that recliner, no matter how many times I shooshed down and off.

Few things feel better than a cool leather chair in the summer when you're fevered and crabby, and I eventually found a way of curling myself like a cat in a way that mostly worked, though I still couldn't sleep.

Because it had been ages since I'd had a chance to read for hours in a quiet house, I picked up my book, but quickly found that I couldn't focus. I told myself that wasn't a problem. It simply gave me an excuse to watch television. Except I don't have cable and my Internet was off. So I drove to my boyfriend's house, where I'd have access to DirecTV. Except he wasn't there to explain how to work the three remotes.

I find few things more intimidating than attempting to operate someone else's remotes. While I managed to acquire both picture and sound, neither was at the same time. The more buttons I tried, the worse it became. Soon all I had on the screen were numbers and static, and I panicked. When I finally managed to get it back to how it was when I started, I quickly turned it off.

It seemed safer, I thought, to move outside to the deck, which was shady and quiet and overlooks a large pond. It was there I soon drew the attention of ducks.

Hungry ducks.

They looked like a gang, all thuglike and shifty.

And all I could find to appease them was a single slice of bread.

The tiny pieces I tore off and tossed them bought me some time, but they were soon gathered again, looking as threatening as something that waddles can manage.

Consider, please, that I was fever-brained at the time, so sharing my ice cubes with ducks seemed a viable solution. They wanted something. It was all that I had. And for a time, they seemed to have fun pushing the ice around in the water.

Until my errant throw. When I bonked the biggest in the noggin with a cube.

It got ugly.

You may have heard about the memory of elephants, but let me warn you about ducks. Ducks never forget. Ducks hold grudges. Ducks are mean.

And ducks will take vengeance on a car if their offender runs indoors to hide.

Which is just what I did. Curled like a cat on my cold leather chair. Waiting for the bug to leave, and my girl to return.

Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinfuller@gmail.com.


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