Jack Was Naked

poisonoakThat was the title of Chapter 1 and the opening phrase of the book.  It got my attention.  I’m sure it got your attention too.  Your visual however, may be different from mine.  Everyone can picture a ‘Jack’.

I’ve read a lot of books.  I own a lot of books.  I’ve donated a lot of books due to space.  Still, my house could easily be taken for a library, just with all the “keepers”.  There was even a time when I could quote entire pages of “The Hobbit”, yet I could not tell you the opening line of that book – or any other of my keepers.  None was as memorable as “Jack was naked, and it was night, and cold.”

The book had been on my reading list for quite a while, waiting for the time to spend relaxing with a good book.  I was busy with work, the house, volleyball…Then one weekend John came by to help me with clearing out some of the wild growth that was the backyard.  He had a machete.  And we eagerly attacked the wilderness, taming the yard, cutting, gathering, filling countless bags with stuff I didn’t want in my yard.

No, it wasn’t poison ivy.  We both knew what that looked like.  Besides, I have a very high tolerance to poison ivy.  The one time I got it, when I was about 10 – according to the doctor – was in my eyes.  I thought it was time for the doctor to retire.  Who gets poison ivy in their eyes and nowhere else on their body?????  Don’t be snarky.  I remind you I was 10 – maybe even 8 or 9 years old at the time.

I apparently however, have zero tolerance for poison oak.

It was June, and we had worn tees and shorts.  Since I was the one bagging all the greenery, I managed to get it all over every exposed area of skin.  It took me 6 weeks to get over the outbreaks.  Six weeks!!!  I went to the doctor 3 times, tried every topical treatment I could find.  Prescription drugs – even the drug from hell – had no effect.  Every week I kept breaking out in new blisters.  My skin felt like it was on fire.

After the fourth week, the doctor said that I must have gotten the oils in my house since new blisters kept appearing.  Well, hell.  My M.O. when gardening is to kick off the shoes in the garage, beeline to the bathroom to wash my arms and hands, then straight to the shower.  Still, I washed every piece of clothing I had worn for the past three weeks three times, then went on a massive house cleaning spree – including the upholstered furniture.  It seemed unlikely to me that the nasty oil was all over the house, but the blisters kept sprouting.  Meanwhile I was driving to work early to so I’d be driving in the cooler part of the day.  I stayed indoors even when the sun went down so that I wouldn’t get bit by the nasty skeeters.  And I caught up on my reading list.

It was the last book I had started that introduced me to Jack.  It was also when Mr. Bill stopped by – in the sixth week, with a collection of remedies he’d raided from his (company’s) first aid kit.  There was one I’d never heard of or seen before.  It was oily so it penetrated the skin.  I tried it.  After rinsing, my skin instantly felt cooler – and itch free.  It was magic.  Within days, not only did the blisters disappear, no new blisters appeared.  Went and bought out the stock in every store in two towns.

So I mentioned the Jack book to Mr. Bill.  His interest was definitely piqued and he wanted to know the entire story.  No time for Jack.  I had missed almost the entire summer.  I needed to go out, hit the beach and the boards and the Tiki.  I felt human again.  I had missed all the movies in the parks, outdoor concerts, beach volleyball.  And I had a wedding to attend in a week and needed a tan to go with the dress.

I did finish the book.  How could I not?  So did Mr. Bill.  He told me one of the female characters reminded him of me, but the brat wouldn’t tell me which one.  The book:  “Lunatics” by Bradley Denton.  My favorite of all his books.  One of my keepers.  Jack is in love with a moon goddess who visits once a month,  traveling by the light of the full moon.  It’s easier for her to find him if he’s naked.  Great fun.

I still, however, fail to recognize poison oak, as does the four-legged one, so I keep a hefty supply of Tecnu on hand.  And Ortho for anything I don’t think is a weed or a wildflower.

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