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Reality -- What A Concept

Crustaceans On The Move

Sunsh Stein

Previous Installment: Birth... And a Child is Born

What do you mean you have crabs?" Laurie stared at me incredulously.

I shrugged. "I found them last night."

"But how? Who?" she sputtered.

"I don't know. I have no idea where they came from."

"How am I going to tell Glen? He's so neat and clean…so…so fastidious." Laurie was not taking this well.

"I'm going to town to do a massive laundry and to buy some Quell. Next time you see Glen you could just hand him the bottle."

"It's not funny, Sunshine," she snapped, her green eyes narrowing. "I want Glen. I don't want to scare him off."

"Laurie, it's not like I'm happy about this. I have to tell Martin too, you know. Maybe you guys won't get them."

She looked down at the skirt she wore and eyed me suspiciously. "Have you worn this lately?" she asked.


"You sure?"

"Yeah." I didn't tell her that I'd stopped wearing the skirts she wore after I saw her blowing her two-year-old son Jason's nose into one. "You're safe there, but I think I wore that shirt last week," I added.

It was the first week of June and I had discovered the little buggers the night before while getting cleaned up for Bonnie's birthday. We were throwing a birthday boogie that night, but we also had a fuckload of planting to do during the day. Fortunately nature celebrated the anniversary of Bonnie's birth by giving us a day where the leaves grew visibly fuller and greener as the sun rose higher in the sky. Perfect planting weather. Everyone wanted to be in the garden, including me, but I'd taken on baking the cake and making a good chunk of the party food. I was stuck inside that morning.

Right after breakfast I put chickpeas on the stove, and with them cooking I mixed the cake together. Thank god, we had unbleached white flour so I didn't have to grind any wheat and the cake wouldn't be a total lead weight from our eggless and honey-as-sweetener diet. The dome we lived in had emptied out so I could work unimpeded and get outside as soon as possible. I'd even volunteered to do the breakfast dishes so I could get everyone else out. Cleaning anything other than the dishes was pointless because the family would wander in and out all day trailing dirt, deserting used bowls, chopsticks, and mugs on every surface, and as the day got hotter leaving stray clothing lying about along with dirt-caked seed packets. A group effort would make the dome party ready at the end of the work day. I finished the dishes, took the cake out of the oven, set it to cool on the counter, and headed out to the garden with a dubie to join the planting brigade. I left the chickpeas simmering, reminding whoever went in to check the stove.

From mid-morning to late afternoon, I baked in the sun, digging, raking, planting, tamping dirt, and watering with my sisters and brothers. Always offering little words of encouragement to the newly planted seeds. With just over two weeks to summer solstice, the sun and our far north location favored us with long days, so when I returned to the kitchen to finish the birthday dinner, everyone else still had a few hours more to till and toil.

With the chickpeas succulent and tender, I boiled water for the store bought elbow macaroni, lit a joint, then sat down and thought about bread. A great idea. But there was no time to grind the grain, mix the yeast, hand beat in the one-cup-at-a-time flour, let it rise for an hour, add salt, oil and eight more cups of flour, knead the dough, let it rise for another hour, punch it down, let it rise again, knead and shape it into loaves, let them rise briefly, then bake. Not today baby — not even with shortcuts. Just thinking about it made me tired. Still, I was on a roll with the food prep and wanted to give the impending assembled masses something more. I pulled out Uncle John's Bread Book and turned to the Irish soda bread recipe -- so easy even Charas could make it -- stir the dry ingredients, blend the wet, mix together, knead 5 minutes, shape and bake. And always a hit.

I dumped the cooked pasta into the bowl with the chickpeas, then chopped onions, radishes and a few pea shoots from the garden and added them, all the while bemoaning the lack of later-in-the-season veggies to spark the mix. Next I peeled garlic-- clove after clove after clove -- smashed it through the garlic press into a jar with freshly made yogurt and tamari, and shook it all together making a sharp, tangy dressing for the chickpea macaroni salad. The cake needed frosting, hmm, no butter, no powdered sugar. I mixed honey, carob and yogurt to a reasonable consistency — my tastebuds reacting to the contrast of tang to sweet -- and slathered it on.

Spindle and Joy came in with spinach and early lettuce from the garden, along with wild lamb's quarters they picked in the meadow and put together a green salad. Everyone else trickled in from the garden, and after bathing hung out in and around the dome and the attached workshop. My work was done, boogie time approached. I was sweaty and ready to party.

Feeling tired, but pleased with myself and my labors, I trotted off to the creek, happy to be outside on this beautiful evening. I dropped my clothes on the little concrete bridge and slid into the water, sitting down in the little creek bed. The cool water tingled life into my clammy skin; I lay back and put my head in, my hair fanning out around me. A dusky almost violet color was creeping over the bright sky; the air felt soft; the bugs were at a minimum, so were the snakes. I savored this all too rare peaceful moment alone.

After lolling around for a few minutes pretending there was no one else on the farm but me, I picked up the Dr. Bronner's soap and began to wash. It was then that I noticed them. What I thought was dirt in my pubic hair didn't wash away, and in fact, seemed to be moving. I wasn't stoned. I looked again. Yup, it moved ever so slightly. I saw another speck doing the same slow crawl. Oh man, what was on my body? Then it hit me. Crabs -- I had fucking crabs. I'd never had them, or even seen them, but I knew that's what it had to be. They hadn't been on the commune before, but somehow they had come down the road and chosen my body as their gateway to a new community. That explained the sometimes unbearable itching I'd had for the past many weeks. I examined the rest of my body for other interlopers.

What I knew about crabs was that they itched and were catching. I didn't know just how easily they traveled around collecting hosts. A year before, clean and neat in my Milwaukee flat, I would have freaked and been grossed out at the thought of body lice living on my own particular body. Now, not knowing what a hassle the little fuckers would be, I mostly took it in stride. It was part of the trip -- maybe even a certain rite of passage.

I climbed out of the creek, dried myself, picked up my clothes and walked back to the house.

"I think I have crabs," I announced to Spindle who sat outside the dome nursing our baby Rainbow. "Take a look."

I pushed my crotch into her face so she could see.

She looked at my pubes. She looked at me. She sighed. "You've got them," she confirmed.

''What do I do?" I asked.

"Ugh, what a mess. We'll have to do a giant laundry -- all the towels, all the sheets, all the clothes. You don't get them just from fucking. They linger in stuff and get on another body. Hmm . . . I wonder where you got them," she mused. "Anyway, there's this stuff you get at the drugstore to wash with -- like a shampoo. I think it's called Quell. It kills them. We'll need a big bottle."

A home like ours was heaven to these critters I learned. When someone put a towel down someone else picked it up, we shared clothes even though our sizes and genders varied, and since our house had burned down last winter our sleeping arrangements were often helter skelter -- bedding didn't always have the same body imprint from one night to the next. The little crustaceans could easily build a vast kingdom hopping from body to sheet to body to shirt to another body to towel to yet another body. The day after the party had to be town trip laundromat day. Everyone in the family had to be told, as well as anyone who may have been a guest in our homey digs, and any of us who slept away from home needed to let the unsuspecting hosts know they might have unexpected guests.

Who left me with these things? I was pissed and felt duty bound to track down the gift giver, though how I wasn't quite sure. But not now. Jackie, Paul and Glen arrived bearing tequila. It was time to party.