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Ask Tuffy – Bite Me? Sunday, August 19, 2007

Posted by Tuffy in ask tuffy, tuffy.
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Orchid negro! It is good to see you!

Dear Tuffy,

I have a very serious problem; I need your help badly. See, I was gardening in the back yard the other day. I have these finicky orchids that are always dying, so I spend a lot of time out there. I’m out there working in the flower garden when I hear my neighbor struggling with a crate he had sent from his ex-pat son from Chile. So I head over and help him carry it in the house. (Turns out it was a bunch of books in Spanish about obscure Chilean history and food. Boring.)

However, while moving the crate, something crawled on my leg and took a chomp out of me. I swatted it off with my other foot and stomped the hell out of it, but it started getting pretty red and raw right away.

After a few days, I started to feel lazy all the time and not very hungry. I just wanted to lie in bed all day. So I called my doctor and went out to see him the next morning. He rubbed his chin and said “I see” a lot while he took pictures and blood samples and scrapings and I don’t remember what all else. He gave me this cream to make it feel better while I waited for the test results to return. It didn’t really help, but it was something.

Anyway, the doc calls back a week later and says I have this rare South American disease that can only be passed by an infected spider that dies soon after getting the disease itself. What luck, right? Then I end up quarantined in my home and the CDC crawling all over the place, looking for “indicators” and “predilections” and “stuff”.

While I’m stuck in my house waiting for the HazMat edition of Meals for Wheels to drop by three times a week, I’m still itching like hell and you can only soak your leg in a vat of chamomile lotion for so many weeks at a time, y’know? So I’m digging around on the Internet and I find out there’s only one known possible cure for the rash. Of course, it’s in Chile. I guess that makes sense for a South American disease, but it’s damned inconvenient. If the disease could come up here, why not the cure? Right?

Well, it turns out the only people that know the cure are these few natives deep in the forests of Chile. Since it’s such a rare disease, no big pharmaceutical company bothered to steal it from them for nothing. Therefore, it never escaped to the outside world. I’m starting to think at this point that this spider was sent by its little spider friends to get back at me for working as an exterminator during the summers while I was in college.

I tried to get ahold of someone on the phone, but it’s apparently a touchy subject. Most people hung up on me or told me to get lost in broken English. Then the Chilean consulate called me and said that they were sorry that no one could help me and that it was a real shame that I was gonna be Itchy McSmellsLikeChamomile for the rest of my life and that they wished me luck in never calling Chile again and asking so many questions.

Now at this point, I’m driving myself nuts with the rash and it’s not getting smaller on its own and in my mind it’s getting bigger and deeper red and I think I may have to buy a chainsaw to cure this. So I decide to sneak out of the country and go to Chile, no matter how hard it would be to break the quarantine. Maybe, you know, I could find this Hechim tribe to show me the cure so I can rub/ingest/sing it and stop obsessing over my leg.

As it turns out, a CDC quarantine is enforced about as strongly as Marion Barry’s tax responsibilities. Two days later, I was on a plane to Santiago.

Since then, I have been robbed of all my cash by a native con man, fell in and out of love with a low-level government paper pusher, been lost in the woods for a week with nothing to eat but bugs and toxic leaves which left me incontinent for three days, and had my first forcible homosexual experience. Tuffy, I’m at my wit’s end and I may have to gnaw my leg off for any satisfaction. What do I do?

Vexed in Valparaíso

Dear Vexed,

It is very easy to water orchids too much; be sure to carefully measure the amount of water they receive and match it to the environment and species. If you keep them properly watered and give them as much indirect (not direct) light as you can, you will succeed in growing these hardy yet beautiful flowers. Good luck!

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