The Worst Case

The absolute worst case I’ve ever had, or ever even heard of, occurred when I was a child of about ten. My family was renting a cottage near the Bay of Quinte on Lake Ontario. About the fourth day in, my younger brother and I had developed a rash all over us. The local doctor informed my mother that the region was experiencing an outbreak of skin lice commonly called ‘scabies’. He told her not to worry; her sons did not have measles or chicken pox or anything of the sort, just scabies.

A few days of hot showers and good scrubbings followed by a generous rubbing of a certain lice-killing cream all over our bodies should have cured us. It didn’t. A few sticky, oozing, itchy and downright painful days passed, and we had become covered from head to toe and everyplace in between.

I still recall wake-up time. The two of us calling to Mom to help us get out of bed so we could go pee. She would wipe our eyes with a wet cloth because they had sealed shut during the night. We would grimace and bite our tongues so as to be big boys and not cry out as she slowly peeled the sheet off of us inch by painful inch. With the sheet would go the top layer of hardened ooze from the night before.