Outdoors

Ammi Midstokke: That time a worst nightmare came true

When you live alone in the mountains with a kid, relying on solar power and YouTube instructional videos to keep your house running, you have a different set of fears than the general population. Among mine: a string of cloudy days, carburetor issues on my chainsaw and head lice.

The latter has been a concern of mine since my chicklet attended the hippie socialist kindergarten in the forests of Germany, where lice and ticks were a daily warning. While we plucked many a tick off her tiny body, we somehow managed to escape the infestation of other critters.

So as one might imagine, the flood of vitriol that emitted from my vocal cords subsequent to that fatal phone call was hardly appropriate for printed publication.

“Umm, the kids have lice.”

These phone calls always happen at approximately 10 p.m. when said single mother is running around like a banshee trying to pack the last items for a desert camping trip departing at sunrise. That is always a super convenient time to locate some head chemo and start shampooing, well, everything.

Lice, as far as I am concerned, is the minor’s version of an STD. It even comes with all the social stigma and snake oil cures, though I couldn’t find anyone treating lice with mercury. This was somewhat of a relief because I’d read Casanova’s autobiography and by the time he died, he’d consumed enough mercury to land himself on the far end of the crazy spectrum. (Whereas prior to that, he was just in the middle but without a moral compass.)

I immediately set the phone down, finished my swear rant that was beginning to sound like Brooklyn slam poetry, and started combing through my daughter’s fine, blonde hair. I felt like a primate, except I wasn’t compelled to eat anything. Much to my dismay, I found lice.

This discovery was followed with a robust heebie-jeebies dance across the bathroom floor where I hoped that the sheer force of my emotional repulsion would eject the critters. This was not the case. In fact, they seemed perfectly content to wiggle their way along strands of hair, ignoring my hysteria and doing whatever such parasites do. It was a Thursday, probably trivia night or something at the local dive behind the right ear.

Not quite sure what one actually does to eradicate such a visitor, and unable to convince my 11-year-old to shave her head, I briefly considered finding some Napalm on the dark web. I couldn’t locate any studies confirming the efficacy of this treatment for anything less nefarious than war crimes, so I sourced a box of some ominous-looking shampoo at the pharmacy. They keep it right next to all the other embarrassing purchases like hemorrhoid cream, prophylactics and reading glasses.

The directions said: “leave on for 10 minutes,” but I left it on until my scalp felt like a gastric ulcer and my child complained of burning eyes. If anything, our hair would just fall out and the problem would resolve itself. After we’d washed our hair and I’d stopped dry-heaving, we did no less than 1,400 loads of laundry before sunrise. The last thing you want in the desert is a colony of lice on your scalp, in your tent, far from running water.

The second-degree burns on my skin must have been at least moderately effective and it would appear that the postshampoo itching was mostly related to the chemical exposure. Surely no lice would survive that.

Ten days later, like life-cycle clockwork, the little buggers reappeared, just a few stragglers, genetic anomalies. This time, we were prepared with all the hippie sauce one could imagine, and the world’s tiniest comb. Our new nightly ritual is extensive haircare, washing linens and drinking snake oil. Though if I find any more little bugs, I’m going to ignore my own moral compass and invite Monsanto to make me some shampoo.

At least these sunny days are keeping the batteries charged for my 24-hour laundering operation. And sleeping in fresh sheets every night isn’t half bad either.

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at ammimarie@gmail.com, where all recommendations for eradication are more than welcome.