This afternoon I was sitting on my bed, admiring the welts on my legs, fighting the urge to scratch my mosquito bites when I saw my 7 year-old sister Adrianna peeking at me. She gave a little shiver when she saw that I had caught her spying on me. “Do they hurt?” she eeked in the tiniest voice; her thin frame seemed to provide no resonance.
“Yes! They’re driving me crazy!” I said, eager to share my misery with anyone who would listen.
“I know something that will fix it.” She took a seat at the bottom of the two concrete steps leading into my room. I was on the edge of the bed looking out at her, thinking how small she was, this sweet little mouse who claimed to have the answer to my problems.
“You do? What is it?”
She smiled at me mysteriously. “You have to come with me and I’ll show you.” I looked at her for a minute. Her hair was a wind-blown cloud of brown curls that bounced over her shoulders, a wild child but so quiet. The sun was starting to go down and I knew we had very little time before the next mosquito attack would begin, so I made a quick decision. “OK, let’s go!” Adrianna told Paca she was going out with me and that we’d be back in less than an hour. We walked out the door and away from town, passing the drug store and the market along the way.
“Where are we going? They don’t have it in town?” I asked. Adrianna smiled at me like she was looking at an imbecile.
“No, they don’t have it in the store. You don’t have to buy anything.” She kept looking at me slyly, smiling but saying nothing as we continued on our trek. Every now and then she would nod or shake her head in response to my questions but she was obviously focused and my babbling didn’t interest her. Soon we were on the road out of town. It was flanked by green fields with wild plants, weeds and grass. I looked down at my petite, enigmatic companion and realized we were looking for herbs to make a poultice for my legs. I pointed out plants as we walked, trying to be helpful. I started to doubt her. After all, she was a very young child who might not know exactly what she was looking for. “Is it that one?” I said, pointing out different plants.
“No,” she answered repeatedly. Then I saw a glimmer in her eyes. “I think we found it,” she said gleefully. I followed her gaze to a strange looking weed that was growing next to a giant cow turd. She ran over to it. Ignoring the weed, she stood and beamed, pointing down at the cow turd. Was this a joke? Did she bring me all the way out here to play a trick on me? I was still looking at her when to my amazement she bent over and started to pick up the poop.
“NO!” I screamed at her. “Don’t touch it!”
She laughed at me. “It’s ok, it’s dry.” She picked up a stick and tapped the turd with it so that I could hear it. It was a big crap meringue.
“Wait, how is this going to help?”
“You’ll see,” she said, walking back toward the house with the cow pie in hand, oblivious to my concerns.
My mind was reeling. She had picked up poop with her bare hands. I was going to be in so much trouble if Francie found out that I hadn’t prevented this horrible insult to hygiene. I’d wash and sterilize her hands somehow when we got home. I ran to catch up with her, continuing to protest and question her as we walked but she kept giving me her closed mouth smile. I was still an imbecile to her. Did she think she was going to get me to make a poultice of cow shit and pat it on my legs? I wasn’t that desperate...or was I?
“Let’s just forget it, Adrianna. Let’s leave it here,” I pleaded but she ignored me and kept on walking.
When we got home, I saw to my dismay that Francie was already back from work. She and Paca saw what Adrianna was carrying and smiled at us. They didn’t think we were crazy. This was not a joke. Francie grabbed a box of long wooden matches and Adrianna led our little procession back to my doorway where she set the cow pie down on the steps and proceeded to light it on fire. It burned slowly, like incense and Adrianna picked it up and gently blew the red embers so that the cow pie began to smolder. A long, smokey serpent danced its way into my room.
“The smoke will help keep the mosquitos away, “ Francie said. Paca, Adrianna, and Francie all looked at me, now they all wore the smile. Maybe I am an imbecile. But there will be no mosquitos in my room tonight.
|Adrianna and the cow pie.|