I don’t like Aunt Nancy, but then again I do

Spiders like our house. Until this week I have not wanted to have it sprayed, but one brown recluse bite later, my tune is changing. The little devil bit me behind my knee on Monday night. By Tuesday morning I had a black-and-blue spot with a dark center, and by 2pm I was feeling vertigo and nausea, so went to the doctor. She said it was a brown recluse, gave me a steroid and antibiotic shot and sent me to the pharmacy for more antibiotic pills. By 4:30pm I was trying to find a comfortable way to sit, wrapped up in a blanket to stop the chills. Fever set in. I started Facebooking for a little pity and advice, since as it happened no one was home that night, which made me feel rather pathetic. At 101.2 I was graduating to surreal, and my Fb posts show it! I was prepared to call ER if it rose to 102, but finally about 45 minutes after the ibuprofen I’d taken set in, it began dropping from a high of 101.4 to a steady 100. I could think and eat again. Watched an episode of “The Following.” Went to bed, slept. . .

By morning I was feeling pretty chipper, so I went to work and then headed up to Louisville to listen to an interview of Michael Pollan (re his new book, Cooked) by Wendell Berry–more on that in another post. Then the stabbing began again. I went out to the car during the (boring) Q/A and put my leg up. Bactroban cream only works awhile. My friend Leslie drove part of the way home so I could keep the leg up. Went to bed thinking, “it needs rest,” but what it needed was to complain some more, and some more. Finally got up at 2am and went to the kitchen, took another tylenol with codeine, had a glass of wine, and finally crawled back in to bed, and finally to sleep, at 4am, after too many games of Solitaire and Scrabble.

Moral of the story: Don’t let Aunt Nancy bite you!

I was reminded of the nickname by Erika Brady, one of WKU’s fine folklore professors, who responded to my Facebook trauma posts, so this morning I got back on google and low and behold, discovered that one of my favorite novels–one that I’VE published about–Paule Marshall’s Praisesong for the Widow, integrates the “Ghanian spider-trickster, Kwaku Ananse,” into the novel and in particular, the characters Joseph Lebert and Aunt Cuney. I wrote about African myths in my article, but did not know about Ananse. I wish I’d had this article (by Shanna Greene Benjamin, “Weaving the Web of Reintegration”) when I wrote my own, back in 1996….but instead of my quoting her, she quotes me (twice). Sweet! Thanks, Shanna Benjamin . . . (if you see this, let me know!) So, if it weren’t for my spider bite, Erika wouldn’t have commented on the dangers of Aunt Nancy, which wouldn’t have sent me off on my little google scavenger hunt, and would therefore have never turned up Benjamin’s article quoting mine! Crafty web-making here!

Here’s the little critter we’re talking about:

Aunt Nancy Brown Recluse

Aunt Nancy Brown Recluse


I am not going to post any of the many grotesque images from google of the recluse bites of those poor folks out there who either didn’t get help soon enough or for some other reason found their flesh disintegrating. Suffice it to say that my site is very black and blue, red, angry, and still growing. But now, thanks to my doctor, I have begun a second antibiotic. (Also thanks to her I’ve got some Lortabs for tonight)….

Aunt Nancy, you are strong, but you can’t have me!

5 thoughts on “I don’t like Aunt Nancy, but then again I do

    • Thanks, Heather. It’s painful for sure. Feels like a knife stabbing into the area–and when it does that, I keep thinking, there goes more tissue! . . . But it’s healing….

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  1. Reminds my of my double-barreled shingles-and-gallbladder episode last summer, which I continue to view as the high point of 2012. I’m not being snarky – the combination of extreme discomfort, enforced bedrest, and (I confess it) drugs all led to a genuine elation and some insights I’m still working on. As my Dad’s best buddy from the RAF used to maintain, “No reconnaissance is ever wasted.”

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  2. I was going to say thanks for the great “folk etymology” lesson here, then I realized this could be my chance to use the words etymology and entomology in the same sentence if I were clever enough. Hope it gets better soon. Still not enough to make me spray poison in the house.

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    • Thanks, Ellen! I’m going to request some environmentally safe spray…. And I’d like to see that sentence! Maybe throw in another 5-syllable e-word for good measure….

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