As an adult, I can go anywhere and eat anything without getting sick. This stems, I believe, from the remarkable immune system I picked up along my travels. Granted, the State Department made damned sure we were immunised against absolutely every possibility out there, and I have the shot records to prove it.
State hands out these little yellow booklets to everyone going overseas that you’re supposed to present whenever someone official demands it; it’s called an International Certificate of Vaccination, or “yellow health card.” It’s supposed to show all of the immunisations you’ve had that will ensure, they hope, that you don’t drop dead in that particular country. Unfortunately, whoever designed this little booklet had never had to travel to the assorted countries I did. It was too short for our purposes, and they ended up stapling extra pages into it so that my shot record looked more like an accordion file. Rubella? Check. Measles? Check. Smallpox? Not a problem. Bubonic plague, hepatitis (A and B, thank you), typhoid, yellow fever….
Needless to say, I’m no wimp when it comes to getting jabs!
In spite of all the precautions, though, shit happens. Frequently, to me.
My puppy Snoopy
Not much you can do about a rabid dog, and frankly, this could have happened even to someone from Wichita, though probably not on the scale and concomitant absurdity with which it happened to me and, seemingly, everyone I knew within a fifty-metre radius.
I had a dog named Snoopy. He was a little black mutt, just a puppy, and too young for his rabies vaccination. Which is a shame, because wouldn’t you know it, poor Snoopy got rabies. (Caught? Received? I don’t know; he got really sick.) We know Poor Snoopy got rabies because one day when I came home from school, he ran up to greet me as usual, but instead of stopping and begging to be scratched, he ripped my face off. I guess I started screaming because my mother came out and for the only time in my life that I’ve seen, almost lost it. My face was covered in blood, and there was Poor Snoopy beside me, looking really sad and pitiful, knowing deep down somewhere in his damaged brain that he’d done something very wrong. In the hullabaloo of getting me to the Embassy clinic, I guess they forgot to lock up Poor Snoopy, because he then went on to bite the gardener, the maid’s daughter, and I think half of the rest of the neighbourhood! Rabies makes you crazy like that.
They eventually caught Poor Snoopy, and he was put into a closet that was part of the house but with a door on the outside. To be certain he had rabies (because apparently this wasn’t obvious from the insane behaviour he’d exhibited!), he had to die a natural death so that they could examine the mush that was left of his brain.
It took him a long time to die. Loudly, howling in agony. I can hear it in my head to this day. Needless to say, I’ve never really wanted another dog after Snoopy.
When he finally did die, the Embassy clinic told my mom to send the head to Thailand for analysis. (Because we still aren’t sure!?)
“Just cut his head off, and we’ll send it down to Bangkok for you.”
“With WHAT?!” my mother wanted to know.
“Oh, you know, those big kitchen cleavers are a good tool for that.”
Yeah, nuff said about the beheading. In the meantime, I was subjected to what is now an old-fashioned solution to being bitten by a rapid dog: 21 rabies shots in the stomach—did I mention it was a very big needle? One per day. Well, actually, two per day: the shots themselves were so painful, that they’d jab you first with Novocain to deaden the pain.
Still, at least I didn’t have to die in a closet with my brain turned to mush.