This is a love story about two lice.
Where their journey began or what electric quiddity brought them together only future bards will know. I discovered them whirling heedless and infatuated in a courtship dance so idiotic it was almost beautiful.
But first, I took a vacation.
We left Wyoming last week for Salt Lake City because The Husband is the fun parent and wanted to take our four sons and me to the amusement parks, the golfing balconies, the arcades.
“Or,” I had offered, “we could ride our bikes to a natural mountain spring, shinny up the trees and watch birds in flight.”
“HAH!” laughed my middle-born son while packing a snorkel for the hotel pool. “Good one, Mom.”
The boys ogled Wyoming as we rolled through it and into Utah.
“That would smash open your bum if you sledded down it,” said Middleborn of Lander’s picturesque Red Canyon.
“Hey guys, I found a cloud that looks like a leech with a mustache!” cheered the big, sweet twin at the Continental Divide.
“Walmart lives HERE, too?” shrieked the little, feisty twin when we reached Evanston.
Yes, yes, the Cowboy State is full of miracles.
Near Salt Lake City, the Interstate spewed us into an arcade that whelmed with the technicolor vomit of 200 electric games. There, Middleborn won a beach ball from an enormous metal claw large enough to snatch a sugar-drunk child away from the vending machine.
Not that I ever envisioned such a use for it.
That night we rode a shimmering escalator to an all-you-can-eat buffet that I didn’t think could handle us, but it did. The Interstate then shot us into our hotel, which is the crown jewel of any vacation because there, you can jump endlessly between two adjacent beds that magically re-make themselves each day. Why even go outside?
But we did go outside the next morning, to an amusement park so luxurious, our every breath tasted of aerosolized sunscreen and cotton candy.
“This is it,” said Firstborn, gazing up at the roller coaster peaks with his solemn green eyes.
Middleborn and The Husband rode tower drops. Firstborn rode the same roller coaster 30 times. The twins put me in a teacup.
Six giant teacups seating four people each, spun on a merry-go-round platform. We strapped ourselves into the pink one. Little-Feisty discovered that by cranking the wheel in the teacup’s center, he could rotate us faster than the other teacups. And this is considered a “win.”
“It’s like the planets,” explained Big-Sweet through his flapping cheeks. “We’re spinning around a center, but we’re also rotating.”
The all-you-can-eat buffet churned under my esophagus.
“C’mon, help me go faster!” yelled Little-Feisty to Big-Sweet. They both spun.
I suppressed my nausea by shifting my focus from our puréed surroundings to the twins’ determined expressions; their noses wrinkling, their teeth gritting in the shade of two oversized baseball caps.
Finally, the ride slowed to a halt.
“Which way is west? Nobody KNOWS!” roared Little-Feisty with the certainty of a man who’s made his mark on the world.
I stood and wobbled.
“Woah, Mom,” said Little-Feisty, glancing furtively at the other riders. “Get it together, OK?”
The twins walked me to a red roller coaster where The Husband and the other boys met us. Everybody had a riding buddy, and mine was Big-Sweet, who squeezed my hand bloodless as our cart crept to the top of its fearsome precipice.
In that moment, I glanced at his soft brown hair gleaming in the full sun – and my blood went cold. Two adult lice danced in his hair. I tried to reach for them but, just then, the roller coaster blasted us down a slope, whipped us left, then right, then up another slope and down it.
The lice had no idea that only gravity and man’s foolhardy inventions stayed my hand from ending their honeymoon in a bloody catastrophe. Big-Sweet smiled and grabbed my outstretched hand.
Once safely back on the ground, I gripped Big-Sweet’s shoulders and planted him in front of me.
“Hold still,” I snapped.
The whole family gathered around us.
“What is it?” asked The Husband.
I crushed the bride between my thumb and forefinger.
“I think he has lice,” I grumbled.
All the boys gasped.
I smashed the groom between my thumb and my darling son’s scalp. Then, standing in a rush of adrenaline-hungry Americans, I sifted through every strand of Big-Sweet’s hair. But no more lice could be found.
“I think you got lucky and caught the first two,” said The Husband.
“No,” I said. “We have to treat everyone, just in case.”
He sighed. “OK. I know what that means.”
“Right,” I nodded. “Evacuate everyone and torch the park.”
“What – no!” stammered The Husband. “It means we have to go to the store for supplies after this.”
So we went with The Husband’s plan, not mine. I slathered my own hair in Vaseline and tea tree oil, buzzed and lice-combed Big-Sweet’s hair, then oiled and inspected everyone else’s scalps with a flashlight and a magnifying glass. No one had lice.
(The Husband was already bald before this.)
Big-Sweet had, somehow, intercepted two honeymooning lice in a spinning teacup, let them swoon in his warm earthen musk, and carried them unknowingly to their gruesome deaths at the foot of a roller coaster.
And that’s how all love stories should end, when they’re about lice.