By the time we’ve finished up at the house that night, Sonnet and I are both beat. We came inside during the heat of the day to work on stripping the wallpaper in the kitchen. It didn’t matter how many “stripper” jokes I made, I don’t think she ever cracked a smile. See, that’s why we never got along. She could never lower herself to be even slightly amused by the comedic stylings of world-renowned funnyman, Andrew Clark. I was elected Class Clown for a reason, you know.
“What did I do with my shoes?” she asks as soon as I crack open a cold one from the trusty cooler I packed up this morning. “And don’t you have to work tonight?” she asks when she eyes me taking a nice, healthy swig.
She’s such a buzzkill.
“A) I don’t know where your shoes are and B) nope, I’m off this weekend. Fuck yeah!” I wink at her, quickly deciding not to let her sour mood ruin mine.
“How did you manage that in the middle of the season?” she questions, getting a curious look in her eye.
“I told my boss I really needed to work on the house this weekend. She knows we gotta get this place fixed up, so I sweet-talked my way into a weekend off once a month this summer.”
“Well, good for you. I’m probably going to take some time off too once we figure out what the contractor is going to handle and what we’re going to do ourselves. If we only work on this place on the weekends, we’ll never finish before the end of the summer. And we really need to get this thing on the market by August first or we might as well wait until spring.”
That gives us almost two months, I calculate. “Agreed.” Well, at least a quick turn-around time is one thing we can both agree on. I notice she has found her shoes and slipped them on. “Where are you going?”
“I think I’m going to walk over to the boardwalk and grab something to eat,” she answers. I know she sees my eyes light up because her lips turn up with the tiniest smirk. “Do you want to come with me?”
She said the magical words.
But wait. Going with her means being seen in public with her. Willingly. It seems a little….odd. A little too much like a….date. But my stomach is growling, and it gets to make any decisions Drew Jr. isn’t going to make, so I agree to dinner.
As we’re trekking along the few blocks to the boardwalk, I notice Sonnet is walking funny. “What’s going on? Did you hurt your foot or something?” I ask, remembering my mother’s admonishment not to be a dickhead. Of course, she didn’t put it so…colorfully.
“I think there’s something in my shoe.” She sighs as she glances down at her hideous neon-colored running shoes, the kind that looks both ludicrous and outrageously expensive at the same time. “Hold on a sec, okay?” She gives me a little smirk.
I stop walking and watch her take off her shoe. The sunlight is fading into an rusty orange streak as it slips toward the purple horizon, so she fails to see anything when she peers inside. But when she turns the shoe upside down, a small object falls out onto the sidewalk. It looks round, almost like a dollop of poop or something, so of course I have to bend down and inspect it.
“Ewww, it’s a millipede!” I stand back up to poise my foot over it, preparing to smash it to smithereens.
“Wait, no!” She forcefully grabs me by the arm, and even with her tiny body, she manages to shove me a yard or two away from the creepy-crawly creature. “What do you think you’re doing?!” she demands with obvious moral outrage.
“Uh, protecting your honor?” I retort. Come on, she was violated by that stealthy multi-legged worm! Or at least her shoe was.
“It’s just a harmless millipede! It didn’t do anything wrong!” She smiles, crouching down to have a closer look at it. It’s all curled up into a ball, it’s million legs completely hidden by its hard brown shell. It slowly unfurls and starts to wiggle across the sidewalk. “See? It’s so cute!” she fawns over it, her face all animated with a grin.
“Yeah, real cute.” I shake my head.
We manage to have a fairly enjoyable dinner. She eats a huge salad heaped with every vegetable known to mankind, while I scarf down a steak and its rightful, god-ordained companion: steak fries. She tries not to get too grossed out by the salacious way I’m savoring my medium rare rotting cow flesh (as she referred to it multiple times), and I try not to get too grossed out by her unexplainable enthusiasm for broccoli.
“I’m dying to see the estimates,” she says as we head back to Aunt Penny’s house. “I want to get this show on the road!” I nod in agreement, noticing the sun has completely surrendered to the moon, which is hanging over the ocean like a giant pearl. I can hear the waves crashing on the shore from a block away. I’d ask her if she wanted to go down there and take a look, but that feels a little too romantic – i.e. icky – in my book.
“What is the deal with my foot tonight?” she asks as I swing the front door open to what will hopefully soon be a charming beach cottage. “First the millipede, and now it feels…weird and kinda tingly.” She scrunches up her nose with the last word as if she can’t quite decide if she’s freaked out or in pain.
She promptly sits on the plastic-covered couch to take her shoes off. She stretches her sock-covered feet out in front of her, examining them as I head into the kitchen. “Huh, seems normal,” she proclaims. I’m grabbing a beer from my trusty cooler when I hear a loud gasp, quickly followed by a sharp shriek.
I take my time prying the cap off my beer bottle before heading into the living room to see what the fuss is about. I find her gripping her left foot in her hand, her eyes approximately the size of the full moon we saw hanging over the shore.
“Andrew!” she chokes out. “Oh my god, look at my foot!” She moves her hand away to reveal large purple splotches up and down her skin from her big toe to her heel.
“What the hell is that?” I ask. “Looks like purple dye!”
“It’s BURNING!” she screams as the air begins to circulate around her foot.
“What do you mean ‘burning?’”
She doesn’t answer me. Her face turns red as she hops up and down on her right foot all the way into the kitchen where she hoists her slim, perfectly toned leg up onto the counter. She shoves her whole left foot under the faucet, which is turned full-blast on cold.
“Wait, did the millipede do this?” she gasps again. “The millipede!” She turns around to look at me with her dark eyes on fire. “Google it, google it!” she demands, bouncing up and down on her right foot.
“Google what?” I ask her, still confused as hell but highly amused by the scene unfolding in Aunt Penny’s kitchen.
“Google whether or not millipedes can hurt you!” she replies as if I’m a complete moron. It’s the same tone I remember her using in 9th grade when I screwed up the animal we were supposed to dissect in biology class.
I whip my phone out of my pocket, and my thumbs furiously fly across the keyboard until a set of search results appear. My eyes grow to the same size as Sonnet’s as I read aloud: “Certain types of millipedes release a harmful substance if they are threatened or if you handle them roughly. The harmful chemicals in millipede toxin are Hydrochloric acid, Hydrogen cyanide, Organic acids –” I throw my phone on the counter. “Holy shit, Sonnet, you’ve got millipede poisoning!”
“Oh my god, what do I do?” she screams back at me. Her face is contorted with fear and pain, her arms flailing as she wildly gestures at me. I have never seen her look so worried, not even in sixth grade when I snapped her bra so hard the strap broke, and she had to go to the nurse’s office to get some help fixing it. Man, I was such a jerk! No wonder my mom told me to be nice.
I pick up my phone again and continue reading, giving her the highlights, “You may notice a brown stain and/or intense burning and itching.”
“Yes, yes, go on!” she urges me as the cold water continues to run over her splotch-covered foot.
“It says you should wash with soap and water and go to the ER if it’s in your eye. It’s not in your eye, right?”
She shakes her head with a slight sense of relief.
I finish speed-reading the WebMD article. “Looks like you’re good.” I lay the phone back down. “Carry on then,” I encourage her with a little wave and a bow.
Her eyes narrow as she processes my flippant response. “What? That’s it? I’m just going to have these purple marks on my skin or what?”
“Yeah for a while, or so the all-powerful intrawebz say,” I reassure her. I open one of Aunt Penny’s drawers that I suspect contains dishcloths. Turns out I’m right. I hand her one and she pats off her foot, examining the dark patches of skin.
“Oh my god, they’re HOT to the touch!” she gasps.
“Yeah, it’s a chemical burn,” I confirm.
She shakes her head. “Who knew we had poisonous millipedes around here?!”
I laugh. “I bet you wish you’d have let me stomp on it now, don’t you?”
“Don’t even!” she fires back. “Poor little defenseless thing. It’s not its fault my big ole foot tried to squish it!”
“Really?” I look at her incredulously.
“Yeah, it’s still a living creature. I wouldn’t want to harm it!”
“Even though it harmed you?”
She nods emphatically. “I’ll be fine,” she assures me. And just like that, all traces of panic are gone from her face and voice.
I’m honestly impressed her freak out session was so short in duration. Hell, I would have freaked out a lot more. Better her than me, that’s for sure.