The decision to lance the boil on his face didn’t scare Gerry. Why visit a doctor and pay good money for something he could easily do? Holding his knife (the one with the coon hound on the grip– his nicest, cleanest pocket knife), he readied himself for the first slice into the ping-pong sized protuberance.
It was a spider bite. He had been in the shed, tossing junk around looking for the roofing nails that were hidden among the clutter he intended to organize some day. Gerry threw car parts and kicked old cans from his path, cursing each time he didn’t find what he wanted. It was in a fit of irritation that he walked, blind, into the web. He fought the clinging mess which had been alive with trapped flies and mosquitoes that tickled his face and scraped their fine legs on his coarse five o’clock shadow.
Gerry gave up his search and left the shed, repeating damnations he knew would shame his granny if she heard them up there on the other side of the Pearly Gates. He didn’t notice the bite until his right cheek began a slow burn soreness after supper while he watched television and drank a store brand beer, wondering how much a new box of roofing nails were going to set him back at the hardware store. He noticed a twinge, but paid no mind until his cheek felt engulfed in flames.
His fingers found a small mound that elicited eruptions of hurt from a delicate touch. Further inspection in the bathroom mirror revealed a feverish bump. Gerry opened the medicine cabinet and took two aspirin. During the forty years of his life, he had been attacked by many things. He had been on the chomping end of dogs, horses, fish, and even a snake once (nothing poisonous, thankfully). He been pecked by chickens numerous times. Spider bites, also, were not new territory for him.
It didn’t worry him.
It didn’t heal, either.
Despite the aspirin (and later Tylenol and Benadryl), the bump grew day by day, as did the pain in direct proportion to the size. It burned with a tingling sensation. Gerry couldn’t lay on that side of his face when he slept. He gave up shaving even when the hair fell out from around the swelling knot. As he was thinking of finally seeing a doctor, it came to a head. A taunt white head crowning the crimson volcano on his face.
Lancing boils and bumps was yet another thing not foreign to Gerry.
He poured whiskey over the knife blade, soaked it good. He leaned over the sink and positioned himself in the mirror. The toilet gurgled as he positioned the knife at the lump, the sharp point at the plump protrusion . Gerry laid the knife on the rim of the sink. It wasn’t fear that stayed his hand, or the anticipation of pain that gave him pause. It was the movement.
Something was alive under his skin. He could feel it. He could feel them. Rivers of pain as big as the Mississippi coursed throughout his face.
Gerry touched the bite. He withdrew his finger as something brushed against it from the other side. He swallowed a lump lodged in his throat, forcing it back down to his stomach from whence it had climbed.
The knife lay in repose on the sink. Gerry picked it up, his hand sweaty, but calm. With his left hand, he placed fingers to either side of the heated lump. He grit his teeth at the pain and the scurrying within his cheek. The knife hovered at the infected site. He squeezed gently.
Before he could make the first incision, the boil popped. The gangrenous odor that escaped was accompanied by a flying pulp of pus that splatted the mirror in creamy streaks and bloody rivulets. Spiders crawled there, a variety of smallish sizes. Some were drowned and captured in the ooze, others ran up and down the glass.
Gerry watched them before he caught sight of himself in the mirror and the crawlies being birthed from his cheek. He screamed. Fear was foreign territory for him. He swiped and swatted at the spiders pouring from the wound on his face.
He still held the knife. In his effort to brush away the spiders, the pocket knife had slipped from his mind. Only as the tip of the blade slipped upward through his cheek into his eye did he remember it.
Gerry let go of the knife that was buried to the hilt in his face. One-eyed, he collapsed onto the floor, slamming into the side of the toilet. The light dimmed in Gerry’s remaining eye. The world slowly faded, darker and darker.
The spiders scurried forth from their nest in the ruptured boil. They discovered the damp cave of Gerry’s mouth after crossing the bloody plains of his cheek. They probed the waterfall of his eye. In and out his nose they scampered, into his hair, the quarries of his ears, finding new lands to settle as the winds of his lungs ceased and the toilet belched thunder over their world.