The Mast-Head: Fear and Loathing

    The tick was almost inconceivably small, so small that I put it under the kids’ microscope to be sure. But yes, as the four-power lens focused on it, it was a tick, a thing no larger than the dot from a sharpened pencil.
    The dunes and froggy bogs where we live in Amagansett are tick central and have been especially so this year. Most of the members of the family have been bitten, though I seem to get the worst of it. “Tick checks!” for everyone are required after outdoor play.
    Pruning brush alongside the driveway I have acquired the little beasts. Reaching into the weeds to clean up after the raccoons have toppled the garbage seems another sure vector. One footstep in the wrong direction and dozens of these diminutive nymph ticks swarm up. I remember being out at Lazy Point one fall day, luckily wearing light-color khaki trousers, and seeing a surge of dark dots heading up the fabric.
    One thing I have noticed about ticks lately is that the big, easy to stop ones that were so common in my childhood are encountered far less frequently. Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I pulled one of those off myself or the kids.
    The dogs are a different story. I can tell when it’s time to reapply their Frontline or Advantix by how much scratching they do. Big ticks, small ticks, they get them all — and no doubt bring them into the house.
    As far as I know, I have never had Lyme disease, though my wife has had the telltale bull’s-eye mark and gone on antibiotics. We suspect that Ellis, our toddler, has had it as well. It is intriguing that a delayed-onset food allergy to red meat and dairy, which I share with our oldest child, has been potentially linked by a Virginia research team to tick bites — yet another reason to hate the little nightmares.
    The recent tick, the one I stuck to clear plastic tape and put under he microscope, transfixed my attention on and off all day Sunday. I stared at it again and again through the eyepiece, wondering how something so small could cause so much trouble.
    Eventually, one of the kids noticed and said I was obsessed. She was right, I thought. I folded up the tape with the tick inside and dropped in into the kitchen trash can under the sink. I put the microscope up on a shelf.