par·a·site [par-uh-sahyt] : NOUN
1. organism living on another: a plant or animal that lives on or in another, usually larger, host organism in a way that harms or is of no advantage to the host
2. scrounger: somebody who exploits others without doing anything in return
[ Mid-16th century. Via Latin Greek parasitos "somebody who eats from another's table" sitos "grain, food" ]
"This bug won't come off me!" my voice climbed a little higher than I might've liked, but I was slightly terrified by the small speck of an insect that seemed so adamant about making my forearm its new home.
Jacob and I had spent the better part of the morning. He had insisted that - coordination or not - I couldn't live another day having never climbed a tree. He'd asked how I made it to eighteen without such an experience. I had to remind him that I was the boring only child of two only children. I'd managed to work my way about ten feet up a pine. My legs dangled off a branch as I clung to one at my chest level for stability. It was a good feeling of accomplishment and Jacob didn't know whether to grant me years for facing my fears and climbing, or dock them because I was clearly regressing. What self-respecting eighteen year old climbed trees?
It had been a wonderful day. We were outside in unfamiliar surroundings, doing unfamiliar things. I didn't feel like my chest was about to cave in. Nothing triggered my panic. In fact, the exertion of climbing had flooded my fingers and cheeks with a warm flush. For the first time in months, I breathed easily - my body craving oxygen as I pulled and pushed myself up into the tree's limbs.
However, I'd apparently acquired a stowaway on my way up or down.
Jake glanced over. "Oh," he said in casual recognition. "It's just a tick, Bella."
"You don't get outside much, do you?" He laughed once as he rummaged through the drawer behind the old bench seat in the garage. He pulled out a shiny new razor blade. "C'mere."
"Are you crazy?" I gawked pulling my arm to my chest.
"Bells," he rolled his eyes. "I'm not gonna cut your arm off. There's no other way to get that bug off you."
"Ticks are just parasites, Bells. They're harmless as long as they leave you alone, but the longer you let one hang on to you, the bigger they get."
"Ew," I squirmed. I didn't need anything latching onto me to sustain its own life force. "It sucks blood?"
He nodded. "And the longer they hangout, the easier it becomes for them to transmit disease. And that's stuff you gotta live with for the rest of your life."
"Okay, okay," I shook my head. "Just get it off me." I'd heard enough of the horrors of parasites. I was counting on Jacob's steady hand to make a clean break between me and the tick. He took my forearm carefully in his lap. I watched, less for the enjoyment of the procedure and more for desire to learn how to remove something from me - something that sapped my blood and my health - with such ease.
"You just have to make sure you get all of it," Jacob muttered as he carefully lifted the tick from my skin. "Even leaving a part of it can be toxic."
"It left a bite," I noted the small red dot on my arm. "Will it scar or itch?"
"Shouldn't," he shook his head. "It wasn't on you very long. It'll fade."
"Do you squish it?" I asked curiously, pointing to the small tick petering around the edge of the razor blade.
"Nah," he shook his head. "They don't squish." He dropped the blade into a dry empty pan and pulled a box of matches from the same drawer the straight edge had from.
He nodded, the smell of sulphur filled my nose as the match snapped against the side of the box and he dropped it into the pan. "Only way to get rid of a bloodsucker."