The Dread Vaccine

I had chicken pox as a child when I was five or six. Then I had it again at twenty-three and it was terrible. It lasted for almost ten days with a high fever and pustules. I thought I’d be scarred for life. The doctor I saw said I might be, but fortunately he was wrong. I had the original shingles vaccine a few years ago but I knew it was only partly effective. There fore when shingrix came out, I was eager to have it.

The first shot made my left arm a bit sore for two days but that was all. That was in May. I had the second shot this week. My arm got untouchable sore quickly. Then by supper time, I had severe chills. We were picnicking in the gazebo – I’d made curried chicken salad and tzatziki more slowly than usual. It was 84 degrees and I was freezing. I couldn’t eat. All I wanted was liquid. I didn’t sleep much that night. I got up and was weak, shivering, so sore I couldn’t lift my arm; my neck, my head, my shoulders all hurt. I couldn’t eat. I was too weak to do anything useful and so stiff I had trouble walking even with a cane. I went out to lunch with my friend Janet but couldn’t eat. Just consumed liquid.

By suppertime I could eat some soup I’d made before I had the shot – James Beards’ zucchini soup with avocado. Not much but the most I’d been able to put in me. By nine o’clock I could feel the heat and no longer shivered. I let go of the fake fur blanket I had been using to the great pleasure of the cats, who said, Finally you have fur. A big improvement. They kept getting on me and doing that kneading action that says Mommy, Mommy, Mommy. I slept well. Thursday morning I was almost normal and back to work. I’m still glad I had the vaccine. I remember Grace Paley telling me how painful shingles was, how it was driving her crazy. She had it bad and for quite a long time. My friend and assistant Dale had it this year but he caught it immediately and it didn’t last long, although it was painful enough.

The weather is very hot, extremely humid but no rain, not a drop. We have to water constantly and things we can’t get to are dying. We are harvesting tomatoes every day. The cherry tomatoes, of course, rain on us instead of water. But the maincrops have been coming in for over a week and the first paste tomatoes have ripened. We are invaded by rabbits, many rabbits for the first time in years. The coywolves have not been around and the fox population has been devastated by mange. We had a gorgeous plumy fox that came around daily last year. There is one very large male rabbit who is not afraid of us. He was eating my brussels spouts to the ground. Yelling at him did nothing. Woody had to throw something at him to get him out of the garden. Rabbits can be very bold. I remember trying to chase one off my broccoli and it bared its teeth at me. When the cats could go out years ago – for the first 25 years I lived here, before the coywolves – we never had problems with rabbits or chipmunks or even groundhogs.

Back to freezing every day—beans mostly but zucchini soup this week. I did manage to write three poems this week. Two of them aren’t finished yet but the one about my father is done and I really like it. Woody is going to an event at Payomet tent tonight, a mariachi band and Mexican food. Not for me. I am not fond of mariachi music, I confess, and my stomach is still a little bit queasy from the shot. There’s a movie I want to see on HBO, the three billboards. Woody saw it on a Monday night so we never went together. I’m happy to stay home and see the movie I missed.

I’m reading HOLY PEORIA, a collection of poems and a couple of stories by Burt Raabe,who was in my June poetry workshop. Strong economical accessible poems of workingclass life. The first pumpkin is ready. We have never had a pumpkin before very late September. The winter squashes and pumpkins I planted in the lower garden seem to like the hot dry weather, so long as we water them every two or three days. They’ve never looked better at this time of year. Woody cut up the pumpkin and I cooked it and will puree it when I get some energy. I harvested beets and shallots this morning. Unpleasantly hot and sticky out there. I froze two and one half pounds of beans. I’m ready to sit down for awhile.

When I wrote my blog Saturday morning, there was no chance of rain. The drought that has been plaguing us all summer seemed as if it might never end. In the afternoon, at about 2:30, there was a tiptoeing of rain on the roof, a mere sprinkle. A light rain continued for an hour. Then it became moderate; then heavy. Everything that was dying but not yet dead picked up. We’ve had at least four inches, maybe five. Friday night I lay awake thinking about fire danger and my dying roses. And then on Thursday morning the skies opened again!

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