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Jinxed

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Jinxed

Sunburns are serious

I wanted to leave Louisiana as fast as I could. Sherry had quit her job, so it seemed logical that we should just load up and head for Texas. But first, we needed to get a tan. I don’t know why it was important, but at the time, it was.

So, on Sherry’s first day of freedom, we headed for Mississippi River to a small beach we had heard of there. Armed with all the appropriate beach gear, towels, suntan oils, water, dogs, bucket and a shovel, off we headed, pulling it all in a wagon for our convenience.

It was a beautiful day; the sky was mostly clear and the beach was mostly empty. The dogs were on their leashes, because although Aspen is antisocial with strangers, Sherry’s dog, Little Man, is a social butterfly. So we leashed them and kept them close. We set up the perfect spot—nice white sand, the water was close, we pulled out our chairs and began to bask in the warmth of the sunlight, even spraying ourselves down with water from a cool spray bottle now and then.

After a few minutes we realized that we had forgotten to apply suntan lotion, so we grabbed the tan “accelerator” and liberally applied it to our extremely pale, hadn’t-seen-the-sun-in-years skin. Warning labels? We don’t pay attention to no stinking warning labels! It was tanning oil, for Pete’s sake, why would we look at a warning label?

While we were sunning, we decided to try our hands at building sand castles and quickly discovered that it is a lot harder than it looks initially. The sand has to be just the right consistency or it doesn’t work and Sherry and I would have been better off working in concrete. At least that would have stood up. Of course, it didn’t help that Aspen and Little Man have some weird aversion to sand castles and were continuously running through them or trying to build a moat inside them.

The dogs got pretty worn out after a bit though, all that fresh ocean air and sunlight made them sleepy. Being smart pups, they crawled into the shade of the wagon and proceeded to nap. It’s a little uncomfortable to realize that the dogs had more sense than Sherry or I did.

Sherry and I do tend to talk constantly when we are together and this day was no different. We were making plans to leave Louisiana in the morning as soon as we woke up and contemplating why anyone in their right mind would chose to stay in New Orleans on purpose. There are critters that have not yet been identified in New Orleans and some of them only have two legs!! I noticed Sherry’s shoulders were getting red and commented on this to her and she said that mine were, too. We laughed and decided we should probably be going soon. Then we continued blubbering about the economy, the  fear of the swine flu and how pretty the sand was on this beach.  

I wanted to take pictures of us before we left, so Sherry sat in the sand and began to play, halfway burying herself in it. “Look, Robin” she laughed gleefully, “the sand is so rough it exfoliates your skin when you rub it on you.” We both laughed and I took pictures of her and she took pictures of me, which we would later use as clear evidence of our lack of common sense. We should have just taken a sander/grinder to our skin and been done with it.

After six hours of lazy play in the sun, the beach finally lost our interest, and we decided we had better trudge the wagon we had used to tote our beach equipment to the shoreline back up to the car and ride on back to the trailer, so we would be rested up for the next day’s traveling experiences. After falling a few times pulling the heavy wagon (laden with wet towels and chairs) through the deep sand to the truck, loading it and the dogs, we sat in the comfort of the truck’s air conditioning and stared at each other with our mouths wide open.

“Whoa,” I whispered, as if it would help, “you are really red.” Sherry just shook her head and pointed towards the review mirror and I glanced at myself. At least, it was supposed to be myself. My freckles had come to the surface of my skin, the sun had baked my body to a nice shade of burgundy and my lips were chapped and swollen—not a pretty picture. Sherry was pretty much in the same boat. We were wearing shorts and tank tops, you know, to better expose our white flesh to the unyielding UV rays that we had forgotten about. Personally, my own skin felt like it had been dried like jerky and stretched and nailed across a plank of weathered wood, left in the desert for about three weeks. It looked it also. Sherry is a bit darker -complected than me and although she was in much pain, she was a bit sassy when she informed me that by the morning, her redness would be gone and she would be tanned; at least, that’s what it had always done when she was younger. Those words would haunt her later.

I knew tanning was not going to be the case for me. After 49 years of freckling and burning, you would think I would realize I was not going to be one of those tanned girls on the beach. My skin is white and it is going to remain white... or extremely red.

We got home an hour later, barely able to move, ready to strip our clothes off and shower to remove the sand. I know for most people that is a simple task, but when your skin is on fire and your brain cells have been all but scalded out of your head, it’s not an easy thing to do. Aspen and Little Man just lay on the bed staring at us as if we were aliens and we sorta looked like it, I imagine.

The warm water took my breath away when it hit my back and as I turned more cold water on, I began to get hot chills. I know, you wouldn’t think that was possible, but it is. It’s kind of like hot ice, looks nice and cold, but is as hot as coal. Even the part in my hair was burned. My hairline? Burned. The tops of our feet? Burned. Ankles? Burned. There was no amount of lotion with Aloe that we could soak ourselves in that was going to save us.

Dinner... cold sandwich, we couldn’t stand the heat of the stove to cook. We went to bed, the heat radiating from our bodies like the surface of the sun. Aspen wouldn’t even get on the bed with me. Nor would Little Man. Nope, they chose the comfort of the living room air conditioning.

After barely sleeping all night, because even the air touching our bodies sent shrieks of pain rippling through those heat chills, we got up to get on the road toward Texas. I stumbled to the living room to sit in the chair to discover that my jerky-like skin had already begun to peel from my body. Sheets of skin, like onions, tore themselves away from my legs and arms. We looked a lot like lepers. Where we were not peeling, watery blisters had risen, covering our epidermis with leaky little pods. The part of us that didn’t look like we were lepers, looked like we had a seriously infected case of chicken pox. I am pretty sure our skin hated us. Even my eyelids were peeling. How were we going to drive 500 miles towards Texas in the heat?

It didn’t matter though, we were going. We loaded up both trucks, attached the gooseneck and off we took at the neck-breaking speed of 50 mph. Sherry wasn’t real confident in her ability to pull the trailer and I soon discovered why. She is hard headed. We were so anxious to escape Louisiana, she was in the front and I was bird dogging for her in the back. We had CBs to communicate with each other and after an hour or so of following her like a puppy in love, I heard her voice on the radio. “I think I am lost.”

I didn’t quite know how to respond. “In Louisiana?” I grumbled back to her. “We are lost here?” We stopped to compare notes by the roadside. I just shook my head at her. “You realize we are lost,” I snickered at her. “Only we could get lost with a Google map, an atlas and two GPSs!” I laughed pretty hard I admit when she looked me dead in the eye and said, “Oh, I haven’t looked at those, I was just going by how the fellas at work had told me to leave.”

My giggling stopped immediately. “The same guys that told you straight out they didn’t want you to leave? Those guys?!” Then she handed me a map, telling me to look at it because she can’t see it. “Glasses?” I calmly asked her, but evidently she thinks her eyes are 25 years old still, kind of like our skin, that used to be tanned when the morning arrived.

Sherry and I are pretty close. We had been friends for a very long time. That is why I was so shocked to realize she is too hard headed to admit that her eyes—as well as her skin—have aged a little.

We were on a thin country road when we decided we were lost, but it looked as if it connected to a nearby highway that would take us straight to the Texas border. We were very excited. Unfortunately, the connection couldn’t quite be made because the road we were traveling down, pulling her trailer at a speedy 30 mph now, ended in a cattle field, marked plainly, “Property of the Corps.” Thinking that at  any moment an league of guns would be greeting us,  Sherry and I got out to put our baked brains together to figure how to get turned around. You see, Sherry didn’t pull the trailer usually, her boyfriend did. However, he was unavailable at the time, so it was up to her to turn it around. The mere thought of that scared both of us into praying.

She did it, though I am pretty sure God in his infinite mercy looked down on us and, through tears of laughter, turned the trailer for her.

Eventually, we did manage to get on a road that would lead us to what we had decided was not really Texas... but Heaven. If you have ever been to New Orleans, you will understand what I mean by that. Maybe it was just us. Two Texas country girls, stranded like fish out of water, burned beyond recognition, pulling a trailer at runaway speeds, two dogs, hanging out the window, tongues lolling to the side. I chose to believe it was Louisiana, more exact, New Orleans, where Sherry had angered the Voodoo masters or something equally horrendous, and I, of course, just fell under the hex, guilty by association kinda.

Either way, I don’t recommended staying for any length of time in New Orleans or trying to get a tan in one day. It’s very painful, and two weeks later Sherry’s trailer is molding on the outside and my skin is still shedding. I wonder just how important those first layers of skin are, anyway?

I would say I had learned my lesson at this time and Sherry had gone on her merry way. At the moment I write this, though, I am sitting on one of the beaches in Corpus Christi with Sherry. Aspen and Little Man are curled up in the shade. We did leave the accelerator at home though, and brought sunscreen with us. We haven’t exactly opened it yet, but I feel like the simple fact we brought it with us is an improvement.

By the time I get back to Idaho, maybe I will have that tan, but more than likely you will know me by the freckles that will dot my face instead.

Written in Corpus Christi, but as you all read this, Jinx is indeed back in Idaho, and living in my front yard. You can reach her at jinxbychoice08(at)yahoo.com.

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Jinx Beshears Jinx Beshears is a southern transplant to North Idaho, and shares her confusion with the Pacific Northwest Lifestyle in her column, Jinxed. When not writing, or living, her outlandish stories, she's generally lost somewhere in the mountains with her dog, Aspen.

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