The Lilies, the Snakes, and the Misplaced Boob.

It was time for a new adventure. And I wanted to see firsthand, for the first time in my life, The Cahaba Lily.

It’s a famed flower in our area, being very rare, quite endangered, and living in sparse, hard-to-access clumps along the Cahaba River, which is a relatively tiny waterway that winds itself through nearly every suburb of south Birmingham.

So I needed to experience the Lilies for myself. And with my camera. And why not – with my children. So I asked my group of adventurous friends if anyone would like to join us, warning them that this adventure would be in completely uncharted territory and so it was not for the faint of heart or diaper.

The only takers, out of the 20 or so in the group, were my sister-in-law Lindsay with her three kids and Not-Crazy-Renee – but only with her oldest kid this time.

I had a friend, Leigh, who regularly visited these elusive Lilies, who gave me directions on how to get there, including such fantastic advice like “Wear good shoes and watch for snakes…you’ll have to jump over a creek bed…go UNDER the train trestle.”

Sound words.

So we parked in the lot behind the Bar-B-Q place, as prescribed, and set off for adventure.

The first challenge was the “jump over the creek bed.” Either Leigh has Amazonian legs or the last time she went out there it had been during a drought. There was no way us adult ladies were jumping over, let alone our six small companions.

So most of us decided to de-shoe to cross, with a couple others opted for the risk of wet shoes. We got over, re-shoed, and continued our journey. Up the hill,

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under the trestle,

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up a little further,

Hiking-to-Lilies2and there they were.

The magnificent Cahaba Lilies.

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They were bigger than I expected and there were more of them than my companions expected. We were all breathless in wonder of their bright, shining beauty.

It took no time for us to find a way down to the creek, and the kids began re-de-shoeing (in order of bravery) and wading into the creek rapids while I took pictures.

And while Renee found another rock to sit on and said,

“Um. Hey Rachel? There’s a BOOB on my rock.”

I looked over. She was messing with something.

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She moved out of the way and I grabbed my zoom lens and focused on the…boob?

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HOLY CRAP IT WAS A BOOB.

The kids noticed the commotion.

Ali asked, “What’s that?”

I asked, “Is it hollow or solid?”

Noah asked, “Hey miss Renee will you go get me that big shell on that rock? IT’S GIGANTIC!!”

Renee said, “Ummmm Rachel? What do you want me to do here?”

I didn’t know what the right thing to be done was but I had to examine the misplaced prosthetic. Lindsay and I scrambled over.

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“How did it get lost?”

“My guess is a capsized kayak incident. The cutlet just slipped out.”

“That poor lady!”

“I wonder why it’s so wrinkly…”

“I think it’s just because it’s laying down. I bet if we pick it up…”

Lindsay and Renee both grabbed that breast at once. I grabbed my camera.

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This was a bonding moment between the two of them that could never be forgotten. But the hypothesis was right. What a perfect (albeit a bit muddy) boob, when held aright.

So we let the boob live its life and sat around it to take pictures of our children.

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And they were fully photogenic, exploring the waters, looking at the flowers but NEVER touching (thank goodness for Wild Kratts drilling into their heads the severity of “endangered”), smelling the flowers, looking for real shells, and in general living The Good Life.

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A  train even went by, loudly making the day even grander.

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I took plenty of pictures of the Lilies from a distance, but I was aching to get out there. I spent half an hour weighing the risk of tip-toeing out with my massively pricy camera, and finally decided that with Eli’s agility on my team, I could do it. So I called in our most in-tune-with-nature cousin and asked him to hold my hand out to the lilies.

Every rock was covered with tiny shell creatures that felt like I was walking on a bed of nails. And I have terrible balance. But I made it out to the stream to get the pictures I’d craved.

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While I was shooting, Lindsay took a picture of me and sent it to my husband. It took his second look to notice the artistically endowed foreground.

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Meanwhile, some of our children had ventured fairly far upstream and out of earshot. Renee was worried about them, so she’d gone back up trail to check. After I managed to wade back to shore, I joined her.

Four kids were out on a rock in the stream, and Renee and our youngest cousin, Andi, were on the shore.

Andi had just quite nonchalantly said to the other kids, “We found a snake, guys.”

Renee assumed she was trying to freak the other kids out because she was standing next to Andi and had certainly not found a snake. “Andi, we didn’t find a snake!”

“Well. We found a snake BODY, anyway!” She pointed right where Renee was standing.

There was a fairly large adult snake wrapped in piles over a patch of brush.

Renee came and got me. “Hey Rachel? Andi just found a snake down here. I think it’s a Copperhead. Can you come see?”

“Sure! I follow a snake guy on Twitter. I should be able to tell!”

I went down and examined. “Oh. I think that’s a banded watersnake. Definitely not a copperhead. Harmless! But I’ll take a picture and ask my snake guy.”

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I was feeling just swell about myself, diffusing danger and fear like that, and I began taking pictures of the two kids remaining on the rock, Tessa and Loulie. (Ali and Eli had wandered in the water in front of it looking for neon crawfish.)

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They were staring at the clear waters, when one of them yelled, “A snake!!!”

Renee, clearly tired of snake calls, said, “Where? Are you SURE?”

I lowered my camera and looked out in the water. There was a tiny bright orange snake swiftly swimming toward Ali and Eli – with its back arched and its head out of the water and its mouth wide open, angrily showing the white insides of its mouth.

“Oh now THAT is a cottonmouth. Ali and Eli!! GET OUT OF THE WATER!!”

The girls on the rock began freaking the freak out, and Ali and Eli began trying to run on the shelly bottom. Chaos ensued. As Ali scrambled out first, Eli yelled, “We’re supposed to stay together!!!”, and the girls on the rock were LOSING THEIR MINDS.

At one point in our attempt to calm them, I remember yelling over at Loulie, “YOU HAVE A PET SNAKE! Why are YOU freaking out?!” Because I believe in child-shaming, apparently.

The two in-the-water kids were safe, and now it was time to address the two marooned children. Or we could leave them. I mean, they were relatively safe up on the ROCK THE VENOMOUS SNAKE CAME OUT FROM UNDER, as I discovered later when I was editing photos.

SnakeRockLook below the rock right between the two girls.

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This is when it’s good to have a Not-Crazy-Renee in your life.

She looked at me with a determined expression and said, “I’m going to get Loulie. You watch my path and let me know if you see the snake again.”

“So you’re just gonna LEAVE Tessa?” (I’m such an encouraging friend.)

“No. But I can only get one girl at a time. I’ll go back for her.”

(Meanwhile, Lindsay was staying very quiet on the trail with the four children we had left. She would be happy to pray for Renee while she rescued their children. Prayer is powerful, y’all.)

Renee got in the water.

Eli yelled from the trail, “A SNAAAAAAKE!”

Renee yelled up at him, “NOBODY say ANYTHING about a SNAKE unless you SEE one at my FEET!!!!

She was in full yoga pants and tennishoes. Surely that would help her rescue the children. Yoga pants are powerful, y’all.

Right as she stepped on a large, flat rock, I remembered that was the very rock I’d see the cottonmouth swim under when it disappeared from view.

I felt this wasn’t the best time to tell her that, and just watched her feet even harder.

She got to Loulie and commanded, “Okay. I am going to GET YOU OFF of this ROCK, and then I am going to PUT YOU IN THE WATER, and we are going to WALK BACK and you are NOT GOING TO FREAK OUT. GOT IT?!!?”

Her voice was impressive – she could lead infantries with it. Loulie obeyed perfectly. They scampered back to shore.

Then she went back for Tessa.

This time I had the forethought to warn her before she stepped on the snake rock.

She looked at me icily. “You let me step on that rock the first time!”

“It was too late. I didn’t want to tell you while you were already there.”

“Good choice.”

She grabbed Tessa and hurried back to shore.

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I said goodbye to my beautiful banded watersnake with one last close-up picture, then I scampered up to the trail.

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Oh – and later when I checked Twitter…I found out that sleepy, docile, large banded watersnake I’d gotten so up close and personal with? Was also a cottonmouth.

Thankfully, my snake expert @AlongsideWild also sent me a blog post he’d written discounting everything else we read on the internet that day about the extreme aggressiveness of Cottonmouths. They act aggressive, but they really don’t want to bite us.

They’re just a sorely misunderstood snake with anger issues. That’s all.

We emerged from our adventure, amazed that we’d only traversed a third of a mile from civilization – we were sure we’d slipped through a wormhole or out the back of a wardrobe or into a tardis.

As we sat at the playground reminiscing about our day while listening to our children speaking in excited tones to every other kid they could find, we marveled at how the books were actually right. Having an actual adventure is FANTASTIC. And exhilarating and every bit as good as reading a well-written piece of literature. Even with the peril that must also be present to make it an adventure.

We, as well as our children, were over the moon about our travels.

But this post isn’t about snakes. Or lilies or children or even grand adventure.

This post is about The Boob.

And there is nothing more that I want right now in the whole entire world than to see that lonely boob reunited with its rightful chest.

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So please, spread the word. Spread it far and wide. Spread it until we find the prosthetic totin’ kayak rowin’ adventurous women that just happened to capsize somewhere near the Cahaba Lilies on Buck Creek so that we can let her know that her boob is there waiting on her. And that it is enjoying the flowers until they return.


Editor’s Bonus: A research collaboration piece from later that afternoon:

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The Dangers of Avocado.

There are certain foods that God created for the purpose of letting us eat toppings. Because toppings are a life blessing.

Potatoes, for instance. On their own, they’re not that exciting. But when you add butter and sour cream and cheese and bacon and maybe some bar-b-que while you’re at it, they’re the sparkling unicorn of food.

Tacos. Tacos are nothing BUT toppings. Which is why they’re never a bad idea. Especially when served in soft corn tortillas. Which is the ultimate topping wrapper.

Chili. Chili is an extra special topping food, because it calls for toppings and bottomings.

I use rice for my bottoming. Chris uses Fritos. Some people use crackers, or so I hear.

And for toppings, I’ve always used sour cream and cheese, but have recently discovered the splendor of adding an avocado to my chili topping repertoire. Because Avocado is kind of like my bacon – it’s perfect with everything.

I made a giant vat of chili last Monday night. We had a lovely family dinner, to which I invited my parents. Or I thought I did. I texted my Mom – I would have scrolled to find the text stream where I text both of them at once, but I had onion juice on my hands and really wanted Siri to handle my texting for me.

But mom never answered.

Later that night, I texted Dad.

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I felt bad for my text-only ways (a normal human being would have called her parents when not receiving a response to a dinner invitation), but we still had a vat and a half of chili left over (that’s the thing about toppings – they somehow multiply your main dish leftovers because you use so many toppings that you use very little of the actual product), so I told my parents to just come over the next night.

Tuesday night.

I rewarmed the chili, got out the voluminous options of toppings and bottomings, warmed up the cornbread, and prepared for another large family dinner.

The last thing I needed to do was to slice an avocado. I knew my Mom and I would be the only ones taking advantage of the world’s best topping, so I only grabbed one avocado out of the fridge and began slicing it open while talking to my mom.

I did my usual of cutting around the middle, and then opening up the avocado. But instead of my usual THWACK approach to remove the pit (the THWACK approach being where you THWACK the pit with the knife and then twist and pull it out), I did more of a THWACK-saw.

I do not recommend the THWACK-saw approach.

Because the avocado was softer than I had assumed and catapulted loose from the avocado mid-saw…but the sawing didn’t quit. And I was sawing in the direction of my hand.

And, as I was holding the avocado in my right hand, the sawing continued into my thumb. To the point where I definitely heard and felt sawing taking place on my thumb bone.

Sometimes physics is a real turd.

As one does when sawing one’s thumb bone, I screamed and dropped the avocado. I ran to get a paper towel to sop up my outwardly flowing life force and surveyed the damage.

The cut was long, thick, and vomiting blood. But oddly didn’t hurt…at all.

It’s gonna start hurting real soon. Just you wait.

I asked mom if I needed stitches. She took a look and told me to go let my father see it while she hunted down a butterfly bandage. He looked at it and was also uncertain.

…But it still didn’t hurt.

Mom bandaged me thoroughly, causing me no pain whatsoever. I decided to table the matter of my thumb because it wasn’t hurting and I needed to slice my avocado and then there was chili to eat.

Priorities, you know?

Chris wasn’t quite home from work, so I sent him a quick text to help him adjust to the possibilities that lay ahead.

“Just to mentally prepare, we may need to go to the ER later. I cut my hand de-pitting an avocado.”

He answered back, “Sorry. You did that last night, too.”

I pondered what he said.

HAD I cut my hand two nights in a row while de-pitting my avocado? This did seem vaguely familiar. Then I remembered that I had a bothersome cut on my index finger and I didn’t remember how I’d gotten it.

I had cut my hand the night before!

Do I cut my hand every time I de-pit an avocado?

This seemed oddly familiar as well.

Clearly I needed a new strategy for de-pitting avocados.

I prepared my bowl of chili and gave myself an extra serving of avocado. I deserved it, after all.

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But then I looked over at my mom’s bowl and she had not gotten any avocado.

Perhaps the adrenaline from the injury made me more frantic than usual. Or perhaps I’m just an insubordinate daughter. But I demanded of her, “Why aren’t you getting any Avocado? EAT THE BLOODY AVOCADO! …Err, I mean that “bloody” in the British sense. Not the literal one. Maybe.”

She quickly spooned herself some avocado onto her chili.

We ate, my hand continued not to hurt or throb or anything remotely uncomfortable, and I actually felt quite energized. Adrenaline really is magical – why haven’t they figured out how to make adrenaline pills yet?

After dinner, I drove up to my neighbor’s house whose husband is a doctor. He’d just walked in from a long hospital shift that I’m sure was delightfully fun, and I accosted him in the basement before he even got to go upstairs and kiss his family.

I brought a fresh tube of superglue with me, because I knew that in the past, when their kid fell and busted her head, they just superglued her back together, because superglue is the same thing as liquid stitches. Who knew?

(Also I love the idea of fixing a broken kid the same way you fix the broken kid’s broken toys.)

I peeled off the bandage for him to assess the damage. He opened up the cut a bit to take a look, and asked me again if it didn’t hurt at all? No, it didn’t.

He didn’t know why I wasn’t hurting, but because of where the cut was (going up my thumb right where it bends), he said that superglue wouldn’t hold it long enough to heal – I really needed a couple old-fashioned stitches.

I drove back home with my feeling-quite-fine hand, and we decided that Dad would drive me to the ER. After all, it might not be as easy to drive after a numbing shot or three in the hand.

Dad and I sat in the ER lobby and people-watched, communicating our terribly judgmental thoughts back and forth with our eyes. Who knew the ER was such a fascinating place? Probably everyone.

It was finally my turn, and the nurse asked me all the questions he was supposed to like, “Have you ever thought about self-harm? Are you sure you didn’t do this on purpose?”

“No. I just really wanted avocado to top my chili. Have you ever tried it? It’s delicious.”

“When did this happen?”

“Around 6pm. But I ate the chili before coming in. Because I worked hard for that avocado.”

He happily dumped me into a room, where a nice ER doctor came in and asked if I’d ever had stitches before.

“Oh yes. On my hand even! From sleepwalking.”

He then wanted to hear all of my various sleepwalking stories as he shot me up and tied three nice little stitches in my hand.

There was the time I broke my nose

And the time I got lost in the funeral home…

And that time I fought Captain Hook

I apologized that my current injury was so boring.

He ran out of the room to get something and I snapped a quick picture of his handiwork. (Click here if you’d like to see it. You’re welcome for the opt-out, queasy people.)

Then he finished stitching me up and told me he’d see me soon, then sent me on my way. And no, he had no idea why I wasn’t hurting, either.

But the moral of this story is, although there are countless useless kitchen gadgets that do various overly-specific tasks, this brand new tool that I bought this week will pay for itself in one use. Because ER co-pays are expensive.

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On Visiting The Knife-Happy.

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I’ve noticed that there are two types of 30-somethings.

Those that have a regular visit to the Dermatologist to get every millimeter of their skin scanned for abnormalities and are constantly mentioning what they’ve recently had removed,

And those that have never visited a Dermatologist.

I’ve always been in the second group. Not because I have anywhere close to perfect skin, or dislike doctors, but because I have been in denial that I’m in my 30s for some time and would rather believe that I’m an invincible teenager with no skin fears.

This is not to say that I haven’t forced my husband to go and get a bump removed when it started to morph into something that made me feel uncomfortable. But he’s older than me. It’s time he starts thinking about his skin.

Also, I see enough variety of doctors thanks to my Dysautonomia and compromised immune system and stupid wreck that I really just don’t have room in my life for a relationship with a Dermatologist.

But finally, after fighting bravely on my own the war against a pesky shoulder rash for…wait for it…five months (including religiously applying two different prescriptions I already owned)…I decided that I should most likely plan my first date with the Dermatologist.

Over the years, I have asked my friend that is most solidly in group #1 of 30-somethings for her Dermatologist’s name on countless occasions, always intending to grow up and go. I’d even had it pulled up in a browser on my phone for a couple of months. So I scrolled through and found the tab, and gave them a call.

“Yes. I’d like to schedule an appointment. I have a rash that won’t go away.”

“Okay. Would you like a full body mole check while you’re here?”

(Sounds like a nightmare within a nightmare within a nightmare, but might as well get all the services for my co-pay…) “Sure.”

“Okay…the first available appointment is…..June 10th.”

“Um, well, you see, I have a rash….”

“Okay. Without the full body mole check, the first available is….April 20th.”

“Um, well, you see, I have a rash….”

“Okay. Well, if you’d like to see a nurse practitioner, you can come tomorrow.”

“That will work.”

I knew that “tomorrow” was too short of notice to get a sitter for my kids, so I bravely decided to bring my little homeschooling troupe with me.

I mean, I just have a rash. How gruesome could it be?

On Tuesday morning, we arrived and got settled into my assigned torture chamber. The bubbly nurse and nurse practitioner overflowed their joy all over the room as my eyes darted back and forth, looking for blood spatters on the ceiling or suspicious moles stuck to the walls.

Things had happened in this cell. I could feel it.

My rash, unfortunately, was at a dormant stage – of course. It has come and gone for five months, getting much worse when I was on an antibiotic for something else. At one point, it swelled up and looked exactly like the symbol on the old USSR Flag:

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(Which happened a mere two days after I blogged about Mr. Putin’s Sexy Wall Calendar. Coincidence? I think not.)

But at this moment, it just looked like a bit of dry skin. It still itched, but Nurse and Nurse Practitioner couldn’t see how very itchy it was and how very communist it had recently been.

“Hmm…just looks like overly dry skin to me. You need to use moisturizer within four minutes of getting out of the shower and here – I’ll prescribe you a stronger cream to knock it out. But let’s look at this bump over here…and this one…oh and this mole in your armpit!!”

They began to circle my shoulder area hungrily, clucking at all of the various bumps and discolorations. I was a DermaVirgin, and they were taking great pleasure in all of the various offerings of my as-yet un-cut-on skin. It hadn’t helped at all that I’d been honest on my medical history form – they saw that my dad has Ocular Melanoma and their frenzy only heightened. “Melanoma is melanoma. You’ve got a first degree relative with Melanoma. We need to check all the things. Melanoma melanoma MELANOMA!! You don’t mind not having any flesh remaining, right?”

Okay they didn’t ask that last question but it was implied.

“We need to take a biopsy of that…and that…and let’s just take off that mole real quick. It won’t need stitches. These will just be slightly pink marks – like you cut yourself shaving. No big deal – it’ll just take a minute.”

A tray magically appeared with three jars (the kind you’d see shrunken heads floating in), three flexible blades, a shot, and a bunch of gauze and blood-soaking apparatus.

And nobody asked my opinion.

I mean, call me old-fashioned, but I think I deserve a minute to consider the fate of my armpit before they slice a crater into it. Maybe I held a fondness to my armpit mole.

They shot me up in all three places to numb the areas so I wouldn’t be fully aware of their carvings. Then, with the quickness of a NASCAR pit crew, they buzzed around me, sliced and diced my arm, back, and armpit, dropped my former pieces of self in their jars, and covered me with band-aids before I could see what they’d left of me.

I did catch a quick glance at their blood-and-guts covered knives, though, and knew that “it will just be a pink spot – like if you cut yourself shaving” was as much a lie as The White Witch promising Edmund an endless supply of Turkish Delight.

The kids and I escaped the Dungeon of Human Samples, but not until after they’d scheduled that “Full Body Mole Check”, leaving me seriously fearing my future fashion statement of Swiss Cheese Flesh.

Thanks to those numbing shots, I was really feeling quite fine, aside from the mental stress, and it was a beautiful day, so we went on a hike in the woods with friends. It was as if nothing dark and demented had occurred that morning.

There were waterfall discoveries,

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And boulder throwing,

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And rock-climbing,

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And cave-dwelling.

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I felt great. It was a lovely day. The dermatology visit was squarely behind me.

…Until the end of the hike. When things began to sting. Shots only last so long, after all.

I went home and peeked under my bandages. I gasped at the deep craters that were now a part of who I was. These were not slight pink marks. They were more like someone decided to journey to the center of my body and began digging a hole, then gave up and started somewhere else, then gave up and started one more place.

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Over the next couple of days, the abysses were greatly uncomfortable, especially the largest one that happened to be in my armpit, and especially especially when I ran. Sweating profusely into a giant white pus-filled crater is not really something I would recommend for fun and amusement.

By Thursday, the holes named Shoulder and Back had dried up and become less like bubbling cauldrons and more like nice, dry moon craters. But Armpit did not. It began to grow, taking up more real estate under my arm, and developing a nice swollen, red shoreline. Then I began to get chills and fever and dizziness. At first I just thought I was having a couple of bad Dysautonomia days, but I soon realized that it was likely being caused by the vat of infection stirring beneath my arm.

Finally on Saturday, I decided it was time to call about it. The on-call doctor said it definitely sounded infected and called me in an antibiotic – an antibiotic that would heal my armpit, but most likely turn my rash back into a Communist Flag.

Oh – and did I mention that in the chaos of treating my wounds, I lost the prescription for my rash, the original reason I entered the Dungeon of Doom?

Yeah. I’m awesome like that.

So the moral of this story is, don’t allow people to randomly cut on you. Just Say No. It’s a two-letter word. Practice with me. NNNNNOOOOOOO.

“It will be a pink spot”, they say. “Like if you cut yourself shaving”, they say.

Yes. It’s exactly like that. If you shave with a staph-infected three hole punch.