Berny hotfingers

While I was in Belize, my greedy little brother pawned all my books.

I didn’t discover the books missing until an hour before my dad’s wedding, which is just like him. He had been MIA for at least a month and had shown up the day of the wedding to get some clothes. It just so happened that my dad had changed the locks that morning, and Brandon all but jumped out of the bushes as soon as we pulled up. He smiled a sparkly smile, raved abut his great new job at the pet store, threw his clothes into a trash bag, gave me a hug, and promised he’d stay in touch.

Twenty minutes later, I found my empty book boxes. My poor, pillaged boxes. Hundreds of books. Gone. I stomped around the apartment screaming about what an idiot he was and threatening to throw him out a two-story window if I ever saw him again. My dad thought I was overreacting until he went to get his camera, which was also missing. It was the camera we bought my dad for Father’s Day—and by “we” I mean “me” since I paid both Ben and Brandon’s share. So, to recap: he stole my books, and then he stole the camera he himself gifted, at my expense.

Had he shown up for the wedding, he would have been uninvited. But that’s what makes him so frustrating. He is so unreliable you can’t even exclude him.

He finally called me about a week ago under the guise of “I heard you had shingles, how are you feeling?” which turned out, in the end, to be “I need a bed can I have yours?”

I told him I was feeling fine, except that I was broke and had to depend on the free clinic to treat my shingles since I have no money and can’t even pawn my own books for prescription drugs.  Then I threw in something about food stamps just to make him feel guilty, and ten minutes later I was fielding calls from various family members alarmed about the food stamps.

“Are you on food stamps?”
“No, who told you that?”
“You talked to Brandon? Did he call you or did you call him?”
“He called me.”
“To tell you I was on food stamps?”
“Well, no. He said he was trying to buy dad’s furniture but that you might need the money more than dad. Do you need money?”
“Do you need groceries?”
“No. I’m not even on food stamps. I was just trying to make a point.”

“Did you tell mom I was on food stamps?”
“Yeah, because she said you might be selling your couches, and I thought you would need the money for groceries. And I need some couches. And a bed.”
“Brandon! I don’t need groceries. I’m not selling my bed. You can’t afford my couches. I just want my books!”

Do you know what he said next? He said, “Brooke. I left your yearbooks.”

As if all other books are merely ornamental.
As if he were a classy enough pawner to leave the things of real value. As if I am not a smart enough sister to understand the translation: “Brooke.  The bookstore didn’t want your yearbooks.”

For the record, the bookstore did not keep a record of books bought. There is no list of books sold. If I want my books back, I have to manually go through the shelves and pick out the ones I think might be mine and then re-buy them. Re-buy them. Hundreds of books. He managed to get my dad’s camera back, though. He originally used it to take out a loan at the pawnshop and then paid the loan and reclaimed the camera. But books? You should see the way they look at me when I whine about the books. Come on, Brooke. It’s not like they’re yearbooks.

Well. Today I bought three books. Now I am the proud owner of three books and 4 yearbooks. If you would like to give me a parting gift for grad school, please buy me a book.

Unrelated: I have a bookshelf for sale


If Jesus had shingles, the ASK clinic would help.

Why I am 65 on the inside:

1. I have gray hair
2. My knees hurt when cold front comes through
3. I have shingles

Let’s start with the shingles.
Leave it to me to get a disease for 60-year-olds during the two months of my life I don’t have insurance. Years down the road, this will be the dialogue between me and my potential clients:

“Do you have health insurance?”
“No, I can’t afford it”
“I think you should consider it. When I didn’t have insurance, I stabbed my foot with a parking lot spike and then I got shingles.”

In 2058, it will be an urban legend: remember the girl who stabbed her foot and got shingles?

Here’s the thing, I had the stupid disease for almost two weeks before I even knew what was going on. I washed our clothes and sheets and couch covers in scalding hot water, because I thought we had some kind of a bug issue. I even walked around the B&G Club asking, “I’m sorry, I know this is weird, but do you guys have scabies?” I showed them the rash. No one had scabies. (I have this weird irrational fear of scabies.)

I covered it cortisone cream, and then in 3.7% benzyl peroxide face cream for good measure.In the meantime, I started having all these kidney pains and rib pains and stomach pains, and thought I had jabbed myself too many times with the millions of boxes I moved this weekend out of my apartment into my dad’s. So I JUST KEPT HEAVY LIFTING, thinking I was just toning my rib muscles. My ribmuscles, I tell you.When I finally bared my torso and heard the word “shingles”, I gasped and then mentally ran through my will. I would die fighting, at least.Kathy (my dad’s wife and a nurse) explained that it was neither life-threatening nor contagious, which was excellent considering I spent the weekend with my 2-month old niece and didn’t want to die—or end up like Dave Letterman, who was MIA for three months with shingles. But apparently the pain only gets worse the longer a person waits to get medical attention, and I had already waited two weeks. They said I needed anti-virals and pain meds, like ASAP.Enter: no health insurance. You remember my last experiencewith the free clinic, right?I had no choice but to get up at 6 am on Tuesday morning, drive down to the free clinic and sit on the curb, in line, until the doors opened at 8:30. I was 7th on the list, and I waited for 4 hours. I wish I’d thought to bring a notepad to write down all the crazy conversations I heard at sunrise on the curb outside of the ASK clinic—as in Ask, and you shall receive…But I have to say, wholeheartedly, the clinic ministered to me today.

I barely have an income, and I am in that two-month time period between the last thing and the next one. Every other clinic I’ve been to—and I’ve been to three—required proof of address, paycheck stubs, and a payment percentage. Once I paid $150 for vaccination, and once I paid $35. I was grateful both times. But I was seen by sketchy people and treated like the 75th person they’d seen that day who took advantage of the system and was just not worth the time and effort it took to provide the discounted service in the first place.

Today, the workers were kind and efficient, even the sign-in lady. Even the lady who walked up at 8:30 and unlocked the door for the mass of ill or injured people who were crazy for their meds or drooping on the curb with blasted shingles. She walked up and said, how is everyone today? I thought things might be okay right then.

The doctor turned out to be an actual, true doctor—albeit an 85 yr old one. I waited for 4 hours because he spent, like, 30 minutes with the guy in front of me who had a knee problem, and another twenty minutes with a lady who was afraid to get a mammogram, and the Indian family in front of them who were working with a translator, and the family before them who spoke only Spanish. Plus, he walked slowly.

But they cut the patient list off at 25 (from what I could gather) to adequately serve those who had already arrived, and made an effort to not over-promise and under-serve.

In the end, they never asked why I couldn’t pay. They did not require proof that I couldn’t pay. It was an interesting social-service concept: if someone says they need something and you have the means, give it to them. There were no hoops. Proof was not necessary. I was sick, so they helped.

They treated me like I was actually Jesus.

I was seen by the doctor and then sent downstairs for meds, and I received everything for free. FREE! Two hundred dollars worth of prescription meds were provided and filled by volunteer pharmacists, and I was seen and diagnosed by a volunteer doctor who greeted me with a smile and asked how my day was going. Can you believe it?

I love the ASK clinic.
I love that there are organizations giving service a good name to the actual client instead of just the donors.
And I love that there are people out there who treat other people like Jesus.
I hate the shingles. It feels like someone is continually stabbing me in the back and then setting my stomach on fire.