head lice. no really.


When I was fiction editor at the Bellingham Review (short stay; long story), I got a submission called “How I Went: (A Recipe for Lime Curd)”. I did something very unusual: I called the author immediately to accept it, for fear that somebody else would take it first. The author is Stephanie Rosenfeld, and she was struggling to get started at that point.

That was 1999. Now she’s got a collection of short stories out there and a new novel (Massachusetts, California, Timbuktu), both of which are on the top of one of my to-be-read piles. The one closest to the bed.
Stephanie’s stories are very good, but one of them has always stayed with me. It’s called “Grasp Special Comb” and it’s about a mother’s reaction to her daughter’s head lice.

When I was in school, nobody got head lice — but there was a reason for that that had nothing to do with cleanliness. DDT was very, very effective at killing lotsa stuff, and messing around with DNA in general. We wised up about DDT and as it began to fade (which is a good thing, in spite of what I’m about to say) head lice made a reappearance. New, improved head lice. Stronger, ’cause they lived through the DDT holocaust. Those little buggers are tough, and pretty much any parent with a kid in school (any school; lice don’t give a damn about tuition or national rankings) will deal with it at some time. It’s one of those coming-of-age experiences, like pimples, that you really could do without.

I do blather on. Here’s the long and the short of it: I read Stephanie’s story just about the time I was first dealing with head lice who had moved in to our lives. It made me laugh and it made me sad, which is something she’s very good at: digging down past the laughter.
I highly recommend her stories. I’m sure I’ll be recommending her novel too, once I’ve read it.

PS: Both “Grasp Special Comb” and “How I Went: (A Recipe for Lime Curd)” are in her collection.

What About the Love Part?: Stories
Stephanie Rosenfeld
Ballantine Books; (April 29, 2003)
ISBN: 0345448243

Another PS: If you’re the parent of a younger child and you’re panicking just about now, Don’t. With some help, you’ll get through this just fine if and when it comes your way. Go see the good folks at …

The National Pediculosis Association®, Inc. (NPA) “is the only non-profit health and education agency dedicated to protecting children from the misuse and abuse of potentially harmful lice and scabies pesticidal treatments. …. Pediculosis provides an early opportunity to teach children responsible personal health behaviors — lessons that become valuable as children mature into a world full of other behavioral health threats. Communities that promote head lice prevention programs demonstrate a commitment to health and wellness.”