I just got my first shingles shot, which was actually my second shingles shot. They’ve shined up the vaccine since I got my first fifteen years ago, so I topped myself off. There’s a bonus one coming up sometime too. I am plump with vaccine.

I got a pretty good reaction from it. My arm swelled up and was tender for days, and three weeks later I’m still a little lumpy. I don’t mind. When you send the kids out to play, you want to hear that ruckus in the background. If it’s too quiet, they’ve either gone missing, or they’re up to something.

I don’t really get out that much now except to go get shots. I had my fourth COVID shot last September and a flu shot to go with. They tend to make me feel a little “off” for an evening or so. This doesn’t bother me because I’m expecting it.

They assume if you’re over a certain age, which certainly includes mine, that you have been exposed to the virus that causes shingles, and you’re advised to protect yourself lest half your body burst into flame, go scaly, or otherwise dragon-up. I know I had the virus. My doctor gave me the go-ahead for Camp Mawavi even though I had all these itchy bumps, because I didn’t feel sick and was already locally famous as the princess of poison ivy. Off I went and merrily infected the whole camp. Everyone came home with a gimp lanyard and a fever. I still have a scar from one truly volcanic Pock on my ankle.

I assume the first vaccine I ever got was the smallpox one. I don’t remember it so I must have been really little, because that’s some scar. By 1968 they were using two forked needles and stabbing people with them fifteen times, and that method replaced whatever they did to me. The vaccine was not designed to be intramuscular, but rather introduced sidewise into the first layer of skin under the birthday suit. For all I know the scar is not a mark of injury per se, but rather a little permanent stash of dried-up pox virus. A little head-on-a-pike for roving smallpox virus gangs.

Not sure what other vaccines I’ve had because mostly I just went ahead and got the diseases. But I’ll roll my sleeve up for beri-beri vaccine if they have one. Quinsy. Flux. Mad Cow. Bring it on.

Anyway, I have a number of vaccines running around my system and I like to think they are mingling nicely with the resident germ population and having lively discussions around the punch bowl. Because I know there are some bad actors hanging out in the parking lot and I don’t want them out-debating my vaccines. It’s all Jets and Sharks in there.

For instance. Someone very close to me once pointed out a sore in a highly personal area of mine and suggested it looked like herpes. What! I protested. What was I being accused of? I couldn’t possibly have gotten herpes unless I got it from him. The very nerve! This isn’t herpes, I huffed. This is just a little sore that lasts for a couple days. I’ve been getting them about once a year for the last forty or so…oh…wait…Huh. Well, I’ll be. Herpes, huh?

Soon enough, once the scales fell from my eyes, I had mentally traced the offending recurrence back to a specific evening in a specific apartment in London in the fall of 1972, although there were several dozen possible virus donors in that room and I am not able to narrow them down, nor could I have the next day. Very soon my nethers were itchy and painful and looked like fried salsa for weeks and I concluded it was because I wore jeans without underpants. I’m not particularly proud of any of this, although it’s kept me out of politics, but let’s say my capacity for obliviousness is world-class.

Similarly, after about the twentieth time I developed two adjacent itchy pimples on the exact same location on my butt—again, an occasional event—and got ready to give it the usual explanation, I stopped for a moment and thought: seriously? How likely is it I have rolled over and sat on a spider in exactly this same spot every time? And I looked it up. It’s some kind of pustule that often appears in pairs with a cool little plumbing tunnel between them so they can converse with each other, and it’s due to some mild itinerant virus that makes its home in my tissues and pops up now and then for a little how-do-you-do.

So along with my fine platoons of bacteria (all beneficial or indifferent) I am hosting a number of life forms that aren’t all that interested in my well-being, and if I can introduce a countervailing army in my defense, I’ll do it every time. Those vaccines can give me any fool reaction they want. Keep it down in there, I’ll say, but fondly.

I have no idea how to cure raging self-deception.