“What is it with guys always peeling their sunburn? My high school boyfriend used to do that a lot. You two would probably get along well.”

With those words, I felt a challenge laid down before me.

A week had passed since we went to the Warren Dunes. Linda and I hadn’t been to the Bohemian Riviera in years, so when we took a day trip to Michigan, I overstayed my fun in the sun. Now, the tops of my feet, legs and chest are itching and I’m starting to peel.

“He once peeled off such a large piece of skin, he saved it and used it as a bookmark.”

I could relate. That’s what guys do. The last of five siblings, I know I saved a chunk of skin as a kid every now and then, if only to gross out my sisters. Of course, leaving a surprise under someone’s pillow was a time-honored trick. I once rented a house with six guys for the summer before my last senior year at college. When we moved in, we found a couple of dehydrated chicken feet in a closet of one of the bedrooms. The feet would find their way under the sheets at various times throughout that summer — always at the most inopportune times.

The best I could work up this time was a nearly transparent 3 inch square from the top of my thigh that I laid on the armrest for show.

I actually wasn’t too terribly burnt, since I made sure to use sunscreen. But I didn’t reapply it to my chest and I never bothered to put it on my legs.

“How much to get you to eat that?”

“Oh, I was going to Scooby it when you weren’t looking.”

“Well, now you’re out of the money.”

The tops of my feet were the first to shed. I used them for practice, gently working the corners as I tried to extend the peel. I made a few narrow strips, but nothing substantial. The chest was a tangled mess given my cartoonish physique — sort of Mr. Clean meets bearskin rug era Burt Reynolds.

That left my thighs as my best hope for a bookmark.

It started out promising. I had a straight line to work with, courtesy of my swim trunks, and I had an itch that wouldn’t be ignored.

Persistent scratching yielded a corner. From there, I was able to peel enough away to get my fingers under the layer of skin. Reading my thigh like a fortune teller, I traced the outline of dead and dying skin and pulled off another long strip. But it split down the center and shriveled up before I could add it to the collection.

Having concluded my exfoliation session, I took stock of the modest pile on the armrest. With my cat Fluxxx! sitting nearby on the ottoman, I offered a piece to him. He is fond of eating spider webs, so I figured this was right up his alley. But he just furrowed his eyebrows and gave me a look that said, “You know what? You’re kinda weird.”


About the Author

Tom Long

Tom Long is one-third of the seldom heard Chicago band The Ethyl Mermen. The name Tom Long can be found in the dictionary, Baseball Encyclopedia and a pub in Ireland. Tom Long is not affiliated with any other Tom Long; he won the rights to use his own name after prevailing in a three-way game of Jan-ken-pon by choosing "dynamite!" No Toms were harmed in the making of this blog.

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