There was a time not long ago when I pictured myself in a hot tub
with three gorgeous, naked beauty queens. Instead, here I am with scabs
being washed of my back with a sponge held in hands of a woman old
enough to be my mother and burly enough to be my uncle.

When I had heard that the local park district was looking for a new
team of lifeguards, I felt my life change. Even now I could picture my
first heroic rescue. A sexy young blonde with big, red lips and a bust
to match gets a cramp in base of her petite, rose colored toe. Help,
help! she would scream. That would be my moment to shine.

My body would be in peak physical condition, the result of countless
hours working out in the gym. I would jump from my post high above the
pool like the Olympic divers on TV, executing three-and-a-half
somersaults into a tuck. The chlorine burning my open eyes, I would
spot the damsel in distress clenching her foot on the azure pool
floor. Like a torpedo through the water, I would swim and bring the
vixen to the surface where my applause awaited.

Move aside I would say, She needs room! Holding back her blonde
locks, I press my lips against hers while feeling for her sternum.

One, two, three, a breath.

One, two, three, once more.

Then, I would have saved the day. More applause and a rewarding kiss
from my rescued maiden. Finally, I would be the hero. I would be
appreciated, nay, revered around town. I might even be given the key
to the city. People would stop me on the street wanting to hear of the
valiant rescue; passing women would ask to feel my muscles.

But now, these dreams now remain just that, dreams.

Signing up, I knew had some work to do. Those muscles weren't going
spring out of nowhere, but my key goal was to clear up the acne on my
back. At least then I would be presentable. The park district demanded
physicals for everyone, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to
ask about treating my backne.

After the exam, the doctor asked if I had any concerns and I just
pointed to my back. He told me that it's fairly common for some acne
to persist beyond adolescence and suggested that I wait for my skin to
clear up naturally. I told him I couldn't wait five to ten years, so
he prescribed a simple antibiotic pill, doxycycline. One pill a day
for a month or two, he said, would help clear it up.

Looking back, I only wish I had listened the first time.

I began taking the medication immediately and returned the results of
my physical to the park district office the very next day. Two weeks
and a drug test later, I joined the force of the Augustine Public Pool
Life Rescue Team. In the course of those same two weeks, I began to
notice an improvement from the doxycycline. The red sores, pimples,
scars and blemishes on my face and back had cleared up immensely.

Still, I wish I had listened to the doctor.

I sat high above the pool in the elevated, whitewash lifeguard post
wearing my orange swim trunks, Rayban sunglasses, an my official
lifeguard whistle. The weather that day was sunny and swelteringly
hot. Perfect swimming weather.

Perfect bikini weather.

The women came in clusters, all of them just waiting to be whisked
away by a hunky aquatic patrol officer like myself. Today would be the
day I would show off my new, zit free bod. I reclined in the plastic
lawn chair, biding my time, waiting for just the right moment to make
my first move. Then, like a gift from above, someone started drowning.
Two girls, neither older than 19, had been playing in the deep end of
the pool. They both went under for a few seconds, but only one of them
came back up. This was it. This was going to be my moment.

I blew my whistle and rose from my chair. No one cared to notice me
until I let out an unholy scream. My back felt warm, warmer than it
should ever feel. It was so warm, it was cold. My whole body tingled.

Have you ever bitten off a hangnail and taken some skin away with it?
Imagine biting the skin all the way down your finger, past your palm,
up your arm, and around your back until only the front of your body
had any skin left.

The horror of looking behind me to see the hanging, torn flesh of my
back and arms sent me into shock. At least, that's what they told me
at the hospital. At first, no one could explain what had happened. The
surgeons had seen their share of nasty sunburns, but this was unlike
anything they'd heard of before. I had been wearing my administered
SPF 50 sunscreen, but there's not enough SPF in world to protect me
from what had actually happened.

Doxycycline is a very common antibiotic used in treating a variety of
infections, but that's not to say it is without its share of side
effects. One such was labeled clearly on the bottle: avoid prolonged
or excessive exposure to direct and/or artificial sunlight while
taking this medicine, the reason being there is a 10% risk of
photosensitivity skin reactions. All those hours basking in the
ultraviolet light of the sun without a shirt and I was literally
baking into the plastic lawn chair.

Now, every day at four o'clock, the nurse comes in to sponge my back
of scabs and massage me with ointment to prevent infection.

The good news, I finally got rid of my backne.


Rich Martens is a native of Chicago's south side and a senior majoring in Fiction Writing at Columbia College
Chicago. His work has appeared in the 2009 Story Week Reader published by Columbia College and is a
regular contributor to Chicago's Silver Tongue Reading Series.

I was prescribed Doxycycline when I was in high school for my acne. As I read the warnings on the bottle, it said, quite boldly,  avoid prolonged or excessive exposure to direct and/or artificial sunlight while taking this medicine. So, of course, I began to ponder what the worst case scenario would be if these directions weren't followed and only until now, years later, did such a scenario end up in a story.




Copyright 2009