Shadows are slowly creeping across the room. Unstoppable. Obscuring…
A solitary male figure.
He takes a long, slow drag on a cigarette.
His partially hidden face turns towards the window. He exhales slowly.
The smoke drifts gradually towards the ceiling.
“There are times… There are events in a man’s life that change him. This is the story of one of those events…”
A couple of weeks ago, I was looking after The ACN for the weekend.
It was 6 am on a Sunday when I heard a little “Unc” from the next room.
And finally, “UNC!”
I crawled dopily out of bed, tossed on a t-shirt and sweat pants, and stumbled my way to her bedroom.
She gave me a big smile when she saw me.
“Wanna come cuddle with Unc for a little while?”
A cute little “Yeeeaaah.”
I scooped her — and a stuffed polar bear named Poley — up with a giggle and threw them over my shoulder.
By the way, it was The ACN that giggled. Not me. And not Poley.
I stomped back into my room because it makes her laugh when I pretend to be all exasperated.
And it did again.
I tossed her into my bed and curled up beside her.
I rolled over to look at her and she was staring at me with a big smile and glinting eyes that were clearly up to no good.
“Nooo way, little twerp. We are going back to sleep.”
She shook her head.
“Yup. We’ll play later.”
So I got her all cozy. Rubbed her back a little — which was making me sleepy.
And we fell asleep.
I woke up around 7. I had breakfast. Then I climbed back in bed to wait for her to wake up.
She kept sleeping.
I may or may not have watched 13 Going on Thirty in the meantime. That’s hardly the point of the story. STOP laughing.
So she woke up with the same big smile. And slightly sleepier eyes.
“Wanna go for a walk.”
She shook her head “no.”
“In my arms.”
Sometimes The ACN wants her morning cuddles. And sometimes she wants to go for a morning walk. (Outside. In her jammies.) So we invented the “cuddlewalk.”
Now the reason I was looking after the munchkin is because my sister and mother had taken an elderly couple (they are in their 80s) to Halifax to their granddaughter’s wedding. (They are also close family friends — and relatives way back.)
The woman is a bit… paranoid at times. She was afraid that the vast criminal element would notice the two newspapers sitting on their back steps, realize they were out of town, and steal all of their earthly possessions. Apparently she figured they wouldn’t notice something as little as THEIR CAR also being missing.
But they are lovely people, so we never mind doing favours for them.
I put on my baseball cap — pulled low over my eyes — grabbed little twerp and took a walk over to the their house.
We cuddlewalked over, picked up their paper and walked up their back steps. I noticed two wasps flying around in circles near-ish the door, but I just stepped around them and we unlocked the door and went in the house. As we came back out, I barely noticed the wasps. I locked the door and…
One of the wasps stung me on top of the foot. (Because I dress like an aging frat boy and was wearing untied sneakers.) As any bright person would do, I proceeded to stomp the little bastard into my foot with the heel of my other foot — just to make sure every bit of poison was driven into my system.
“You like that, fucker? YOU LIKE THAT?”
Because I am clearly a bad ass when it comes to tiny winged creatures.
He fell on the steps and I kept stomping.
A second one got me on the side of the same leg.
And then one showed up right in front of my face. It was at that point that I realized that The ACN was in my arms.
I jumped down the four or five stairs and ran flat out for my house. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.” As I ran. And as The ACN giggled.
You see, little poop LOOOOOVES swearing. She always has. And she’s always recognized it. She was a teeny little punkin when my Dad would take her for walks in her stroller. As they’d avoid potholes, he’d say, “Fucking Tory roads.”
And she’d “tee hee hee.”
Pure Cape Bretoner that kid.
So we arrived back in my driveway. I was checking her for stings. She was giggling. She was fine.
“They stung the shit out of Uncle Pete.”
She didn’t feel that my right leg being on fire was any reason to stop the cuddlewalk, so we went over to my uncle’s house. We met up with my dad and my uncle. I told them the story. She laughed as if it was the funniest thing she had ever heard.
Let’s jump ahead to later that afternoon.
My sister and mom arrived home. I told them the wasps story. The ACN was supportive.
Then my mom told me I should run over to the couple’s house and carry their luggage in for them. I was all “Into the mouth of the beast?”
But I went.
I was keeping an eye out for wasps and a few were flying around. But I carried their bags in. The gentleman was sitting outside in a chair on his back steps/little deck area. I saw one lone wasp flying low near his foot.
I didn’t want him to get stung, so I tried to step on the wasp quickly and quietly. The wasp sensed it and flew down between boards.
Apparently wasps have a better organized voter mobilization system than the Christian right because SO many wasps came up through the boards.
When I originally told the story, there were 5000 wasps and they were all as big as my fist. In hindsight there were about 40 and they were… well, regular wasp size. But, seriously, 40 wasps swarming around your head is all sorts of trippy and unpleasant.
So I yell to neighbour dude to get in his house, while I once again jump down their steps, swatting at a cloud of wasps. Wasps, I’ve learned, don’t appreciate swatting all that much. Hm.
I saw him on my right arm. I saw him. But I was distracted by the other 39 and he got me. Pretty good.
By this point I was down the steps, past their car and over in their side lawn. I was bouncing up a down a little, blood was running down my arm, and I let out a Ric Flair-esque “Wooooooooo!”
(Actually it was more like the “Woooo” in Van Halen’s “Why Can’t This Be Love?” You know, right after the “I can’t recall, any thing at all, oh baby, this blows them all away” part. Now I want to listen to that song.)
So I went home, and told The ACN about it.
Let’s jump ahead a week. (Imagine how friggin’ long this would be without all this jumping ahead.) You would think the stings would be gone by now. Nope. I have a huge red blotch on my foot. Looks like a stinger might still be in there. I have a big lump on the side of my leg. Both are just filthily itchy. And I’m hitting Benadryl like it’s my job and I’m defending employee of the month.
My nurse sister says, “Yeah. A week’s a long time. You might want to go to the doctor.”
I… don’t like going to the doctor. At all. Like if I lopped my finger off I’d be all “It MIGHT grow back without me going to the doctor. You don’t know for sure that it won’t, Charles Darwin.” HATE. I won’t even watch shows having anything to do with medicine on TV. NBA highlights from the 70s and 80s featuring Dr. J stress me out.
Tuesday morning I walked into the waiting room. I had an appointment for 11:00. I arrived at 10:57 — and cursed myself a little for not staying home the extra 3 minutes.
I walked by three older french dudes sitting in the first chairs.
“And then j’ai dit ‘ Cooooooock suckerrrrrrrrr’ ha ha ha.”
I took a seat between them and a family that looked like they just came out of the woods — and had malaria. I left an empty seat on either side of me. A little buffer — that lasted 43 seconds.
Two more older french dudes came in together. Because I’m a sucker. I moved over next to the Malariasons and let the dudes sit together. (Of course they never said a single word to each other and seemingly didn’t know each other at all.)
The family next to me were all dressed in winter coats. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. They coughed and sneezed. The mother’s eyes watered so much I was going to go buy her some Gatorade. The kids were, like 10 (the girl) and 14 (the boy.) The girl was “soooo bored.” And the first time her mother told her to behave, she took off her jacket, balled it up a little, and threw it on the floor.
Are you kidding me?
And she whined.
I looked at the clock. It was only 11.
I cried a little.
The daughter asked to go to the store. The mother said no. The daughter threw her jacket on the floor again.
I considered going home.
Around 11:15 the son, who had been sitting with his head in his hands the entire time, moved his foot a couple of inches. It made the tiniest sound. The daughter blurted out, “Maverick, you are annoying me.”
I’m thinking, “He barely moved it and — MAVERICK? Get the fuck out of here.”
A nurselady walked by, “Peter?”
I said “YES” waaay too enthusiastically.
Blah blah smaller waiting room. Nice view of the harbour. Doc came in. I told him the story and showed him the foot. He said, “Lemme get some knives and stuff and dig around.”
I thought, “You can chop it off if you don’t make me go back out there with Maverick and Goose.”
No stinger in there. He prescribed… Benadryl. I said, “See ya.” He said, “… the next time you do something stupid.”
So it’s been over two weeks and I still have a large Gorbachevian mark on my foot. It has faded in colour a lot. And the itchiness is gone.
Except for right now because I am thinking about it.
My mother asked me to water her hanging baskets of flowers yesterday — even though it is almost October and we’ve already had a couple of nights of frost. (My mother and her flowers are a whole blog post of their own.) So I did. And a wasp started flying around my face. I walked away. I gave him some space. I felt like I just got back from ‘Nam.
I went back to finish the job and a wasp landed on my arm. I tossed the watering wand and garden hose in the driveway and said, “See you in the spring, motherfuckers.”
The shadows have pushed almost all the light out of the room.
The embers at the end of the cigarette are the only illumination you see.
“And that… is the story of the wasps. It’s not pretty. But it’s… real. And you want to know what I learned? I learned — Oh shit. Do you hear a buzzing??”