It started out as an innocent Sunday excursion. Our youngest Minion of Sauron is outgrowing his baby bed, and needs a new nesting place. (At least, my wife says so. I happen to like his baby bed, because thanks to the bars the little stinkpot can’t climb out and wreak havoc. I shudder to think what’s going to happen when he’s in a bed that doesn’t resemble a cage. But, as in any marital disagreement that’s tied 1-1, the tiebreaking vote goes to my wife.)
So we need to get a new bed. We’ve already got the style picked out, we know how much it will be, and we know where we have to go to get it. Simple, right? Heigh-ho, off we go to get a bed, right?
Wrong. We don’t have a vehicle large enough to transport the bed.
“No problem,” my lovely and talented wife chirps cheerfully. “We can borrow my dad’s truck.”
Now, my father-in-law is a prince of a man. Truly, a swell guy. But his truck sucks. It’s a 1978 Chevrolet Cro-Magnon. I have no idea what color the interior was originally; it has faded/sun-bleached to a reddish-brownish-grayish color, something like a whale’s intestine if the whale has been sick for a while. The driver’s side door doesn’t work. The tailgate sticks. The transmission indicator is broken, so you have to crank it, put it in gear, and give it the gas to see in which direction you’re going to move. Of course, the engine tends to sputter when it’s being cranked, so you really have to mash the gas pedal to start it, creating some Keystone Kops-like moments when you think you’re going to inch backward and you roar forward instead. Speaking of gas, the gas gauge varies wildly between full and a quarter-tank, with no bearing whatsoever on the amount of fuel actually in the truck.
And most importantly (for this story, anyway): the air conditioner is broken. Keep that in mind.
We mosey on over to my in-laws house, and my father-in-law happily gives me the keys to his truck. He runs through the litany of problems with the monstrosity, makes me sign a notarized affidavit refusing to hold him responsible if I should somehow hit the Pope while driving this behemoth, and my wife and I climb into the Cro-Magnon.
Now, July days in Alabama are not noted for their mild temperatures and low humidity. With no air conditioner in the truck, we crank the windows down to get some air moving in the cab. Of course, the air that’s circulating is 95 degrees, with humidity approaching 113 percent. But at least it’s moving.
So we’re heading down the road, trying to loosen our load, with a new bed on our minds. (Did I mention that the speedometer on the truck is broken? It is. Regardless of how hard I stomp the gas pedal, the speedometer says we’re going four miles an hour.) The store with the bed we want is about 15 miles away, so we’re sweating like pigs. Well, no, that’s not right – I’m sweating like a pig. Mrs. Sauron just glows. How do pretty women do that, anyway?
We’re riding in silence, partly because we enjoy each other’s company and don’t have to talk constantly (occasionally preferring the companionable silence that longtime couples develop), and partly because riding in the Cro-Magnon with the windows down is akin to sitting on the world’s largest jet-propelled lawn mower in a wind tunnel that’s set on “Atomic Tornado.” I’d guess we were traveling around 50 miles an hour – fast enough to make the sweat on my face trickle down the back of my neck.
And then it happened. I see something zip into the cab of the truck through the open driver’s side window, making a beeline (literally) for my right thigh. It lands there, and immediately there’s an explosion of excruciating pain coming from the area.
I react swiftly. Turning to my wife, I say, “My dearest, I don’t want to alarm you, but I believe there is a wasp on my leg, stinging me. I’m going to swat it and knock it to the floorboard; please be ready to stomp its guts out if I don’t kill it.” I proceed to put my plan into action.
My wife, though, is absolutely useless in an emergency. She claims that what I actually said was something along the lines of “SHEEAAAARRRGHOOGAAALAHHH!” while slapping spastically at my leg. Her thought, at first, was that I was making fun of a hip-hop song she likes by imitating the “thigh-slapping” technique so prevalent among today’s young hip-hoppers. She says she had no idea I was being stung by a yellowjacket (for yellowjacket it was).
Women. I swear, they just go to pieces in a crisis, you know?
So anyway, I succeed in knocking the yellowjacket into the floorboard, but I don’t kill it. I can see it still moving sluggishly. I point this out to my wife. “Darling, the vile insect is still alive. I don’t want it to sting you; please use your shoe-clad foot to crush the life from its hell-spawned body.” Again, my wife disputes this. She claims I pointed to the floor of the truck and said “Stomp! Stomp! Fuckit! STOMP!” Her thought, at this point, was that I was having some sort of seizure, and she was calculating in her mind how to grab the steering wheel and guide the truck to the side of the road.
Feel free to roll your eyes out of their sockets and onto the whale-intestine-color upholstery of the Cro-Magnon at my wife’s uselessness in this situation.
Regardless of whose version of the story you believe (but mine is the right one), the fact remains that I was finally able to convey to my wife that a dangerous insect was on the floorboard of the car. She successfully killed it with a length of pipe that was laying, for God only knows what reason, on the floorboard of the truck.
Somehow, throughout all this, the Cro-Magnon managed to stay on the winding road we were traveling. I tend to credit my superior driving skill and reflexes. My wife says it was because she grabbed the wheel while I was screaming like a girly-man and flopping around like a fish on the bank. But who are you going to believe, a cool-headed man who can get stung and still be calm under pressure, or her?
After reflecting on the afternoon, though, and manfully bearing up under the pain and swelling in my thigh (which grew to the size of a plump casaba melon), three main points of contention have risen in my mind:
Is it mere coincidence that the male yellowjacket doesn’t sting? Only the female digs her satanic stinger into human flesh. I think that’s hiiiiighly interesting.
How in the name of all that is sweet and sticky did the yellowjacket fly into the truck? We must have been going 50 or so. This had to be a one-in-a-billion shot. I coulda won the lottery with odds like that. Instead, I get stung.
Why, after all that, did my wife change her mind about the bed we were getting and decide on something completely different (and that will be much harder for me to assemble)? Plus, it was more expensive.
I think I got stung in more ways than one on Sunday.