Thursday, August 20, 2009

Conquered By the Great Outdoors

            The great outdoors has conquered me.
            We went down to the lake for a little swim, and the area where we’re at is full of reeds. Michelle’s friend, who owns the place, said we could pull them up if we want it to be a nice swimming area. He usually does it every summer, he said.
            We balanced on rocks and walked to the neighbor’s section of lake to test the water out. Nice temperature. Celia found it a bit cold, but I figured it would be well worth pulling up the reeds for her to have a little swimming hole right in front of the cabin. Plus, we’d be doing the people who let us stay here a favor.
            I got a good start on them, pulling up big clusters along with seaweed and other plants. These reeds were covered with goo. Fish eggs, snails, you name it. After fifteen minutes my arm started to itch. I had this sudden moment of recognition and in utter horror I realized what a fool I’d been.
            Swimmer’s Itch!
            I’ve had it a few times. I don’t know why I didn’t think it would happen. It’s usually worst when you’re in with the sea plants and muck. Duh!
            I quickly made my way to the cabin. By the time I was drying off, the itching had turned into pain. I looked down in horror at my arm and prayed that Celia didn’t have any of it.
            “Michelle! Quick! I’ve got Swimmer’s Itch!” I ran into the shower and started scrubbing vigorously. “Bring Celia in here!”
            Michelle dashed into the bathroom with Celia, who was more than happy to join me in the shower. By then the pain was unbearable. All over my arms and legs were hundreds of little red dots.
            “I can’t wash her… too much pain. You do it.”
            Michelle scrubbed Celia and looked at me in pity. I scrubbed and scraped and lathered and scrubbed again, but the itching didn’t go away. I knew I needed to do something fast. I felt like dying, or at least throwing up. My entire body went into seizes and muscle spasms. Michelle dug around and found a spray for me, which I applied generously, and took an anti-histamine. It was like I’d done nothing.
            “Call my parents!” I said.
            Michelle got on the phone and reached my brother, who said you can put a salve on them.
            “Let’s go! Let’s go!” I said.
            “I’m feeding Celia the leftover salmon,” Michelle said.
            “Okay, I’ll wait,” I said. I stood there tensing my muscles, then paced around rubbing my arms and legs, then tensed up again.
            “Never mind. Let’s go,” she said, looking at me with a furrowed brow.
            We sped down to the pharmacy, where of course the pharmacist was on lunch break, but the clerk seemed to know a thing or two about Swimmer’s Itch and pointed at the most expensive bottle of anti-bug-itch cream on the wide shelf of options. For a moment I surveyed the vast array of options, then grabbed the largest bottle of the good stuff and scurried off to pay for it. When it comes to pain, money becomes of little importance. By the time I reached the parking lot I was lathering the stuff all over myself. Thick and creamy. There couldn’t possibly be enough.
            The story does end well. By the time we got back to the cabin the itching had dimmed down to feeling more like mosquito bites. And by the time we had dinner it had all but disappeared. And thankfully, the baby didn’t have any of it. I later told Michelle, “You know, if Celia had had even one of those dots, we’d be miserable for the next few days.”
            She nodded in agreement.
            Today the dots are large and bright red, and itch only moderately. Michelle hates the smell of the cream, but it’s so worth it to me.
            So much for swimming with my daughter in the lake!

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