ShoreBilly's Swill on ShoreBread

I know I’ve said it many times before, but often times this piece just writes itself. I’ll have something in mind to write about, and then an unexpected event pops up, and I subsequently become nothing more than a vessel for the story. Also, I think I should give our friends to the north a little break this week. With July 4th coming up, they’ll all be back here again soon, so I don’t want any of them finding out who I really am, and rolling into town pissed off. And I reiterate, please don’t take it personal, just laugh and move on. Besides, out of cruisers, senior weekers, fart car people, golfers, firemen, bachelorette parties, and hoards of others, they were one of the few groups whom up to now had been given a free pass—so welcome to the Swill. You people are on the grid now! I am an equal opportunity offender.

The following is how the story, once again has written itself. The day started off like most others. I had just tossed and turned all night for many reasons. The first of which is that my air conditioning is broken. (We’ll save my opinions about my landlord for another time.) I also have frequent anxiety attacks, and chronic heartburn, so I don’t sleep a lot. I usually toss restlessly until about 6:00 am when I finally slip into a deep comfortable sleep. Today was no different, and I had finally relaxed into a deep slumber.

Shortly thereafter, I heard a cherubic, yet creepy voice coming through the monitor on my nightstand. Repeating softly the words: “Daddyyyyyy, where ARE yooooooou?” Try getting a really crappy night’s sleep, and starting your morning like that; I dare ya! So I got up after my normal 1-2 hours of decent sleep, put on some clothes and my happy face, and went to the other room to retrieve my sweet daughter. My wife had already gotten out of the shower. I could hear her giggling in the bathroom as she too could hear the less than subtle message emanating from the monitor.

I went in and got the middle one of my three daughters who recently has been the first one awake each morning. I can only assume it’s because her room is slightly hotter than the rest of ours. She always wakes up happy though, and with a huge grin for whoever is first in her room with the motor skills to pick her up out of her crib. She also usually starts her day with an excited announcement. Something like, “Daddy I maked big poopy!” Fortunately, her enthusiasm is contagious, so I’m usually giggling by the time I confirm her announcement. After feeding my middle daughter breakfast, I rotated in another load of laundry, and as I folded the previous load, my 8-year-old came downstairs. I was actually surprised to see her so early because her room is on the second floor, where the functional A.C. unit is. If I were her you wouldn’t see me again until October. Last to rise was my 1-year-old, and after getting her changed and dressed, I made her breakfast, and set her up in the room with her two big sisters. They were all having a ball, and perfectly content.

The morning progressed, everyone stayed in a good mood, and I was uncharacteristically productive in my domestic endeavors. It was one of those deliciously rare days that both the little ones went down for a nap at the same time. Now I could even shift into high gear in productivity and surprise my wife. This is about when the wheels fell off.

I went to take the trash out which entails opening my kitchen door and walking down the two steps to the can. I opened the lid, dropped in the bag, and felt a ridiculous sharp pain in my lower left calf. Evidently, a large group of angry hornets had been setting up camp under my steps in recent days, and one of them was having his way with me. I felt so violated. I looked down in the direction of the excruciating pain to see what can best be described as a small swarm making it glaringly apparent that this was now their turf, and I was an unwelcome trespasser. The initial jolt shifted me into turbo, and I was able to get back inside my kitchen before getting stung again, and without any of the marauders following me in.

I try to learn something new, if not every day, at least every week. I’m constantly fascinated by human behaviors and I have a gluttonous thirst for knowledge. Don’t read too much into that. I know a tiny little bit about a whole lot of different things. But I don’t really know a lot about any one thing. Well, I probably know more than about 90% of people about the restaurant business, but look where that’s gotten me. So I don’t really count that.

Some lessons are painful however, like for example, this week I learned that there is really no good way to realize that you are potentially deathly allergic to bee stings. I hadn’t been stung in over 30 years and I didn’t recall any issues from my childhood. But I did recall my father being very allergic and having to carry an epi-pen. So with that in mind, I enlisted my 8-year-old daughter who happens to be the smartest person in the house anyway, to monitor me. I explained to her what had happened, and that I wanted her to check on me every five minutes or so to make sure I was breathing ok, and I looked normal. At this time I also reviewed with her how, and when to call 911. She followed her instructions to a tee, and by her second check on me, she said, “Dad, you should really look in the mirror.” I did, and saw that only ten minutes removed from the attack, my forehead was rapidly swelling, and my eyes were quickly swelling shut. Suddenly, this seemingly innocuous event was taking on a potential sense of urgency. I had to keep my cool though, so as not to upset my daughter. I knew that if this continued to get worse, I was really going to have to rely on her to step up, so I needed her head clear and in the game.

My wife had accompanied her mom to a doctor’s appointment and was sans cell phone. I had my daughter snap pictures of my rapidly growing face about every five minutes or so to monitor my progress. By the fifteen minute mark, I had already surpassed Travolta, and was on the fast track to Elephant Man. With the help of my daughter texting, we sent one of the pictures to my father-in-law whom I assumed to be with or near my wife. He saw the now unrecognizable image of his son-in-law and had a nurse relay a message to my wife.

In the meantime, I knew that I had to find some sort of medicine in my home to at the very least, slow down this hideous process. As calmly as I could, I rifled through the medicine cabinet peering desperately through rapidly closing eyes. I found one lone Benadryl in the bottom of a basket and took it immediately. On another shelf, just a moment or so later, my savior daughter found another solo pill that looked kind of like a Benadryl. She held the new find next to the spent casing of the pill I had just taken, and compared the active ingredients. She confirmed that they were pretty much a match, so she handed me the pill and a bottle of water, and I quickly downed it.

At that point, it really wouldn’t have mattered what she had handed me; I was going to take it and hope for the best. It could have been a Quaalude, Spanish Fly, placebo, Flinstones, or birth control, and I wouldn’t have given a damn. Throughout this whole process, and while I was still cognizant enough to call or send messages, I had contacted a few people just in case. My daughter helped greatly in this process, as her eyes were still fully open.

One of the people whom we’d sent the picture of my face to was a very good friend of mine who is a paramedic, and also lives right down the street from me. I figured whether he was working or not, he was a good one to have in the loop at this time. He called me several times over the next few hours to essentially monitor my progress and tell me what signs to look for. He wouldn’t tell me this, but I’m pretty sure he was calling instead of texting to see if he could hear any flaws in my speech indicating that my throat was swelling shut.

Throughout the whole process, I remained eerily calm. The picture of my engorged monster face had found its way to a large portion of my family and friends in the area, and people were already springing into action having possessed knowledge of how stubborn I am. My wife made it from Salisbury to Snow Hill, to Ocean Pines in record time and pulled up the same time her sister did, who was here to watch our kids so my wife could take me to the hospital.

I’m going to cut it off there for this week. Stick with me though, and come back to read the rest next week. Like most of my best stories, this one is obviously at my expense, and a potentially dangerous situation gets really funny as the day goes on. Thanks for playing along.

Until next week,

Syd Nichols