You can read part I here
Steve T. kept watching me through his rearview mirror and asking me how I was doing. I had stopped jonesing for breath and wondered if Steve was intentionally trying to keep me awake. While I felt I could indeed doze away, I had no trouble at all staying awake when needed.
Another medic and Steve T. put me between them and mostly carried me into the building and medical station. Coming down the long hall in the opposite direction was our Flight Surgeon stepping out smartly to answer a distress call.
“Poor bastard, I hope he’s alright. Er, No. Wait … that’s me; I’m the poor bastard!”
Seated in the examining room I was asked a litany of questions from what happened when I hit the water to what I had for breakfast that morning. I was honestly feeling so much better, so much so that I almost felt guilty to have stirred such a fuss. And yet I had the most remarkable red puffy welts on both arms, chest, stomach — everywhere.
I got another injection and some pink capsules figuring them to be Benadryl. I sat there on a gurney while the med-brains conferred just out of earshot. At length Steve T. and the Daktari approached; Steve did all the talking while Daktari nodded thoughtfully:
“Geo, we’re not just 100% sure of what the hell got hold of you, but I suspected what I was seeing at the lake was a wicked-fast onset of anaphylactic shock. Dude, I could see your neck swelling and puffing out as you stood there complaining. I hit you with Epinephrine.”
“Well, Steve … aren’t we Johnny on the spot? I don’t even know what to say to guys like you,” my eyes darted back and forth between Steve and Daktari. I hoped I sounded sincere; I know for a fact that I was indeed.
“Well, what we would like to do now is have you stay here and rest quietly for a few hours so we can watch you. We can put you in the sound booth (chamber used for hearing testing) where you can lie down and just mellow out.
“Jesus Christ, Steve. Where are we — Woodstock? Well, mellow I can do; just call me Mister Mellow.”
Steve shoved the heavy vault door shut and then poked his face in the tiny window on the door. From where I lay on the gurney looking out at Steve I felt a near-crippling urge to request:
“Open the pod bay door please, HAL…”
“Open the pod bay door please, HAL!”
This wasn’t so bad. This, lying down on the job and just kicking back away from an afternoon of pointing hatred at life-like targets down range. The guilt of sloth left my body, as my internal Central Processing Unit began softly singing “Daisy” slower and slower.
And then it happened — bash! The chamber door flew open and in there stepped the stately Reverend Chill-D and Samuel Booth Foster fresh from the chow hall, grinning shit-eating grins with food in their teeth.
Sam was of the type to formulate comments prior to the launch sequence. Chill-D was far more inclined to let the comments fly half-baked to get them out sooner, inflicting as many casualties as possible:
“Ain’t nobody said nothin’ about takin’ no break, my brotha. You need to take yo’ fat ass to the team weapons vault and pack yo’ gats for the assault range!” Sam just expelled a hissing laugh but otherwise let Chill-D sling away.
“Well, I see you guys were so concerned about me that you stopped at the chow hall to strap on the feedbag. I’m touched. Leave me alone; I’m sick. Flight surgeon even said so, and Steve T too!”
“Flight Surgeon? What the hell is a flight surgeon? Sam, you know what the hell a flight surgeon is?”
“The definition escapes me at the moment, Chill.”
There was a brief struggle as the two started to wrestle me off the gurney. There was such a fuss and din that Steve T. came darting in to exert a little medical authority:
“Goddamit! What the fuck are you guys doing to my patient?”
“Just a friendly little tussle, Steve. No disrespect intended,” consoled Sam.
“Yo’ ass better be on the assault range, fully kitted up and gats rockin’ and rollin’ within the next hour!” the Reverend threatened as Steve T. offered him a double-armed shove out the door. Steve was a good-natured with a sterling sense of humor, but when it came to his job there was no compromise:
“Mother of pearl. I can’t take you fuckers anywhere!” Steve concluded shaking his head on the way back to his office.
I doubt seriously that I dozed at all, though I did lay supine the entire time in the test chamber mostly twiddling my thumbs and wondering what was transpiring down the range. I slowly but certainly resigned fully to the fact that I really had no clue how to take it easy — but I liked it that way.
Toward the end of the day, having sung all the songs I ever knew, twice, to include the venerable 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. Since it dovetailed so appropriately, I let peel a chorus of Neun und Neunzig Rot Balloon (99 Red Balloons), but only after I had exhausted my interest in my staple performance of Bohemian Rhapsody.
“I’m just a poor boy; nobody loves me, He’s just a poor boy from a poor family …”
And there before me appeared my juggernaut of a Troop Sergeant, Sam J.
“How ya doing? How ya feelin’ stud?” We two walked together back to the Squadron Bay. The Pipe-hitters were just coming in from the range. Half of them patted me on the back with compliments, the other half derided me for being a slacker. I would have it no other way.
The crowd thinned and I hit the shower to, at last, wash the vestige of Wyatt Lake off of me. I was the only one in there. As soon as the warm water hit my body a shudder washed over me. I had felt that same shudder earlier that day. I rubbed the skin of my arms and adjusted the water hotter and hotter.
I literally watched as puffy red welts rose up on my arms, legs, and abdomen. I checked my breathing which seemed to be normal other than a momentary urge to hyperventilate in panic.
“Easy does it. We’ve been through this before and it was nothing but a thang …”
I threw the tap to cold water and that seemed to calm me down although the welts on my body were as prominent as ever. Pinching my towel around me I headed back to my team room, my head planted down.
“Geo, what in the hell just happened to you?” and it was my Troop Sergeant Sam J., always the last man to leave the building.
Sam calmed me and talked me down from the edge. He stayed with me while I quickly changed into my civilian clothes. Sam drove me all the way home and indicated that he would be back in the morning to take me back to the Unit if I was recovered enough to report in.
I was and I did.
My X saw the strange car pull up in the driveway and exited the house sheepishly. I got it that it must have looked suspiciously like bad news when other men from the Unit pulled into the driveway.
“Whew … What a day I had — hated the dog shit out of it!” I lamented to her.
I had once more episode of “the welts” there in my house that evening, but it was rather mild in comparison to the first and second attacks. I just soaked in the shower until they all went away, and somehow I felt that whatever it was that had gotten into me was truly gone from my system at last.
Riding in the passenger seat of Sam J’s car the next morning, I pondered momentarily that it might be foolish to return the very next day after such a clobbering. Foolish indeed, but that was just another day in the life of a fool.
By God Almighty and with Honor,
Images courtesy of the author, unless otherwise annotated