Misery Loves Company
by Allen Delaney
Its fall, that time of year when the air is laced with a morning chill, the leaves take on an inkling of color, and my wife hates me.
I know she hates me because when I woke up this morning, I leapt out of bed, threw open the bedroom window, inhaled the nippy morning scent, and exhaled with a loud Ahhhhhhh. I asked if she could smell that air. She pulled her face from her pillow, and through watery, puffy eyes and cherry red nose, responded, No, Eyeb cant smeb anyping. Eyeb habe ew.
I was able to decipher the part that she couldnt smell anything, but the last sentence had me puzzled. She either said, buy bait, you. or I hate you. So I asked her what type of bait she wanted me to buy. She plopped her face back into her pillow and moaned. It was evident that Id be doing the outside chores by myself today.
My wife does hate me during fall because I dont get hay fever and she does. In fact, she gets bales of hay fever whereas Im unaffected by these purported pollen and mold spores that are supposedly flying around this time of year, accosting thousands of sinus-enabled citizens. My co-workers are among the multitudes, and they habe me too.
The mating ritual of plants, or for that matter, any other plant-related hazards, has never affected me.
Back in the Cretaceous period when I was about 10 years old, other tribe members, known as the neighborhood kids, and I were traipsing through a field of wildflowers on our way to investigate an old barn. As we neared the rickety wooden building, a kid in our group looked down, froze in his tracks and screamed, poison ivy!
The other heads dropped down in unison, and upon confirming the discovery, eight out of nine kids suffered a wave of panic. They hopped on one foot, then the other, in a futile attempt to self-levitate over the enemy. Kids were falling over one another, scrambling to get back home to the safety of their medicine cabinets. I could hear their hollers trailing off through the woods that bordered the field as I stood among the three-leafed plants. I had never seen or felt its effects, so I looked upon this incident as an experiment rather than a reason to go ricocheting off trees.
I had the barn to myself, and for a 10-year-old, it contained a wealth of treasures. There were neat old jars, rusty tractor parts, broken tools and a shaky hayloft to climb on with a minimum of nails poking through its boards. It would also turn into a safe refuge for the next few days.
In school Monday morning, I found myself surrounded by eight pink kids furiously trying not to scratch themselves. The bubble-gum colored lotion that covered their skin was drying and crackling, and each movement shook pink powder onto the floor beneath them.
Hey, how come you aint covered with lotion? a friend demanded.
I shrugged my shoulders and answered, I guess I dont get poison ivy.
The itchy crowd determined that I was to suffer one way or another.
When school let out, eight kids waited to ambush me just outside the playground. Fortunately pink is not a color that lends itself well to the art of camouflage, unless youre trying to disappear at a Mary Kay convention. I turned in the opposite direction and ran toward the woods. My would-be attackers followed in hot pursuit right up to the tree line where they stopped short.
As I caught my breath while leaning against the old barn, I could see them shaking their fists at me, then scratching, calling me to come back, scratching some more, hurling insults at me while scratching, until they could no longer tolerate the itching. One by one, they returned to their medicine cabinets to reapply the magical pink lotion, leaving me a safe passage home. After a week, the ivys affect began to wear off, and their skin color, along with our friendship, returned to normal.
Breakfast is reaby, my wife announced while holding a moist dishcloth over her mouth and nose. She had ventured outside to shake me from my reminiscences. Instead of pruning, or as my spouse calls it, hacking the honeysuckle around the hedgerow, I had wandered back to my youth. Suddenly, I could see the laugh lines around her puffy eyes lift upward.
Whats so funny? I asked.
She pointed toward my feet. Youre standing in poison iby.
I dropped the hacking shears, hopped on one foot, then the other, and scrambled into the house, making a beeline for the bathtub. I kicked off my sandals and scrubbed my exposed legs with hot soapy water. For the rest of the day, much to her delight, I displayed massive concern about the discomfort I would surely endure.
Misery loves company, and I just couldnt bring myself to tell her the truth.