Dad’s cousin passed away a few years ago from the sting of a wasp or bee. Younger than me, he’d been working on a rooftop in Vernon, B.C., when he was stung. He said to the man with him, “Don’t let me die.”
I was never stung until in my thirties, at a campsite, I moved a bench that had a wasp nest built beneath it. The wasps attacked my bare legs. Over the years since, I’ve had the odd sting, usually without terrible results although once, at my friend Shelly’s, my shin swelled and grew hard and remained that way for some time, enough that Shelly worried about it.
Yesterday I was pulling quackgrass from a flower bed and digging up the row of pink speedwells that I wanted out of the front border when I felt something inside the hood of my bunnyhug, which was pulled up because of the cool breeze. Fearing it was a woodtick, I reached in to brush it off my neck, and saw a dark flash as some larger insect fell toward the ground and disappeared.
“Oh! Thanks for not stinging me!” I said to it, before realizing that it had. I’d go into the house and put a mixture of baking soda and water on the spot, I thought, and walked to the Quonset to deposit my trusty horseshoe hoe so Goddamn Dog wouldn’t chew up the wooden handle. With each step the sting hurt a bit more, so I began to hurry. When I reached up to touch the area, I could feel a tiny stinger poking out of my skin.
Could I be allergic to bee stings, like Dad’s cousin was? I wondered, trying not to panic as I hurriedly mixed the soda and water in a small bowl. What if I am, and my neck swells, and soon I can’t breathe?
The stinger came right out in my fingers, the soda poultice immediately quelled the pain, and today there’s just a wee sore lump there. I lived.