The doctor said a slight fever would come. “Reaction” to a shot. He was feverish for a day. The next, he sneezed and went a little hoarse. But the fever was gone and he was uber-perky and when I meekly told him that maybe we shouldn’t go he threw back his head, opened his mouth and sobbed. And I thought: He is not bedridden. So I gave him a spinach smoothie disguised as a blueberry smoothie, loaded us up and we went, straight into traffic, inching north despite taking all the secret, eucalyptus tree-lined back roads I know which everyone else in the world knows about now, apparently, and when we finally arrived we immediately experienced an exuberance-high upon seeing children and elders and I loaded everyone up and we tried other secret back roads to the beach (twisting oaks and hydrangea on steroids) and the roads worked and suddenly we were well into an ocean’s frisky sundowner, splashing in cold velvet surf (despite my fear of great white sharks hunting at dusk) and, later, dining at a table on the sand, taking huge bites of tonic-air with our ahi tuna salads, grilled cheese sandwiches, strawberries and pleasantly warmed fries and I finished my meal and chatted with the elders, eyes flicking from dazzling ocean to children climbing the lifeguard stand and I thought: I so belong here. And I pulled my awkward black journal thing out of my purse, yanked out the pen I was forced to scrounge for and excused myself from the conversation, about to write a little something down
when I sneezed.
Ocean—with all its surfers I mistake for shark fins, dazzle and dive-bombing pelicans—vanished. Before me was my bed back home in the brown, ocean-abandoned, terminally broiling valley I love to hate when it’s 108 and hate to love when palominos clop down our street.
I quelled my son’s (slightly hoarse) sobs with a new toy. Because when the sneezes won’t stop, you pacify. And, anyway, I’m the elder—I’ve earned my didactic tendencies! Executive decisions, brief, gusto-infused round trips, temporary goodbyes to beautiful shark-infested waters and family and driving 73mph to an inferno? It’s okay, love. It’s. O.K. Come up here on the bed and let’s watch a movie in the lovely A/C. Your father has offered to brave the heat and forage for gourmet hot dogs. He will return, with fries, and here’s some chilled fruit. Mango. Tropical! Ha ha! Hush, now. Let the Mad Hatter have his say.