Off the Wall

Little stings bring big bills

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When I was a kid I fell down the attic steps and busted my head wide open. Grandma insisted on sewing it up herself. It's a tad bit odd going through life with "God Bless Our Home" cross-stitched across my forehead, but you have to admire her moxie.

"AAAAAGH!" Sweetie screams.

It's 4 o'clock in the morning and Sweetie is dancing around the bedroom like Fred Astaire. It's not that unusual for Sweetie to want to tango in the middle of the night, it's just that normally he prefers a partner.

"Something in the bed bit me!" he yells, hopping up and down.

By the time I turn on the bathroom light, Sweetie's hand looks like it's been barbecued.

"Thank goodness it bit me on the hand," he mutters.

Since I'm pretty sure we don't have rattlesnakes in the bed, I'm guessing it's some kind of insect. Grabbing the bathroom cleaner, I hose Sweetie down.

"What'd you do that for?" he demands, jerking his foaming hand away.

"Ammonia," I explain, as I pinch his nose, toss two Benadryl in his mouth and slap him on the back. "It'll neutralize the sting."

By now Sweetie's hand is swollen and starting to throb.

"I think you need to suck the venom out," Sweetie says.

Like I haven't heard that line at 4 in the morning.

"That's for snake bite," I say as I tear a couple of cigarettes apart, throw the tobacco into my mouth, chew and spit it on him.

"How do you know it's not a snake bite?" Sweetie asks, staring at the dripping tobacco juice.

"Process of elimination," I say. "I don't see a rattlesnake but there's a hornet on your T-shirt."

While Sweetie starts dancing again, I go for ice.

Despite all my efforts, Sweetie's arm has swollen to the size of a tree trunk, and he's starting to look like Alley Oop.

"Well?" Sweetie frowns as we stare at his hand, which is now the size of a pitcher's mitt.

"Thank goodness it bit you on the hand," I mutter.

Sensing this has gone beyond my expertise, I decide it's time to break down and call a professional.

Leila's married to a doctor. I turn to her for all my medical needs. I'm looking forward to the day when she can talk me through a pap smear over the phone.

"Uh huh. Uh huh. Uh huh," I say into the phone. "Yeah, I did all that, and he's still puffing up like bread dough." Pause. "I don't know. I'll ask him. Sweetie," I say, hand cupped over the receiver, "is your life insurance premium paid up?"

Fortunately, Doc was able to slip us in between patients. After a thorough examination, which lasts less than 30 seconds, he drives a hypodermic needle into Sweetie's tush with one hand while pushing us out the door with the other.

"Good lord!" Sweetie says, staring at the doctor bill. "Does he charge minimum wage per minute?"

"Makes that hornet's sting feel like a little love bite, don't it?" the receptionist says as she slips Sweetie's credit card out of his hand. (Copyright 1999 P.S. Wall. Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate.)

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