The sun splattered the ground as though dumped from a bucket. My dog was laughing and running in chase of some imagined prey. A warm day, I was wearing a tee shirt and cut off jeans, my usual uniform of the summer. We were making our way to the top of a bluff, overlooking Long Island Sound just below Stamford, Connecticut. I had put my skiff into a small cove and decided to hike up to where the view was to eat my lunch. It was packed in a lunchbox that said CIRCUS on it in bright pink, with cartoon animals festooned all around it. Inside was a cream cheese and green olive sandwich that I had found in the fridge, a pickel and a few Oreo cookies. The thermos held some lemonade.
At the edge of the bluff I found a large flat rock that screamed ‘I am a table’ at me and set up my little feast. The dog came whizzing by, slowing to look at me for any notification that I might be sharing my repast. Seeing none, he ran across the wide and rock strewn meadow. I took to watching a lobster boat making its way along its lines. Even atop the bluff I could hear the sounds of the boat clearly. I couldn’t make out detail so I didn’t know if they were on the lobster or drifting through a day of empty pots and stolen bait. A jellow jacket had taken notice of the lemonade sitting in the cup that was also the thermos lid. It stood on the lip and waggled its butt, jazzed at discovering the otherlode of sugar. I fanned him away and took a sip of the lemonade. I set the cup down and took another bite of sandwich and the yellow jacket buzzed at my face, showing me his displeasure at having his moment of excellence destroyed by a dismissive wave. “Relax.” I told it. “There’ll be plenty for you. Just take turns.”
Apparently the yellow jacket didn’t agree because it flew at my face and promptly stung me on the cheek. I slapped it, ending the life of the yellow jacket and pumping a little more of its venom into my cheek. My dog, hearing me shriek in pain, came running over, concern in his brown eyes. He licked my face as if to say he had no idea the problem, but he was there for me. I gave him a quarter of the sandwich and he inhaled it whole, then running off again. A second later the dog yelped and seemed to cringe as his head swivelled back and forth trying to see his back. I realized that there was something in the air around him and then realized it was more of the yellow jackets. I jumped up and called the dog, scrambling up my lunchbox and thermos. Both of us ran down the switchback walk that led down to the cove and my Boston Whaler.
As we ran, I felt more stings, and they simply spurred me faster. At the water’s edge, the dog just kept going and blasted into the water like a cannon shot. I could see a fog of angry yellow jackets swirling above him. Another two stings and I realized that I had my own cloud of angry insects and threw myself over the stern, over the motor and into the water. The cool water felt good on the six or so stings I took. The dog was paddling about, just his node and eyes above the surface of the water. It appeared that he’d already lost the angry flying mob. I treaded water and saw that I still had a number of admirers and I could feel a couple as they banged into my head as if butting me. I sagged beneath the surface and swam under water for about 20 feet before coming back up. When I looked, I saw that the bees were gone.
The dog and I made shore and then climbed into the boat. As I started the motor I gave the dig the rest of the sandwich and I flused the thermos in the sea water. I’m nt sure if the food was the attractor of the yellow jackets, but I wasn’t taking any chances. My right eye was swollen and it pushed the eye closed a little, but all and all I was okay. The dog had a few bumps on his snout and showed some tenderness on his shoulder, but he looked like he fared okay.
It’s kind of funny the way that nature can give you such a perfect moment, and simultaneously snatch it away with the other hand.