The sting on his face was clearly swelling. He was horribly self-conscious all of a sudden. For the entirety of his adult life, he had managed to steer clear of bees, and now, today, a bee found its way downtown and attacked Jim, as though it was targeting him because it somehow knew it would cause him a greater deal of pain than it would anyone else. He fell to the ground in agony and the most gorgeous woman he had ever seen happened to be passing by, and of course she stopped to help him. When it became clear what the matter was, she took his hand to lift him up and then she accompanied him to the emergency room. She assured him that she could stay with him throughout this ordeal, if he wanted her to. He nodded miserably, having no one else to call.
“My name is
“I’m sorry we’re meeting under such circumstances,
He feebly smiled at her, trying to ignore what he felt was surely an incredibly disgusting rash developing around the spot the bee had stung. She smiled warmly at him in return, and he melted to the floor. He was now in love with her, and particularly with that dark, curly hair hanging loosely at her sides. But he could barely stand to look at her, and he inched away from her on the bench as far as he could without seeming rude, because this beautiful, kind woman smelled awfully strongly of strawberries.
Bees and strawberries. Jim cursed his parents for carrying the prone-to-allergies genes without said genes actually manifesting in either of them. Instead, they were passed down to Jim, in whom they manifested severely. He was tested for every allergy he could possibly have, and it boiled down to two: bees and strawberries. He hated the summer, and flowers, and sugar. He cursed his one real misfortune in life.
As a teenager, he became fanatically obsessed with his allergens. He learned everything there was to know about bees and strawberries (The most well-known bee species is the Western honey bee and the most commonly cultivated strawberry is the garden strawberry). One evening, as an adult, he watched a television show about the pollination process of bees on The Discovery Channel (Most bees are fuzzy and carry an electrostatic charge, which helps in the gathering of pollen). That same evening, his fanatical obsession switched gears. The Discovery Channel was now his sole joy in life, having given him something to look forward to every night (The Discovery Channel debuted on June 17th, 1985, and he is so glad that it did). He hated his job, and women mostly terrified him, and he couldn’t have any pets in his apartment building, and despite having lived there for three years, he still hadn’t made any real friends, so The Discovery Channel was his company (The Discovery Channel’s slogan is The World Is Just Awesome, which Jim appreciates but mostly disagrees with).
In the emergency room, Jim thought that if only he could distract himself from the smell, maybe he could scale down the escalation of this already hellish experience. So he focused on her necklace. The chain was long, and the bright green parrot at the end of it hung squarely in the center of her torso. ‘I am not allergic to parrots,’ he thought. ‘A parrot might be nice.’
And then she noticed.
“Oh, do you like my necklace?” she asked. Startled, he looked up into her face.
“Yes… It’s quite lovely. You like parrots?” he managed to choke out in between raucous coughs, which in turn caused her to rub his back good-naturedly, which itself caused him to cough even louder.
“Oh yes, I just love parrots. All animals, really. I have a parrot at home. His name is Barry, and he’s just great…” He tuned out after this, and tried to let the sound of her voice soothe him. It didn’t, because even her breath seemed to reek of that god forsaken fruit.
“You know, we’ve been waiting for a while,” she suddenly changed topics, “and your rash and cough are not getting any better. I’m going to go talk to someone in charge, see what I can do.”
“Wait, wait. Let me ask you something first. Do you ever watch The Discovery Channel?”
Half-out of her seat, she sank back down. “The what?”
“You know, The Discovery Channel. They play all kinds of interesting shows about science and space and sharks.”
“Oh. It’s a television channel. I’m sorry, I don’t even own a television set. I can’t remember the last time I watched one.”
The rash instantly spread across his already-red face, and he could feel the burn; as if all this weren’t already embarrassing enough, now he had really made a fool out of himself. He smiled the pitiful little smile of a defeated man, and cursed himself under his breath as
“Well, I have good news and bad news,” she announced.
“Bad news first, please.”
“Anyone that could possibly help you is busy, and as long as you aren’t visibly dying, we have to wait.”
‘If only I could plug up my nose and get rid of this rash, I could spend all of eternity waiting next to you,’ Jim thought as he said, “So what could possibly be good news, then?”
Jim’s heart rate decreased. His rash stopped burning. Even the swelling seemed to have petered out, and was now reversing itself. The Discovery Channel did for Jim what