When we go to the beach, I really get into it. I close my eyes and, listening to the waves crashing to shore, I’m transported to tropical locales like Hawaii, or Tahiti, or Fred’s Fake N’ Bake Tanning Emporium. Surrounded by palm trees and the enchanting smell of fragrant flowers or Glade South Pacific #6, I relax hugely.
Such was the case recently at a local lake. We had brought all our swim toys and I was trying out a new big, green inflatable chair, complete with headrest.
It was heavenly. It was nap time. I thought I had put sunscreen on my face…
Off I went, splashing into the water, lying back in the chair. Ahhhhhh. I was instantly far, far away, lounging in a tropical pool, enjoying peeled grapes and drinks in coconut shells. Knowing the attentive staff would alert me to any danger from sharks or predatory flip-flop salesmen, I fell asleep.
The sun blazed. My sleep deepened as the waves rocked me gently. A rivulet of drool formed a crusty line across my cheek, reminiscent of a Prussian dueling scar.
I stayed close to shore at first, then a change in the wind steered me away, my magnificent body and the large chair acting as an effective sail.
Head lolled back, mouth agape, eyelids twitching REMily, I drifted out to lake…
Past the swim platform, beyond the line of white marker buoys, out I went into the commercial shipping lanes. Well, the parasail boat and yahoos on jet skis lanes, anyway.
Boaters who sighted me consulted their nautical manuals, confused as to what a bright red-over-green marker buoy indicated. I was a hazard to navigation they were unfamiliar with.
Eventually, someone overcame the smell of burning flesh and approached.
“Hey Mister!” a young boater hailed, hand waving in front of him. “You okay? Wake up!”
I came to and, using my finely honed sense of self-awareness, determined something was amiss. For one thing, my head was the size of a basketball. I could barely open my eyes – my face had become ridiculously swollen from sunburn and imminent heatstroke.
I looked up through puffy slits and saw several pleasure boats close by, their operators staring at me with a mixture of curiosity and revulsion.
“Hewwo!” I croaked. My mouth wasn’t working properly. It too was swollen.
“My mouf feelth funny, and I fink I thunbunned my dung thumhow!”
The boaters were straining to understand what I was saying. “Thunbunned! My dung!” I said, pointing. “Thith doth not feel too goob…”
I spoke more slowly to enunciate properly.
Later, covered in fire extinguisher powder from a helpful boater, I paddled slowly back to civilization, using the inefficient, two-handed stroke common to floaty-chair occupants. My horrifying facial igneousness parted the crowds of swimmers before me, in much the same manner as a large shark might, or Godzilla.
Coming in to shore I heard a lady hush her children. “Don’t stare at the red Elephant Man,” she said. “Some people are born that way...”
As I stumbled closer to our section of beach, my wife looked alarmed.
“Please don’t hurt the children,” she said, clutching a stick. “Oh! It’s you, dear! What in God’s name happened to your head?”
You know, I think I understand how lake monster legends get started now. I seem to be a living legend myself. Amongst hospital staff, anyway.
Please pass the aloe.