We toodled happily through the hills of Virginia in high spirits for a couple of hours till Cousin Kathleen asked for a rest stop. She wasn’t feeling so well. Uh oh! Still fearing the onset of food poisoning, I wheeled into a service station and she scurried for the Ladies Room. We filled the car, took our break, and waited. She came out looking a little green around the gills. “I ain’t feeling too peart. Something must be going around. I have a feeling I knew what was going around, that rotten sausage rolling around in her gut.
“Do you think we ought to go back home? I don’t want to take you off sick.”
“I’m fine. I just kinda’ had loose bowels.” That phrase always gave me visions of a person walking along with their arms full of slippery guts that periodically escaped and slipped to the ground. “I think I am fine now. My stomach’s rumblin’ a little. Think I’ll have a little bite to settle it.”
The sharp smell of rancid sausage assaulted us as she unwrapped a sausage-biscuit she dug out of her purse. “I’m sorry I ain’t got enough for y’all, but I didn’t want to waste this last piece.”
We couldn’t talk her out of eating it, and she cleaned it up, even licking its wax paper wrapper. Around noon, we stopped at a rest area for our picnic, spreading it out on a table under a shade tree. Several other groups were picnicking close by. Cousin Kat wasn’t hungry, so she headed for the restroom, telling us “Y’all go ahead and eat. I need a few minutes to sponge off a little.” That sounded ominous, but I didn’t offer to go along, assuming she wanted privacy.
By the time she came out, she looked bad. At a nearby picnic pavilion a couple with three little children was putting out their lunch. Dad smoothed the red and white checkered cloth and corralled the kiddies as Mom laid out the matching napkins and dishes. It was obvious tradition meant a lot to these parents since the kid’s clothes matched and Dad pulled out a nice camera and set up a tripod. It was a beautiful day for a picnic and family photos until Cousin Kat walked up, leaned against one of the poles of their pavilion and started projectile vomiting in their direction. She continued retching as they hurriedly packed their things, apparently in no mood for a new tradition.
When she regained her equilibrium, drank a Seven-Up, declaring she was fine now. “Sometimes I just get real sick like that, then it’s all over. Let’s get on down the road!”
She must have had a constitution of iron. We couldn’t talk her into going home, so we headed on. All was well for a couple of hours, then she got nauseated. I pulled over so she could retch to her heart’s content. Reaching in the car behind her, she grabbed Mother’s brand new red fleece jacket to wipe herself up with. Mother is still griping about her ruining that jacket. We whipped into a hotel and got a room, so she could rest and recover. We loaded her with fluids. I tried to get her to go to the Emergency Room but she would have no part of it. You can’t make an apparently competent adult go to the Emergency Room against their will. Believe me, I tried. Every time she opened her eyes, I had her drinking fluids.
After a few hours, she seemed better. At her suggestion, the rest of us walked over to the hotel restaurant for dinner. When we got back in an hour or so, the room smelled like a charnel house after a fresh episode of diarrhea and vomiting. Worst of all, her hemorrhoid had flared up and started bleeding. There was a bloody, poopy mess on the toilet, the walls, and a trail back to the bed where she lay sleeping like a baby. We made sure she was okay, gave her more to drink, and got to work on the mess, calling for extra towels to clean up. We also had to wash her clothes, since she’d already messed up the two outfits she’d brought. Then we headed to the pharmacy for remedies and air fresheners. Just in case you don’t know, they don’t give that stuff away. It was not a good night.
Somehow, we made it through the night. The next morning, she’d won her gastrointestinal battle. Now all she had to deal with was agonizing hemorrhoids. Her generous descriptions of her progress and suffering did not make her a better travel partner. We did some anti-climatic sightseeing in Amish Country, due to her ailments. Naturally, she didn’t feel like getting out, so we just made abbreviated stops. The only place she got out was at a quilt shop, where she was outraged at their prices. She’d thought she might be able pick up a nice quilt for twenty-five dollars.
We headed out early the next morning, determined to drop her off and head home to Louisiana. We had no intention of ever spending another night at her house. I think she was happy to see us leave, especially since we left her pantry well-stocked.