It’s nice to be outside. For limited periods. Like once a fortnight, for eight minutes tops. But sometimes, there’s an outdoor wedding, a picnic, a cat-in-a-drain rescue – that sort of thing – and you have to put aside your feelings of doom and just go…or people will suspect you have some sort of phobia of sunburn, mosquitoes and stepping in unidentifiable scat. Which you do, but it doesn’t need advertising.
Not wanting to offend my new neighbours, I reluctantly agreed to a picnic at the dam.
“Great, bring your swimmers. See you there!”
Bring your swimmers?
I stepped out of the car into the mud and slipped (of course). Not a big land-on-my-bottom slip, just a small stumble really, but enough to splatter myself with the sticky brown sludge you get near dams. I don’t think anyone saw. My neighbour was laughing about ‘something’ her husband said – not the fact that I now looked like a five-foot chocolate bar.
I made introductions and joined in the ‘fun’, trying to stay under the trees, keeping away from the glare off the water and away from the little round balls of poop littering the ground. What I wished I’d stayed away from was the pesky eight-year-old with a frisbee. Same girl with whom I’ve ‘played’ ping pong in the past.
“Why do you keep bothering me? I’ve already thrown it for you,” I said.
“Yeah, but you’re not doing it right. You have to point your elbow where you want it to go.”
“I did. I wanted it to go on the hot plate.”
Since when do eight-year-olds know how to give withering stares? “You’re stupid.”
“You shouldn’t call people names, you know.”
“Yeah but you’re the woman who tripped over in the park the other day running away from a plastic snake. That means you’re stupid.”
“At least I’m not impolite,” I said.
“Dad says you’re funny. He laughs at you.”
“I see where you get your manners.”
“You’re boring. Throw the frisbee.”
“What are you, a dog?”
“Muuuummm! She called me a dog!”
People stopped and stared. I stammered an apology and shuffled toward the dam edge, where I could hopefully blend in with the scenery. But then I made the mistake of looking at the ground. I shrieked and leapt in the air, landing neatly in the dam – but safe from the three-foot long brown snake slithering from the reeds.
When I managed to wipe the stinging mascara out of my eyes, the eight-year-old was standing on the bank with a stick in her hand. “It’s a stick! You ran away from a stick!”
The adults were gracious enough to be silent as I waded from the depths like something from a B-Grade horror.
“Think I might go home now,” I said to my neighbour.
“Yes,” she said, handing me a paper towel. “I think that’s best. You okay?”
I nodded and got in my car, ignoring the girl laughing and chasing people with the stick and yelling, “Snake! Look out, a snake!”
I may not accept any invitations for a while – outdoors is an experience I’d rather only have in small doses. Like for eight minutes, once a fortnight.