Imagine a pleasant, if somewhat overcrowded suburbia setting.
The typical three-bedroom ranch on a corner lot, smack in the center of a neighborhood. It would be the hub, probably, if the beleaguered matron of the house didn’t generally flee from most human interaction. An unassuming white house, with a travel trailer, six vehicles crammed in the driveway, and a couple small fishing boats that appeared one day, from somewhere, like magic. The lawn, were it described as an 80’s hair band, would be White Snake. The family is a sassy combination of the Waltons and the Munsters.
The beleaguered matron of the homestead (dreadlocked, pierced, tattooed, with the attention span of a gnat on crack) has fallen ill. Frustrated but responsible (she’s got things to do, dammit, stuff! And whatnots!) she removes herself from the day job to spend several hours at a local urgent care. The struggle to move oxygen had become a losing battle, and her voice had completely disappeared, with nary even a whisper left. She’d tried calling the family doctor, but with the inability to elicit more than the occasional hoarse squeak, they couldn’t grasp her need to make an appointment. Her coworker then called on her behalf, and after much confusion, it turned out they were already booked entirely for that day, but thanked her for calling, very nice, how pleasant of you. They’d call the patient back if the doctor could fit her in, but it didn’t look promising, so she gave up, arranged her desk so it wouldn’t be a mess if she ever made it back to the office, and drove herself (very quietly) to the nearest urgent care. The diagnosis: laryngitis, bronchitis, asthma flare. Once the medications were procured, she went home to bed, hopeful the morning would bring relief, and if Saint Nick was willing, some semblance of a voice.
But the next day was worse, so she opted not to wake. The third day was agitating beyond measure, on account of the aforementioned attention span problems, and the things she needed to do but couldn’t, and the household that was surely headed to the netherworlds in a handbasket without her there to tend it all. Midday, she stumbled into the living space, which was for whatever reason, unbearably bright and noisy, and tried to remember what it felt like to be a human. In fact, she could not recall, but as it was a holiday – July 4th, in fact – she pretended that she did. There seems to be another extra person there that she was previously unaware of, and a small puppy, who, while adorable in its clumsy puppy-ness, is still a surprise. Also, the mom’s mom now shows up, ostensibly to celebrate a holiday, but mostly to keep checking her grown-up child for fever and to make certain she eats something, whether she wants to or not. It should be mentioned here that the mom’s mom has also brought a dog, which, if one were the counting type, would bring the total to five. To recap, that would make ten people, five dogs, and eight guinea pigs, who, for their part, were as delightful and cheery as always. Our quirky matron holds out as long as she can, but the heat and the crowd and what seems to be unbearable crankiness of all the other people in the household drive her, baffled, back to her bedroom at her first opportunity. Sleep is easier. And quieter. And far more understandable.
Now that we’ve gotten the audience’s empathy, the humor strikes.
On the fourth day of the illness, something changed. Each time she coughed, her right side lit with sharp agony. Still no voice. Still exhausted. And though in general fairly stoic regarding physical pain, she worried that the misery in her side was indeed a concern. She tried to ignore it. Tried to medicate it. But as the day wore on, the pain only became worse, and so she ended up back at the urgent care. Turns out, she was exhibiting all the symptoms of a collapsed lung, which meant she had to stay there for roughly 47 years while getting chest x-rays from every imaginable position. But, good news! No collapsed lung. Probably just pulled muscles from the never-ending cough. They switched up her medications and sent her back home.
There had been a freak summer storm while she was gone. The roads had flooded, which required some tricky navigational skills to get back to the house. Our quirky beleaguered matron did not possess those particular skills, however, her husband quite thankfully did. Once home, in the spirit of the long holiday weekend, she determined to get at least one thing on her list accomplished. (Let us reiterate here, that the quirky matron is in fact the owner of a glorious multitude of guinea pigs, as well as three small hysterical dogs. Oh, and four almost-old-enough-to-move-out-on-their-own children. So technically, they are a family of six. But the long time significant other of one of those children also lives there. And it’s possible there is also now an eighth person who, if not exactly living there, still has not left in a long, long time.) She has grand plans to disassemble her guinea pig cages and build newer, bigger, better ones, and believes she can do this without destroying her admittedly pitifully-functioning lungs. She will just sit on the floor and attach grids to one another with zip ties. It is not hard physical labor. It’s really almost resting. She’s sure the urgent care physician would agree.
And after all, her plans for the long holiday weekend had been to finish writing two books, ship several shipments of the last book she released, tune her guitar and practice that, clean the bedroom – clean the entire house, in fact, and organize all the things – as well as finish crocheting that one shawl, and maybe start one other story she’d been thinking of, and do some hardcore shopping for her kid’s quickly approaching open house, as well as rebuild the cages. But she’s settling, and only doing the one thing, after four miserably boring days in bed, and is unsure why nobody else can see how frustrated she really is. She remains quiet on this front, however, as she’s been on a lot of steroids lately, and is aware they sometimes leave her feeling testy and irrational. Also, she still has no voice with which to express her tumultuous feelings.
So with a modicum of assistance, she’s gotten the guinea pig cages taken apart, and now four of the eight pigs now have no home, but just temporarily.
(It seems like it’s taking forever, Yes, I know this, but the set up before the joke drop is ESSENTIAL, people, trust me)
Let’s insert the part here that now with the doubled steroid dose, her already plump cheeks will blow up, resembling a greedy chipmunk, even though she is still really too sick to eat food.
In very quick succession, several things happen at once. One kid and their SO have returned with pizza and breadsticks for dinner and set them on the coffee table. Quirky mom heads to the basement to throw in laundry for her precious guinea pigs, yes, she does their laundry, because she keeps them on fleece bedding, because they are tiny treasures to her heart and THEY ARE WORTH IT, when she recognizes something amiss. There is a great puddle of water coming from beneath the basement staircase, enough water that it has its own current, and she’s not certain but she thought she might have seen a few fish float by. One kid is approximately three feet away from the water, immersed in his video games. “Kid #4!” she whisper shouts. “Do you not see this water?”
“Huh?” is his helpful response.
One dreaded peek around the basement wall confirms her worst fear. The storms have invaded the lower level. The basement is flooding at an alarming rate. “Get up!” she whisper cries. “Towels! Shop vac! Get the electrical stuff up first!” There is furniture, amps, guitars & their paraphernalia, boxes of important things, large rugs, all manner of whatnots and such that definitely should not be getting soaking wet.
“Huh?” he replies once again.
She runs (slowly, on account of the oxygenation problem) to alert the remaining houseful of longterm residents. “Basement is flooding!” she whisper shouts. “Towels! Shop vac! Move, move, move!”
Some, indeed, do move. Some are still eating pizza. Some are chasing the loose guinea pigs. Two have apparently come down with some sickness that renders them unable to Do Things. The hysterical dogs are made more hysterical by the excitement. Quirky Mom’s spouse is extraordinarily displeased at this turn of events. Also astronomically displeased RE: loose guinea pigs, disassembled cages, destroyed kitchen filled with cage parts and tables for cages to rest on, gigantic sheet of corrugated plastic for the base of the new cage that seems to move itself so it’s right where it needs to NOT be, repeatedly, somehow hay has been spilled, loose guinea pigs are surprisingly fast!, where did the rest of the pizza go?, more water is coming in! move, move, move! OH MY GOD, WHY WAS THAT ON THE BASEMENT FLOOR NOW IT’S RUINED!, somebody catch that guinea pig!, sweet lifegiver, Quirky Mom’s gut has now been struck with the massive discontent sometimes brought on by the combination of antibiotics, stupidly high steroid doses, illness, and stress; indeed, the GI tract has been suddenly struck as if it has collided with a Mack truck, but the damp boxes of dampened heirlooms, loose and hysterical animals, cage grids, jars of cable ties, and the like are blocking the route to the bathroom, one kid now thinks they may be about to vomit, spouse is loudly displeased, loudly, VERY LOUDLY displeased, and she can’t stop coughing, her side hurts, her side hurts, her side hurts, sweet Saint Nick –
And of course, this is the moment WHEN HILARITY ENSUES.