We went with Mark and Cheryl to the Otsego County Fair. Mark wanted to see the harness racing.
We took Mark’s pick-up truck, and me, Bruce and Mark sat in the front cab, with me in the middle. When we arrived at the fair, Bruce got out, and as I went to unfasten my seat belt, the back of my arm rubbed against the seat, and I felt the most horrific pain. I thought I’d rubbed against a burr that was stuck in the cloth of the seat and that it was now lodged in my arm, but when I picked it off, I saw it was a bee. I threw it down on the seat and began swatting it like mad with the magazine I was holding. I’d never been stung by a bee. Wow. It really hurt.
“I can feel my throat closing,” I said to Bruce, mostly joking.
“Let me see it,” he said and took a quick look. “It’s fine.”
“You didn’t even look.”
Then Mark took a look. He seemed to give it a longer, more extensive examination. At that moment, I wished I was married to Mark and not Bruce.
“We’ll keep an eye on it,” he said.
I looked over at Bruce.
As we walked through the rides and food stands to get to the harness racing, I kept rubbing my arm, thinking, I can’t believe the first time in my life that I’m stung by a bee is when I’m pregnant. Will the bee venom go into the baby and thwart its development? I imagined the fetus developing fuzzy black stripes and wings. My mother says she ate a lot of cherries when she was pregnant with my sister, and now my sister hates cherries. Maybe the baby will love honey. Or hate it.
We took our seats in front of the horse track and watched the harness races for about an hour. After a while, I got antsy and went for a walk through the fair. At one booth, there were pig races, where the participants had names like Brad BBQ Pitt, Porky Pig, Kevin Bacon, and Piggy Gaga.
Across the way, a group of seven gray-haired women in green and yellow skirts who called themselves cloggers were getting ready to perform under the tent. The woman whose husband was the announcer and played the music seemed to think that gave her special privileges. She was bossing everyone else around, including the little border collie that was part of their act. Most of the group appeared to be in their mid-seventies, making the one woman in her late 50s look like Brigitte Bardot in comparison. She had long, straight, dyed blonde hair and was taller than all the others, and when the group performed, all eyes were on her, and she seemed to know that.
Behind the performance tent was a hall that housed arts and crafts. I bought two hand knitted winter hats and a pair of fuzzy pink mittens, though it took so long to get through the cashier line, I could have knitted the mittens myself. The cashier was an old woman named Clementine, who was adding all the items together in her head, including figuring out the tax, and then writing everything on a tally sheet for the fair organizers. I could see on the shift schedule behind her that Clementine had been there since about 9 a.m., and it was now nearly two o’clock.
“Your shift’s nearly over, Clementine,” I said.
She looked up at me with glazed eyes that said, “Do you not think I know that?”
As I walked away, I saw a fat woman who had her child in a harness that was wrapped around his chest and attached to a long leash. The fat woman held the leash tightly in her hand, and every time her son would get ahead of her — which was often — she would yank on the chain to reign him in. She kept him on a tight leash, as they say. All I kept thinking as I watched him try to pull away, and her yanking him back, was that this boy will grow up to be a man and will one day kill his wife.
I made my way over to the livestock. Each category of animal had its own building. There was one for cows, one for goats, another for pigs. The sheep had their own building as well. I was fascinated by the goats. I kept trying to get the young man seated by them to tell me why the goats had these little flaps of skin under their chins that looked like drop earrings, but he just kept telling me to read the signs they had posted describing the different breeds.
By the time I got back to our seats at the horse track, I was ready to go. We all got up to leave, and as we headed for the fairground exit, Cheryl spotted the lady who puts on a show with birds. I watched for a couple of minutes and found it tedious and wanted to leave. We’d already been there in the baking sun for about four hours and having eaten a hot dog, sausage and peppers sandwich, some french fries and a root beer float, we’d pretty much exhausted most of the food the fair had to offer. But Mark and Cheryl had driven us there so we had no choice but to stay until the bird show was over. Bruce and I orbited the bird booth and ate a candy apple and did a lap around the amusement park rides –rides that on a good day make me want to throw up. I wondered how fast I’d puke with morning sickness. I vowed never to go anywhere again without my own car.
I rubbed at my arm where the bee had stung, and it was beginning to get taut and itchy. First raw milk and now this. Another near death experience in the Catskills.