I had the hardest time trying to keep myself from laughing.
Even though Doug had stopped picking on me, we didn’t become friends that summer. I was grateful, at Mom’s insistence, that it was time for Doug and Tracy to go back home. I can’t describe the feeling of peace I felt watching Aunt Joan drive away with Doug and Tracy. It had been a long, hard month having them stay with us, and I was grateful for my life to return to normal.
Not long after my cousins had left my mom had told us something that I’ll never forget…she told us that vitamins made you strong and therefore, you should take them every day. I did a little figuring with my 7 year-old brain and came to the conclusion that if one vitamin a day would make you strong, then a whole handful of vitamins would make you even stronger!
My sister and I snuck into the kitchen when Mom was reading a book in the living room. We carefully opened the cupboard and took out the Multivitamin and Vitamin C tablets. My sister ate a few of the Vitamin Cs, but didn’t want any of the others. My siblings and I called them “horse pills.” This was mostly because they were huge tablets that could have choked a horse and they tasted terrible! I spread about a dozen tablets over the counter and got a glass of water from the sink. I popped the first multivitamin into my mouth and instantly was greeted with a bitter taste that made me wince. I grabbed the glass of water and forced it down.
Shawna looked at my face and shook her head. “The Vitamin C tastes better.”
I looked at her; did she think I was stupid? Of course I knew that the Vitamin C tasted better…they almost tasted like candy, but the Multivitamins tasted more like the grain we fed to our goats.
“I know that,” I said. “But these are better for you; they’ll make you stronger faster.”
She shook her head and watched wide-eyed as I downed another nine or ten tablets. I was starting to feel a little sick, but I realized that I needed to eat even more of those tablets if I wanted to be really strong. I took another four or five tablets, thinking that I’d probably had enough to make me as strong as I’d like to be. In fact, I felt stronger already! It was like my muscles were growing larger as I stood there. I flexed a bicep and grinned, surely it was bigger now than it had been only a minute ago.
I grinned at my sister and strode from the kitchen into the living room. Mom was still reading her book. I cleared my throat. “Mom,” I said as I flexed my muscles. “Do I look strong?” I was a little worried that when I flexed I would rip out of my shirt, but luckily I didn’t.
Mom glanced up from her book, and looked at me with a confused expression. “No, why?”
I was shocked. Maybe she hadn’t been paying close enough attention. I leaned forward and flexed again, like the guys on the covers of muscle magazines. Surely she would be able to see it now. “Don’t I look strong, Mom?”
She put her book down and shook her head. “No. Why would you look stronger?”
I stopped flexing and looked at my biceps, actually, they didn’t look any bigger than they had been a few minutes before. “Well, you said if we took our vitamins they would make us strong.”
Mom nodded. “Yes.”
My shoulders drooped, “Well, I just took a whole bunch of them, and I don’t feel any stronger.”
Mom’s eyebrows shot up like window blinds. “You did what!” she yelled, leaping out of the chair.
“I ate a bunch of vitamins.”
Mom bounded across the room like one of those lions that attacks their prey in the nature specials. She scared me as she grabbed my shoulders. “How many did you eat?”
“I don’t know...twelve?”
Mom looked like she was ready to faint. “Twelve vitamins?”
“Well,” I admitted, “Maybe twenty?”
“Twenty!” Mom was near hysterics. She ushered me to the bathroom and made me stand over the toilet. “Throw them up right now!”
I looked at the toilet and wondered just how I was supposed to throw them up. After all, you don’t just think to yourself, “I feel like throwing up” and do it. I stood there stupidly, not knowing what to do. Mom tried several things to get me to throw up, but none of them worked.
We had a neighbor during this time, Larry. He’s been my dad’s best friend ever since middle school, and he was currently staying in a little travel-trailer parked by our weeping willow tree. Mom ran out and asked him to give us a ride to the hospital in Chewelah, and in a matter of minutes we were flying down the road in Larry’s Honda, the countryside flashing past the windows more quickly then I’d ever seen it go before. Even though the ride to Chewelah should have taken us nearly half an hour, we made it in only fifteen or twenty minutes.
Mom left Shawna and Larry in the car and bustled me to the emergency room. A nurse listened to my mom, who was near hysterics, telling her that I’d swallowed half a bottle of vitamins. The nurse led us to a room where I was told so sit quietly on the examination table, while another nurse started asking questions. How long ago had I taken the vitamins? Did my mom bring the bottle with her? How many vitamins had I actually swallowed? The questions went on, and my head started spinning. I started to feel confused. The nurse started taking over my head to Mom.
As they talked, I looked around the room at all the strange instruments. I wondered what they were for, and who had been in this room before me. Had that person come in this room because they had swallowed too many vitamins as well? I wondered if the hospital had a special room for every kind of sickness, and when you came in you were automatically taken to that room.
I was studying the packages of gauze and bandages by the sink when I heard the nurse say something about pumping my stomach. I listened as she told my mom that a tube would be forced down my throat—one attached to a vacuum cleaner that would suck all the stuff out of my stomach. I started to cry and grabbed my mom; they were going to stick a vacuum cleaner down my throat!
I was near hysterics when the nurse suggested that we just might try something else. “If we try this and it doesn’t work, we’ll have to pump your stomach.” The nurse said seriously. “Hopefully, this will help induce vomiting.”
I nodded vigorously and wiped the tears from my eyes; if something could save me from getting my insides sucked out, I was willing to try it.
The nurse got a tray with several paper cups and a pitcher of water. She poured me a glass of water and told me to drink it. I was eager to do everything she said so they wouldn’t do anything else to me. I drank the water, even though it was warm. When I finished the cup she handed me another glass, and instructed me to drink it as well. I did. Boy, this was easy, just drink water? How easy could this get?
After my fifth glass I decided that I didn’t want anymore water. My eyes were floating in their sockets, and my stomach was starting to get full. The nurse handed me another cup and told me to drink it too. I tried, but I just couldn’t. I was so full I felt like I was going to explode. I started to cry, “I can’t drink any more!” I wailed.
“Well, then we’re going to have to pump your stomach.” The nurse said. I started to hate this woman, her job was to make people better, not torture them!
She forced another cup into my hands, “Drink it!” She ordered. I raised the cup to my lips, and as the water started to go down, the other water I already drank began to come up. I dropped the cup and began to throw up. The nurse must have known that this was going to happen because she was ready with a pink plastic bowl which she shoved in my face. I threw up for a few seconds, and I felt instantly worse. I started to cry harder and the nurse handed me another glass of warm water.
“Drink it.” She instructed.
I shook my head. “I don’t want to!”
I looked to Mom for help, but she shook her head. “Drink it, Jason.”
I couldn’t believe this, they were in this together! They both wanted to torture me. I shook my head again. “I can’t.”
“Then we’re going to put the pipe down your throat and suck it all out.” The nurse warned.
I knew I sure didn’t want that pipe down my throat. I closed my eyes and forced myself to down another three full glasses of water. I started to throw up again. I was crying pretty hard by now, and this became our established pattern. I would cry, the nurse would threaten, I would drink, throw up, and then we would do it all over again.
After what seemed like eternity, and it felt like my stomach had turned itself inside out, the nurse announced that I had gotten everything out of my stomach and would be all right. I wiped my face with a towel, and felt sicker than ever. How could this have happened? I felt awful! I just wanted to take a nap, I was so tired…but I didn’t want to take one here, I wanted to get out of here as quickly as I could.
While Mom filled out some papers, the nurse helped to clean me up. When she was done she handed me a sucker. I’m sure this was a bribe so that I wouldn’t tell anyone how mean she’d been—after all, what sort of adult gets their kicks seeing a little boy throw up until she nearly kills him? She then asked if I had any brothers or sisters. I told her I had a sister out in the car—I was hoping that maybe she wanted to torture Shawna too, but she didn’t seem to want to, instead she handed me another sucker. What luck! I got two suckers from her! I staggered dizzily out of the room with my mom, when we got outside to the car I was feeling pretty good about myself. I had gotten two suckers!
“Where did you get those?” Shawna asked, eyeing the suckers in my hand.
“From the nurse.” I said. “All I had to do was throw up a million times.”
As the car pulled away from the hospital parking lot, Shawna looked on enviously. I waved the other sucker in front of her face. I had two suckers and she didn’t have any…I, at least, was going to enjoy this!
“Jason, give Shawna one of the suckers.” Mom instructed from the front seat
What? Give one to Shawna? Why would I do that? She hadn’t done anything…I was the one who had his stomach turned inside out. Mom took one of my suckers and handed it to my sister, who greedily began to eat it. I folded my arms and sat back on the seat. It just wasn’t fair! I thought, I go through the torture and Shawna gets rewarded for it?
I sulked all the way home, and felt a general anger directed toward everyone in the world at this point. However, I did learn several important lessons that day: First of all, don’t believe your mom when she tells you that vitamins make you strong. Second, nurses always lie. And third, if you ever have to go to the hospital and you get two suckers, hide them both so you don’t have to share.