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Going to the zoo


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Ehhhchuhh.”  Alex sneezed into his pillow.   He was tired with a headache that wouldn’t quit, made worse by his incessant sneezing.   Hhehhchahh.”   He rolled onto his back and massaged his temples, wondering if it was time for more ibuprofen.  


Hehhchuhhh…ehhhchuhh, ihhhchuhh…chooo…heptchahh.”  The sneezes shook him and made his stomach churn.   


“Bless you, dad.” A soft voice came from the hallway.   He opened his eyes to see Kristin standing there.  “I’m hungry.”   


He slowly sat up and blew his nose.   Never mind the head cold and migraine, he had responsibilities 


Alex set breakfast on the table and looked at his daughter.  “What did you want to do today?” He asked, punctuating it with a sniffle.   


“Can we go to the zoo?” She asked.  “I wanna see the monkeys.”


The zoo.  He sighed.  He was hoping she’d say watch movies all day.  He wouldn’t even care if she made him watch all of his movies again.   “Sure.”  He managed, turning and stifling a sneeze into his shoulder. “Hihh-chhh.”   


“You sneeze a lot, dad.”


“Because dad has a cold.” He told her.   He started steeling himself for the zoo.  They only had a week together every couple months, so it was all about what she wanted to do.   He started eating his pancakes, hoping a good breakfast would get him started.


His phone rang and he answered for Jamie, ducking out of the room.   


“How’s it going?” She asked.


“She…” he trailed off.  Heh-chuhh, Huhh-chuhh. We’re going to the zoo.” He sighed.  


“Fun.” Jamie sounded genuinely excited for him.  


“With a migraine and a head cold.”


“Less fun.”


“I wish Lyss was here. “


She paused.  “Want a stand in?”




“Sure! I love the zoo, and you could use a hand with the kid.”


“Pick you up at 10.”


He went back in to continue eating.   “Remember my friend, Jamie?”   At Kristin’s nod, he continued, “she’s coming with us to the zoo today.”


“Okay.” Kristin told him.  “She’s fun.”


They finished breakfast and went to pick up Jamie, Alex grabbing his darkest pair of sunglasses to try to minimize his light sensitivity.   


They got to Jamie’s early and went in to wait for her.  Almost ready, Jamie pulled Alex into the kitchen, noticing how pale he was.   “What have you taken for the headache?”   


“Ibuprofen.” He sniffled.  


She handed him a bottle of excedrin migraine.  “Try this.  It works for Freddie.”  


He swallowed two of the pills, and she stashed the bottle in her purse in case he needed it later.  Ihhtschoo.  She let out a strong sneeze.


“Bless you.  And thanks.”


They headed back into the living room where Kristin sat, petting Pace.  “I’m ready.” Jamie told her, and they headed for the zoo.   


They arrived and began walking through the zoo, stopping to first at the monkeys.   Alex smiled as Kristin and Jamie laughed at their antics.   He was having trouble getting into the zoo visit, but fortunately, Jamie was making things easier.


He turned and sneezed a wet double.  Heehchishh, chisshuhh,” and sniffled, patting his pockets for a tissue.   Of course, he’d forgotten to grab any upon leaving the house.   He sniffled again, trying to fight back his runny nose.


Jamie noticed and pulled a sandwich bag of Kleenex from her purse, handing him a couple.  He shot her a grateful look and blew his nose.  She handed him several more to stick in his pocket.  


He looked at the bag of tissues.  “That’s a lot of Kleenex,” he commented.


“You’ve seen me on a bad day.  Ihhtschoo.  I can go through a travel pack in 5 minutes.” She told him.   


He had seen her on a bad day, and he believed that.  Ehhchuhh….huhhchuhh.   I’m just glad one of us is prepared.”   He said as they continued to the lions.


Alex noticed Jamie’s sneezing picked up the longer they were at the zoo.   After the tigers and bears, giraffes, African and Asian animals, he suggested they stop for lunch.   “You ok?” He asked her stuffily.


She nodded.  “It’s just the longer I’m outside, you know.   Ihhhtschoo.”  She blew her nose again.


“We can go…she’ll understand…”


“I’m ok, really.”


He found indoor seating for lunch and got them food, picking at his own.  


“Ihhhtschoo…Ihhtschooo!”  Jamie sneezed, pulling a tissue out of her purse and blowing her nose.    


“Bless you. You sneeze a lot, too.” Kristin commented.  “Do you have a cold like dad.”  


Alex answered for her while she blew her nose.  “She has allergies, Kris.” He explained. 


Jamie nodded, looking at Kristin, “I’m allergic to a lot of things, so I sneeze a lot.”


“Like what?


“Trees, grass, hay, dust, pollen – like plants and flowers, most animals,  some perfumes and air fresheners, some food, and some medicines.  I sneeze more depending on the time of year.”


Kristin nodded.  “That’s a lot.”


“Yeah, it is. But, I’m…iihhtschooo!...I’m used to it.” She shrugged.   


They finished lunch and continued with the zoo.   The aquatic animals, Alex grinning as the girls got into the touch and feel exhibit of the tide pool.   The reptile house, where Jamie told Kristin all about snakes and lizards; he watched her do the same with he bats.    Her sneezing tapered off inside.   


Unfortunately, his headache and sneezing remained the same.   


“Where to next?” He asked, pausing for a series of harsh sneezes.  Huhh-chuhh, uhhhchuhh, Huhh-uhchuhh.”  He blew his nose on a crumpled tissue, trying to ignore the wave of dizziness that accompanied the pounding in his head.   


“Petting zoo!”  Kristin yelled, excitedly as they approached it.  


“Wait a sec, kid.”  Alex told her, turning to Jamie.  “Can you take her in without me?   With the migraine, I don’t think I can deal with the noise sand the smell.” He whispered.


Jamie shook her head. “Alex, I can’t go in there.  I can’t be that close to those animals.”


His face fell. “That bad?”


“I’m ok…” she paused.  Ihhhtschoo!  Ihhhtshoo….ihhh…Ihhschooo!...I’m ok with the pigs and the tortoises.   Everything else is going to trigger an allergy attack and risk setting off my asthma.   Ihhhschoo!  Even standing by the entrance is setting me off.”  She rubbed her eyes carefully.


“Bless you.” He muttered.  He definitely didn’t want to trigger her asthma or sit for half an hour or more while she got the sneezing out of her system.   It wasn’t his goal to make her miserable especially when she was helping him out.  


Kristin came over to them from where she had stood a few feet away.  “Do you have quarters, dad? I wanna feed the animals.”


Alex groaned.  He’d completely forgotten this part.  “Um, no sweety.  Let me-“


“I have some.” Jamie broke in, pulling out her change purse.  “There’s quarters in there.” Sne sniffled, handing it over.   


Alex shot her a grateful look.   “How do I get through this part?” He whispered.


“Focus on her and breath through your mouth.” She whispered back before stepping away to sneeze.  Ihhstchoo!  Huhhiihhtschoo!”


“Bless you.” Alex told her.  “Ok, Kris, Jamie is going to meet us over by the exit….” He paused.  Hehh-Chuhh, ehhhchuhh, Huhchuh.  Ugh.”  He blew his nose.  “Let’s go.”


They disappeared into the entrance, and she wandered over to the exit.   For the first 10 or minutes, Alex sent her pictures of Kristin feeding various animals every few minutes, but there had been nothing for the last five. She figured Kristin had gotten sick of it and made him stop.   A few minutes later, she heard her name and looked up to see Kristin running towards her.  She started towards her.


“Jamie! Jamie!”  They reached each other, and she noticed Alex coming slowly, several feet behind.  “Dad needs more Kleenex.”  Kristin told her, in a rush.


Alex was only about 5 feet away, but Jamie noticed, he was sneezing as he walked.   “Is he ok?” She asked Kristin as they walked to him.


“He says so.  He’s sneezing a lot, though, and said we had to come outside.”


Jamie pressed a fresh pile of tissues into Alex’s hand, guiding him up against the wall of one of the zoo buildings.  “What happened?”


Huhhchishh.”  He blew his nose.   “Sobethig really set be off id there.”  He sniffled, punctuating it with another sneeze.  Heehhhxchuhh.”


“Probably hay or dust, she said gently.  “You are always so much more sensitive when you have a cold.” She reminded him.  She turned to Kristin, “I think it’s just your dad’s allergies.” She told her.  “But…ihhhtschoo…ihhschooo…I also think we should take him home now.”


Kristin nodded.  “This was the last thing anyway.” She reminded Jamie.   


Alex sneezed four times.  “Hobe?” He sniffled.  He fished in his pocket for his keys and handed them to Jamie.  “I thik you better drive.  Heyyyeshhuhh.”


She led the still sneezing Alex to the car, ensured Kristin belted in and began the drive back to his place.   His sneezing would taper down, then ramp back up in cycles, and she looked at him concerned.   


“I think it’s from the cold.   And once I take a Claritin, I’ll be better.”


“You didn’t take one before you left this morning?”


He shrugged.  “Ehhhchahhh,  hahhhchuhh.  Forgot.”   He blew his nose again.


She pointed to the floor.  “Zipper pocket in my purse.”   He pulled one out and took it.  “How’s your head?”


“Throbbing.  Sneezing does not help.”  He muttered, pressing a hand against his nose.  Heehhnnggxxt.  Ow.”  He pressed his hand against his nose, trying to forestall further sneezes.   


“I can tell you from experience, fighting them off and holding them back tends to make things worse.  Best to just let them out.”   


He nodded, fidgeting with the tissues on his lap.  “Hate it whed you’re right.” He sniffled, wetly, wiping his nose.  Huhhhhchhuhh, uhhhchuuhh, chuhh, chuhhh,  chuhh-huhhuhhchoo, uhh-chushooo….Huhh…huhhh-uhhh….huhhh….it’s gode for dow.” He rubbed at his nose.


“Bless you.” Came Kristin from the back seat.  “Dad, are you ok?”


“I’mb ogay.” He sniffled, turning to look back at her, cringing at his voice.


“You don’t look ok.”


  He turned back around and looked in the visor mirror.  Red, runny nose, red watery eyes; he looked miserable.   And the itch in his nose was starting to build up again.


He turned back to her after blowing his nose and wiping his eyes.   “I’m ok.   There was just something at the pett…hold-.”  He flipped back facing frontward, taking a deep breath to settle his stomach as the tickle in his nostrils flared.   “Huhhhh….hhhuhh…HHUHHHCHOOOO.”  He saw Jamie jump with that sneeze and felt a twinge of guilt before the next one came.  “HUHHHCHOOO, UHHHCHUHHSHOO, UHHHCHUHHH, huhhCHUHH,….HUuhhchuhhh, uhhchhhuhhh, ihhhchuhh, chuhh,  chushoo, ihhchuschh, huhschuschh, uhhh-SHUHHH.” He blew his nose loudly several times and sat there, collecting himself.  “Sorry.”   He apologized.   


“God bless you.”  Jamie told him. “I haven’t heard you sneeze like that in a long time.”


“Bless you.” Kristin yelled from the back seat.   


“Thank you.”  He said to his daughter.  And to Jamie, “I’d be willing to bet dust or cats were involved last time too.”


She took the exit for Alex’s neighborhood.   “Almost home. I was going to tell you there’s more excedrin in my purse too, but you can probably wait the few minutes until we get there.”  She  brought her wrist up to her nose.  “Ihhschoo, ihhtshoo, Ihhtschooo.  See, now you got me started.” She sniffled.


“Sorry,” he coughed, blowing his nose again.   He looked down at the baggie full of tissues he had decimated during the 45 minute car ride.  “Sorry I made fun of your Kleenex.   And used most of them.   I’ll give you a box when we get to the…ehchuhh, uhhhchuhh.  House.”


She laughed.  “Someone had to be prepared.”  She pulled into his driveway.   


“Thank you.  All I want now is Benadryl.”  He scrubbed at his eyes.   


“I think you have to reconsider that.”  She said as they heard the back car door open and close.   “I mean, see what she says…I can stay, if she wants.   You gotta finish explaining to her what happened anyway.”


They met Kristin at the front door and headed inside.  Alex took more excedrin and sat down with Kristin on the couch while Jamie made lemonade in the kitchen.


She came out to hear him, punctuated by sneezes, explaining to Kristin that he had a cold which made his allergies more sensitive, and that something in the petting zoo had set them off, but that he was fine.  He’d just be sneezing for awhile.  And that he had a migraine headache making him feel sick to his stomach.  


Kristin looked at him, solemnly. “Do you need to sleep, dad?  Maybe then you’ll feel better.”  


Alex opened his mouth to respond, turned and sneezed instead.  “Huhh-chuhh.  Uhhhehhschuhh.”


Jamie slipped in next to Kristin.  “There’s some medicine he can take to help him feel better, but, it’ll make him sleep.”  She said as Alex continued sneezing.   “I think,” she said, as Alex blew his nose, “that he wants to make sure it’s ok with you if he goes and sleeps for awhile before he takes it.”


Alex nodded.  “I don’t want to abandon you, princess.” He said, stuffily.   


Kristin looked from him to Jamie, back to Alex to Jamie again.  “Can you stay and do something with me?” She whispered to Jamie who whispered back she would.   “Go take the medicine, dad.”


Relief flooded Alex’s face. “Thanks, Kris.” He started to hug her, but stopped when the sneezing started.  “Huhh-chuhh, uhchuhh,huhhchuhh.   Maybe I’ll save that for after I get up.” He sniffled, heading upstairs.


“Maybe take a….ihhhttschooo! Take a shower.”  Jamie told him.  He gave a thumbs up, heading up the stairs.


Jamie turned to Kristin.  “Can we make dad soup so he feels better?


Jamie grinned.  The kid had read her mind.   “I know a recipe your dad loves.  Let me tell your dad we’re going to the store.   I bet he’ll be thrilled to wake up to some.”










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