Marlys Pearson



Suppose you’re with your eight-year-old son in a theme park in Ohio, on Son of Beast, the tallest wooden rollercoaster in the world. It’s cranking you up the first hill, two-hundred and eighteen feet into the air, twenty-two stories. Your palms are so wet they slip on the lap bar, your gut is in knots and you’re wondering how the hell you got talked into this.

Just as you reach the top your son cries, “Mom!” and there’s panic in his voice. You feel the same way, but there’s no getting off now. In the breathless moment of pause at the crest of the hill, you turn to him to say something.

And see the wasp on his cheek.

The fact sheet the doctor gave you on anaphylactic shock flashes into your memory: Death can occur within three to four minutes. The ride, you remember, is three minutes long.

You’re racing down the hill, at almost eighty miles per hour, mouth open in a helpless scream. Everyone else is screaming, too, so your terror is lost in theirs. Except your son, who is silent, already gasping as his throat begins to close.

You always carry the epinephrine syringe with you, of course, but it’s in your backpack, and the ride attendants don’t allow unsecured items on the ride. You picture it, Raiders black-and-silver, sitting on the landing awaiting your return. Your son’s face is already swelling with hives, and his hand claws at your arm.

There’s nothing you can do. Give the shot. Call 911. Lay him down, try to clear the airway. Useless.

You’re going fast, so fast, but it isn’t fast enough. Another hill, this one a mere hundred-and-sixty-four footer. The second-largest drop for a woodie, and the g-force pins you to the seatback. In desperation, it occurs to you that you should free him from his seat, drop him over the side as you reach one of the lower parts of the ride. He might break bones, but help would get to him faster. But the safety harness is absolute, immovable. As it should be.

He’s turning blue now, and his eyes are rolling in his head. When you reach the world’s only loop on a wooden coaster, he flops like a rag doll, and lolls unconscious through the following spiral. There’s another drop coming, and then it will be over.

But it’s already over for your son.

Except the little fucker is too much of a wuss to ride on a roller coaster, and if you pull the bee trick one more time, they’re going to get suspicious.

Okay, then: suppose you’re playing ball with your son, at the edge of your yard. There isn’t usually much traffic, but sometimes the big trucks use your street as a short cut…