Everything had been going well today. We secured a place to stay with family friends in Minneapolis while driving north without a set destination for the night. Casino billboards peppered the drive with moments of amusement:
“Voted sexiest casino in the Midwest!”
“Come Gamble, Get Free Buffet!”
We were nearly enticed by these siren calls, but managed to stay the course. Upon arrival, the smell of baked goodies, one of our gracious hosts, and Emily, a deaf, floppy-eared Collie, all emerged from the house to welcome us.
We set up shop in the kitchen with our trusty new travel-sized food processor, the centerpiece of our plan to eat healthily yet affordably this tour, and whipped up batches of hummus and salsa for dinner. (If you have any food processor recipes that don’t require refrigerated ingredients, please submit them below.) After finishing off with some chocolate chunk brownies, everyone was quite satisfied. Except Joshua—it was no sensation of contentment warming his belly: “Does anyone else’s stomach hurt?” A trio of shaking heads answered.
Our efforts to dismiss this disturbance to the evening’s enjoyment as a case of simple indigestion were soon abandoned as Joshua staggered out the back door in a desperate search for fresh air and some sort of relief. We found him doubled over in pain, groaning for it to end, the pain or his life. If not the first, then he would beg for the second, expecting and eventually accepting its imminent approach.
It was decided a trip to the hospital was in order and we sped off toward the facility, three miles distant. Though our trip did incur one casualty—an electrical box hiding in the shadows at the edge of the lawn—our wounded comrade was still clinging to life. While en route, one of his crazed mutterings was deciphered as a request for water, and a bottle was held to his lips. Pulling into the “Exit Only” of the E.R. drive, his coherence returned and he began objecting to the urgency of our mission. The water was washing away the pain. By the time we sat down in the lobby, our boy was back to his old self, completely free of pain even at skeptical prods beneath his ribcage.
Waiting to make sure the reprieve wasn’t temporary, Joe’s phone diagnosed the ailment, with helpful input from the security guard, as a gallstone. A call to Mrs. James confirmed a family history, and another to his wife was placed to see whether the insurance co-pay would be worth a cautionary checkup. Four hundred dollars, a devastating sum. Perhaps Obama’s just-passed health care bill would put an end to charges discouraging preventative care, we didn’t know. As it was, we would have to pray another attack didn’t occur on the desolate drive to the U.P., or worse, onstage.