The day is here! My family clan of twelve boards the Toney Tour Bus this frigid December dawn, cheerfully mindful that Orlando, our destination, is always balmy. We fight for window seats and settle down for the journey that will transport us to the chimera world that is Disney.
We depart Spartanburg, South Carolina on a tide of anticipation, chattering away like squirrels at a reunion. In Georgia, conversations ebb as magazines pop up and seats tilt back in snooze position. At lunchtime, despite goody-gorges, we pile into Cracker Barrel like ravenous waifs. Seated first, Lee, my hubby, and I are served last. I gulp down a vitamin soft gel with my food and it lodges in my throat. I have this thing about swallowing pills. It sorta feels like pushing a baseball through a needle’s eye.
The silent drama begins: I gasp and peer desperately at Lee, who is stricken because he has seen this before. Not fun. He whirls me around and whacks me between the shoulder blades. My breath grows shallower. I’m on my knees now, face pressed to the floor, eyes watering. The entire restaurant is so quiet you could hear a gnat burp.
Lee pulls me up, back to him, and balls his fist under my ribcage. Uh oh! He’s never done a Heimlich before. Unghhh! Ribs crack. Poor Lee. Poor me. I’m turning pastel blue. Help! My shaking hands seize the water glass. I turn it up for one last gulp.
The pill slides down. I survive. No time to eat. We dash through icy drizzle to bus. Can’t wait to get to warm Orlando! Take Advil for aching ribcage. Pass around leftover Christmas candies. Everybody finicky, brought their own, thank you very much.
Destination at last! Bedtime crash. Morning too soon. Motel TV news says record cold weather for Orlando the next two days. I add light sweater to apparel. Clan already aboard bus, yelling, “Hurry!” as I jog through freezing wind, wincing at my ribs’ protest.
Disney at last! Monorail broke down. Backtrack through never-ending lines to different site, where another endless column snakes its way to a ferryboat that transports us to the theme park.
Day cold. Brrr! Ribcage hurts. Clan buys gloves, hats, sweaters, all DISNEY emblazoned and costly. Hands freezing. Numb. Find warm place. Magic Kingdom–indoors. Ahhh.
Parade–I’m momentarily thawed after lunch in a Colonial period restaurant. Food delicious–rich. Soon, feet like ice. Food lies like bricks in stomach. Would spend my entire fortune on a warm jacket. Stores all out. Sundown. Temperatures sink like the Titanic. Ribs thrumming like a crazy bass guitar. Stomach roiling, fighting the chills for possession of my body.
When does hypothermia set in?
Catch monorail to find warm bus. Bus not there. OH GOD! No place to thaw. Lee’s solution: “We’ll ride the monorail till the bus comes. At least its warm on here.” Two, three trips. Door opens.
“You two! Get off!” roars a Disney Marine Sargent female employee, “Make room for those who need the seats!”
Need? Did she say ‘need?’ I stare dully at her while Lee plasters his back into his corner. “We’re going back to the bus lot.” Can a zombie even walk? I wonder stupidly, trying to wriggle my dead feet. The toes are gone.
Lee flashes his feral grin. “No way.” We ride back to the bus area.
We disembark at parking lot. Bus is there, thank God! Blessed warmth. Nausea–pain. Small bus bathroom. I vomit all the way back to hotel. Virus.
Going to die. At least my family is around to see me off….
Pass out in bed. Morning. Lee’s face blurs overhead, “You going to Disney World today?”
“No way,” I croak. Alone. Float in and out of feverish oblivion, bits and snatches of movies on TV until late evening. I survive. Weak and bored. Shower and dress. Busload of relatives rescues me. We eat late dinner. Great to be alive.
Next dawn: return trip begins. Window seats ignored. Blanket brigade exposes only snoring faces. Leftover Christmas goodies treasures to kill for. Cracker Barrel traumatizes so I opt for Hardees across highway. Stop and load up with Florida oranges, grapefruit, and Vidalia sweet onions.
Cold! Keening for home and warmer temps. Sunset. Reach parking lot–familiar cars. Ahhh. At last. Disembark bus. Brrr. Freezing! Lee jogs to van. Engine dead. “Cables anybody?” Lot nearly deserted now. Cables appear. Crank up…thank God!
Wave to sister, Karen, whose grin below red nose revives visions of Santa and elves. “Let’s do it again,” she yells. “A real dream weekend, wasn’t it?”
“Oh yeh, ” I yell back, “like in nightmare.”
Emily Sue Harvey is The Story Plant’s Author of the Month. This means we are offering sensational deals on all of her works. You can learn more at our website.