The wasp approached in the afternoon as I was sitting on a leafy patio listening to my companions’ leisurely conversation. He quickly got down to business and stung the back of my knee. I don’t recall ever having been stung by a wasp before, so I didn’t know what to expect, having seen and heard of extreme reactions.
I decided to go inside the restaurant and ask for some ice to put on the spot, to calm things down, and when I got back I explained what happened. Nearly all the people sipping drinks under the umbrellas were nurses or doctors, so they wanted to be sure I was o.k., but after I assured them that the ice was working fine, we went on talking about other things in the world.
But I haven’t got to the funny part. On the drive home I had to leave off icing that still-stinging place, and it did start hurting again; the heat was spreading and stabbing a little, too. I’ll just have to take some Benadryl when I get home, I thought.
I switched on the radio in the middle of “The Flight of the Bumblebee,” but perhaps because it was not exactly a bee that had got me, I didn’t think anything of it. At the end of that piece, the announcer said that after that he felt he really must play “The Wasp Overture” by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
I couldn’t believe my good fortune — or what was surely a little medicine custom-formulated by God. The remedy seemed to work, because by the time I got back to my town, the site of the sting was not swollen or painful anymore, and there was only a little red dot where that (probably) yellow jacket had attacked. Mr. Glad called it a musical form of homeopathy: like cures like.
I didn’t even take the whole remedy, because the overture was still playing when I had to turn of the engine and go inside. It was a beautiful piece, more evocative of the lovely aspects of a summer afternoon than the wicked wasp himself — that is, what I noticed of it.
Mostly I was amazed, as I listened, that anyone would compose music with that title, and that I was hearing it for the first time after my recent insect encounter. Since then I’ve learned that it was written for a production of Aristophanes’ play The Wasps, and is a fairly popular piece. But at the time all I could think was, Could Vaughan Williams have written such a thing if he’d ever known a wasp the way I did that day?