“Let’s go to the beach, it’ll be fun”.

Famous last words. I was feeling pretty good going into this afternoon as we had a really good time last Thursday. I was remarking how close we live to the beach and how rarely we made it out there for a swim. This trip did not go as well.

I had invited the neighbors to come with us, as I figured the kids would have a lot of fun together, so we met up after dinner and headed out there. We were just planning a quick trip, so it wasn’t too much trouble getting ready. The only wrinkle in our plan was that Missus had a strategy call with a political campaign she was advising, but she was just going to sit on the beach with her headphones in while I played with the kids.

One of the reasons we’d had such a good time last week was that we had been experiencing sweltering 90-degree weather through much of the week, and we went out there at six in the evening when the sun was low enough that we didn’t have to worry about sunscreen or getting burnt. And the water was so warm. We got to play out there while the sun set, and had the girls home right in time for bed. It seemed like a perfect plan, so I wanted to do it again today with the neighbors.

We got there about six thirty, near high tide. I put Younger’s float on her and we all jumped in the water, which was warm and a bit rougher than it was when we were out there last week during low tide. One of D.’s kids, carrying nets, quickly found a jellyfish and started getting excited. D asked me if he should bury it in the sand. I don’t know, I said, shrugging my shoulders, too busy to care. I’m not the jellyfish police. I turned around and swam a bit, keeping an eye on the kids as the took to the water.

Not even five minutes later, I saw Elder running out of the water toward me. Jellyfish! she yelled. Younger got stung by a jellyfish. I got out and went to her. The poor thing was hysterical. She had gotten popped in several places, her angle, thigh, and arm on one side of her body. I did my best dad emergency care, telling her that we needed to scrape off the sting using some sand. I grabbed a couple handfuls, scrubbed it lightly over the affected areas, then took her back in the water to wash it off. Then I hurried her to our stuff to further doctor her up.

Missus was sitting on her beach chair, chatting on her Zoom call, so I asked her to put out the picnic blanket so I could doctor Younger up. I gave her a towel to keep her warm, then sat her down on the blanket to take a closer look. She had welts all over her skin, and I could see tiny raised dots of skin in the middle of the red area. Missus pulled out a Capri Sun and I used it to cool some of the bad ones. She was still in a good deal of pain. Poor thing. Missus looked up remedies on her phone, but we had nothing available other than what else I had already done. We would have to take her home.

I didn’t really want to take her as I knew the stings would subside in a few minutes. We’d only been there for less than twenty minutes and I didn’t want to force Elder to leave with us or saddle D. with taking her, so I tried to make Younger as comfortable as possible. I told Missus she’d be out in the water in no time at all. I went to give her floaty to D.’s youngest, and then back to the car to retrieve a life preserver for his daughter. By the time I got back, Younger was already back out in the water.

I told you so, I mouthed to Missus as I relieved her from watching the girls so she could focus on her call. I went back in the water, and it was obvious that Younger was still in a good deal of pain. I picked her up to wade with me and told her how proud I was for her going back out in the water. She said she wanted to have fun with her friends. She was a really good sport, and we had a really good time for the next half hour or so.

But the waves were a little bit rough for her, and wore her down, so she got out. And it was too cold with the sun waning, so she said she wanted to go home. Plus I had promised her a treat from the ice cream man, she reminded me. I made sure that Elder could ride back to the house with D., and we packed up and started heading back to the car, Missus still on her call. No sooner than we got near the boardwalk, the ice cream van started pulling off. Where’s he going? Younger started, and I promised to take her to 7-11 for a cone. (Plus I was pretty sure I was going to drink a sixer myself, at this point.) But another ice cream truck was pulling up, no doubt according to some ice-cream cartel rotating schedule, and she had to have it from the ice cream truck.

It wasn’t even the good ice cream truck either. This one had faded paint and looked worn down. I held up my credit card while I approached to make sure he took plastic, and he nodded to me. I had to hold Younger back from running through the parking lot. I asked her to point to which one she wanted on an old faded picture menu. Sorry, the man said, leaning out the window. We only got these. He pointed at the vanilla and chocolate soft serve cones. And the sundays. I asked Younger. She pointed at a milkshake. I told her to pick a cone. Vanilla. And one for me I told him. He asked if I wanted a waffle cone, and by the time I was done we had two soft serve ice creams, nine dollars. Nine dollars.

Oh well, I thought to myself. He obviously needs it more than I do.

We walked back to the car, and I popped the hatch so we could sit in the back while we ate. She was mostly back to normal. We talked for a bit, mostly about how I wished she had let me go to the store to buy ice cream. I could have bought three ice creams for what we paid for these, and they would have been better.

But dad, she said, we can only eat one ice cream.

Hard to argue with that logic. Anyways by the time I had finished my ice cream she said she wanted to go back out to the water and play, telling me I feel better now.

You’re kidding, I said, swearing her to secrecy. I made her give the rest of her cone to her mom, then we walked back out to the beach. We only had a few more minutes before sundown, so I told her we didn’t have much time and needed to go home shortly. D. saw us coming, surprised. He had just come out of the water to dry off in preparation to leave. Younger went out in the water, carefree as ever.

I talked with D. and his wife for not even two minutes when the kids started a commotion out in the water. Among the words yelled: jellyfish. This time it was Elder coming of the water, arms half raised, a pained wail on her face a la Napalm Girl. I scooped her up with a towel to examine her. She had a huge raised welt on her thigh. D. says to me good thing I put that jellyfish repellent on my kids when we got her. My brain hadn’t registered that he was joking, as I turned back to him with some kind of look on my face that was completely serious. He laughed.

Well we were getting ready to anyways, so I scooped Elder up in a towel and started carrying her back to the car. I knew she was going to be okay; I was more worried about how I was going to explain to this Missus. We got to the boardwalk, where I sat her down to take another look at her leg and see how she was doing. It was bad.

I asked her how she was doing. She looked across at the commercial van parked a few meters away from us.

I want an ice cream.