Ow! Jesus! Did you guys see that? Whoa.

Nobody saw it? That was completely nuts. I was just standing over here, humming a tune, minding my own, when a hornet flew up and stung me on the lip! It came right for me. And now it’s almost absurdly painful. Definitely more painful than a wasp or a bee sting.

[ Stifled laughter from the group. ]

And I can feel my heartbeat in my face! You know that feeling? When your face is, like, beating? Ugh. Honestly, when we walked past that hornet’s nest, I was thinking, “I hope I don’t get stung today. That would really put a damper on this whole countryside picnic. Hornets can sting multiple times, unprovoked.” You know? And then, of course, who should get stung, but me—poor ol’ Sting.

[ Laughter from everybody. ]

Wait. What’s everybody laughing at? What’s funny, Neal? You guys? What is it, Marcus? Somebody speak up. Quit laughing for a second and tell me what is so hilarious. What’d I miss? Did you tell a joke, Richie?

[ Continued laughter. ]

Wait a minute… are you laughing because I got stung and I’m called Sting? Is that what’s going on here? Seriously? That’s so rude, you guys. I’m, like, in some serious pain right now. No joke. It hurts to talk. Every word is a challenge. And my breathing feels kind of weird. I know it’s probably psychosomatic, but it feels like I can’t even get a full breath right now. I think my throat is closing up. Every breath I take…

[ Laughter, guffaws and clapping. ]

What? What’s funny? Why are you clapping? Oh—because I said, “Every breath I take”? Sort of like my song? That’s what set you off this time? Sheesh, you guys are being really immature right now. I’m not even joking. Are you in the third grade or something? You should be ashamed of yourselves. Your old pal STING just got STUNG.

[ Deep belly-laughs, some knee-slapping. ]

Hey, Bonnie? Bon? Bon-Bon? Bonnie? Bonnie, please! Bonnie, did you happen to bring that first-aid kit that we were talking about this morning? No? Why the heck not? Because you couldn’t fit the kit in there with all the sandwiches? Ah. Gotcha. No, no, don’t even worry about it. At least you guys have your precious sandwiches. Go ahead and eat your precious fucking sandwiches, Bonnie and also everybody. I can’t chew anything right now, but you should eat! Go ahead! I’ll just stand here in pain and watch. You can all have your picnic and I’ll just be over here, swelling up, progressively losing my livelihood. Here, I’ll even help you out. You ready to laugh some more? Hmmmmm? Because right now, I’m the king of pain, everybody! Get it? The king of pain? Like my song, “King of Pain.” You know?

[ Silence. A lone cough. Somewhere in the distance a black spot appears on the sun and a dead salmon is frozen in a waterfall. ]

Whatever. Will somebody at least look at my lip? Does it look fat to you? Gary, you got stung recently, right? Does my lip look normal or swollen? Gary? Earth to Gary? Anybody? Hello?

You know… you’ve all been pretty awful to me lately, everybody. This group is feeling very cliquish, all of a sudden. Fortunately, I can take solace in the fact that I can buy and sell all of you a million times over. How many hit songs have you written, Kyle? Huh? And how about you, Marcus? None, right? And you, Gary? Bonnie? Jeremy? Kyle? Richie? Neal? Bradley? Beth? Ravi? Jason? Huh? How about you, Connie? HAVE YOU EVER EVEN BEEN ON THE RADIO, CONNIE?! I hope you’re all enjoying your mid-level jobs at the post office.

[ Sigh. ] Why don’t you go on without me. I’m serious. Go away. I’m just going to sit on this log and drink from that open can of soda over there and rest for a while. Maybe I’ll catch up with you, maybe not. You can think about how you made me feel today, while you walk ahead without me. And in the meantime, as reported, I’m just going to take a big sip from this open can of soda that’s been sitting out on this log. Yep. Just take a drink from the ollllllll’ can of open soda, here…

OWWWWWWW! You guys! I’m seriously not joking—I think that same hornet was in there! He just crawled out and stung my lip on the exact same spot. Do hornets lose their stingers? ’Cause I can still feel it, you guys! His stinger! I can feel his stinger!

[ Marcus snorts. Everybody doubles over in laughter. ]

[ In a whisper. ] How fragile we are.