Just a Little E. Coli

On Beach Day, Bunny had to take a final for her summer class, so she and I stayed back when the rest of the group departed for the county park with the beautiful sandy beach that Gram always loved and taught us to also love. We’ve always spent at least one day of our Michigan trip there, sometimes staying all the way through sunset, except the couple of years where my niece Chloe was afraid of the wind so so we all had to pack up and leave.

Bunny was taking her final online, and I was taking advantage of the fact that I had the bathroom and shower all to myself. We’d head out to join the others when her final was finished.

I took a shower and then lounged in the tub. No one knocked on the door and I never had to crawl out and unlock it so someone could pee while I hid behind the shower curtain. The life of luxury!

I eventually exited the tub, dressed in my beachwear and packed the beach bag. I was just gathering my things to head out the door when one of my sisters walked back in.

“What did you forget?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she started, “I came to tell you that the beach is closed. E. Coli.”

This has never in seventeen years happened to us. What even is E. Coli I wondered.

“The thing is,” my sister Natasha continued, “Megan and Chloe and Evelyn were already swimming when we got there. Either they didn’t see the signs, or the signs just went up.”

My niece Evelyn came in the door then, shoulders hunched, heading straight for the shower.

It turns out E. Coli in the beach, the internet told us, was caused by all the rain- the sewers overflowed and ran right into the lake.


Evelyn headed for the shower, she and her mom would follow us to another beach down the road later, and the rest of us headed out. This beach was also Lake Superior, but closer to the mountains than any town, and safe from sewers.

But it IS the same lake. We waded out until the bottom got sandy, where a natural sandbar made it shallower than it was ten feet from shore. We played frisbee and we laughed and talked and joked.

Evelyn returned to the beach but would not go in the water.

“Just don’t swallow the water,” we said.

E. Coli has to be ingested.

Naomi’s eyes got big, “I think I already did.”

“It’s fine!” we said.

Later, the others on the beach would laugh when she yelled, “Mom! I lost my gum!” And then three seconds later, “I found it! Should I put it back in my mouth?”

“NO!” we said.

On Sunday, my sister Neala was sick. The whole nine yards of stomach and intestines sick. We were all at our separate homes by then, so I text back, “Don’t worry, it’s probably just E. Coli!”

“Probably!” she said, “I did lick a lot rocks!”

It’s a thing we do, lick rocks. When we go to look for agates at Little Girls Point (also Lake Superior) we lick rocks-it’s the best way to see what they really are!

“Gross! It probably IS E. Coli from all those nasty rocks,” my sister Megan replied.

Ok, not EVERYONE in the family licks rocks.

“Well I’m going to die of E. Coli,” Neala answered.

“Probably just too many egg salad sandwiches,” I offered.

“I only had one!” she argued.

Like four hours later when Natasha finally read her text messages she said, “Are you still suffering from E. Coli?”

“I’m not throwing up anymore and I kept some food down, so I guess E. Coli will not be the death of me.”

See, a little E. Coli never hurt anyone!

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