The Histamine Family

(Dedicated to company men living in company towns)

1972 Presentation : 

I’m visiting the house at the top of my street – Steven Leblanc’s house – working on a Geography presentation for our Grade Five Social Studies class. Steven was born on the exact same day as me of the same year, but this is the first time that I’m allowed to hang out with him. His family have a lot more money than my family, and their car is a top-of-the-line model with landau roof and opera lamps.

When I enter Steven’s house with a drippy nose from being out in the cold, Mrs. Leblanc immediately offers me an antihistamine. She has a huge, nervous smile on her face as she holds out a box of colorful capsules. I reply to her with what Steven told me to say – I lie, telling her that I had already taken an antihistamine at my own house a bit earlier. She smiles and leaves us alone after that.

Steven says that it’s important not to refuse antihistamines at his house, unless you’ve already just taken one. If you refuse with no excuse, Mrs. Leblanc will be hurt, and will later tell her husband that you hate antihistamines and that maybe you should be barred from the house.

Most people on my street call the Leblanc’s the Histamine family when they’re not around. When we were little kids, we used to color our coloring-book houses yellow and print “the Histamine‘s” on the mailbox. This was always good for a few cheap laughs.

They’re called the Histamines because of the way Mr. Leblanc makes his money. The company that he works for – and the company that he keeps. As he says himself, he’s “in antihistamines.”

He fell into antihistamines before he was even married to my neighbor’s mother. See, Mr. Leblanc’s cousin Sol Leblanc patented Piperoxan – the first antihistamine – in the 1930s. And when cousin Sol died super-rich (but at a young age) from medicine-related complications, Mr. Leblanc inherited enough patent royalties to live comfortably forever in his inherited yellow mansion at the top of the hill.

But because of his extreme and incurable gambling addiction, he took on a well-paying role at a pharmaceutical corporation, and spends most of his salaried days visiting drug stores and making sure they have lots of antihistamines on the shelves – “where anyone can reach them.”

So his income comes from his role as an antihistamine company inspector, while he also collects royalties as an antihistamine patent heir.

You can imagine that the subject of antihistamines is an extremely sensitive one at the Histamine family dinner table. Their best-friend neighbor Gertrude Gallaway (aka Gert) found this out the hard way. She used to be best friends with both Mrs. Leblanc and my own mother. And she’s a registered nurse who has always lived in the house right between mine and the Leblanc house. Importantly – Gert’s been banned from the Leblanc house for the last six years because of medical advise she once gave them.

1966 Event:

While delivering presents to the Leblanc house during Christmas vacation that year, Gert remarked on the presence of antihistamine capsules on tables and countertops all over the house. Gertrude looked worriedly at her best friend, Mrs. Leblanc, who calmly explained that this was so children could pop an antihistamine whenever they had a runny nose or a sneeze. The pink ones were Children’s Daytime capsules, the blue ones were Children’s Nighttime capsules, and so on. This is how Mr. Leblanc ran his house – the house that antihistamines built.

Gertrude rarely loses her cool, but did she ever freak out at that moment, saying very loudly that antihistamines should be taken sparingly and only after all other options had been tried – not popped like candy every day!

Mr. Leblanc, who had been eavesdropping from the porch, looked up from his golf clubs and suddenly yelled “What other god-damned options are you nattering about, Gert know-it-all neighbor?” He shook a putter at her as he spoke and his eyes were full of fear and desperation.

Gertrude quietly gulped, and then her nursing training surfaced. She boldly listed a series of things to do if you had a runny nose or sneeze : slow-boiling water, air humidifiers, water and juices… and of course the easiest one of all, open a window once in a while or go outside. And always eat lots of fruits and vegetables.

Mr. Leblanc was furious. He said that from now on, the windows would be sealed shut from October to May – no exceptions. He also said that fruit juices were garbage, and that air humidifiers were a conspiracy theory. Then he clutched his golf bag (an antihistamine company gift) and left the house. Steven and his family silently listened to the car engine start up as Daddy Histamine quickly left for his golf appointment with two Drug Store owner friends.

That night in bed, Mrs. Leblanc protested all the new rules, so Mr. Leblanc simply barred Gertrude – her best friend – from ever visiting their house ever again. Not even when he wasn’t home, which was 90% of the time. Mrs. Leblanc would have to call Gert know-it-all on the phone if she ever wanted to talk to her again. No direct contact. Ever again. Never! You hear me?

1972 Measures : 

Gert’s unsolicited advice at Steven’s house that day is why :

1. the windows in Steven’s house are sealed all winter.
2. he isn’t allowed to eat fruits or vegetables in winter.
3. he isn’t allowed to go outside in winter.
4. his family can’t boil water or use a humidifier.
5. they have no kleenex or handkerchiefs.
6. Steven’s dog Contact-C died after accidentally swallowing antihistamines.
7. his little sister Jennifer had to be treated for antihistamine-resistant allergic reactions.
8. they snubbed my family as antihistamine reluctant
9. his dad only let me come over to work on the Geography presentation if I signed an oath saying that antihistamines are safe and effective.

Steven and I managed to finish our Platectonics presentation without me ever accepting any antihistamines from his mom. But I felt bad about having to lie all the time to get her off my case – it was like telling the Jehovah’s Witness at your door that you’ve already found Jesus Christ, thank you very much.


(Note. Any resemblance to real human beings is unintentional. This story – like other Steel City Fruit stories – is purely fictional.)

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