o c a t
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|Essays · Poetry · Comedy · Art · Video
Apr. 2000 (published in Jan. 2004), sredfearn
There are just some things I'll never understand. Calculus is one. Pharmaceutical-industry pricing practices is another. And I'll never understand why I awoke in the night when I was 7 to find a human turd next to my head.
Math and medical money matters I may get to the bottom of eventually, but the mystery of the poo, I fear, will never be solved.
The event happened a whopping 30 years ago, but the memory remains terribly vivid. I awoke suddenly, alone, in my mom's dimly lit bedroom in the middle of a blustery South Florida night. As I slowly came to consciousness, I could smell the salty sea air outside. I could also smell crap.
Disoriented, I slowly opened my eyes, and there it was, maybe a foot from my head, as if someone had taken a pair of tongs and placed it there specially, just for me. I recoiled, and scurried away into a corner like a palmetto bug startled by the light. From my safe harbor across the room, I rubbed my eyes and stared, disbelieving, at the terrible, motionless log. Was this a dream, or was it reality? I racked my little 7-year-old brain for answers, becoming increasingly agitated as I did so.
Had our dog Dipper Dan -- big and husky and named for a nearby ice cream store -- climbed up on the bed in the night and deposited it, mad at me for neglecting to parce out enough scraps under the table that day? No, it didn't seem like a dog log. It was more... robust than that.
Was it one of my four older siblings, trying to break me mentally? Yeah, it's true: not too long before that, my brother Paul -- 11 years my senior -- had handed me a weirdly shaped bottle of cologne and yelled, "Good God -- it's a bomb! Run! Run for your life!" Terrified, I scrambled out of the house and tore into the street thinking that was the last I'd ever see my family. But Paul was a nice guy, relatively speaking. I couldn't imagine he'd take a dump next to me in the night. At least not intentionally.
I moved in closer, peering gingerly at the sizeable thing. Would Don have done it? Fourteen years older than me and pretty sly, Don had been known to do some pretty vexing things. He would hit the brakes on his Pontiac GTO abruptly over and over again, and then turn to little me -- sitting in the passenger seat and barely tall enough to see out the window -- and yelp, "Stop!" as if I was obsessively pulling some lever somewhere and ruining our trip to the 7-Eleven. Don also was fond of warning me that if I sniffled instead of blowing my nose when I had a cold, I would develop webbed feet. He'd hold up his own bizarre, Aquaman-looking dogs and say, "You really don't want to end up like this, chief. Have a Kleenex." Clearly, Don was doing his part to mess up my head. But would he sidle up and drop one next to me as I slept? I really didn't think so.
And what about Marcia, who would hold me down while her boyfriend David tickled me until I screamed and cried and thought my organs were going to explode? Nope, she was sadistic back then, but she wasn't the pooping sort -- and neither was Lisa, who was generally too swept up in her tennis-team competitions and her huge lapel-wearing boyfriends to mess with me.
My last guess was my mom, whose bed I was in. After my parents divorced when I was 4, I used to crawl in that bed in the middle of the night, or just go to sleep there to begin with, if mom let me. Ensconced in her king-sized Serta with the garish gold headboard, I was in a cocoon of safety and joy. But it was a mixed blessing. Soon after my parents split up, Mom became a partier. I'd fall asleep next to her while she watched Dick Cavett or talked on the phone, then hours later I'd awaken in the dark alone. Usually there wasn't a turd there, though.
Sure, the fresh deposit could have been Mom's, but I knew that generally moms didn't shit the bed. And if they were going to shit the bed, they'd clean it up before they went out dancing.
So... who then?
Suddenly I remembered the dream I'd had the night before. George Washington was very upset with me and was chasing me through the woods. The woods were dreary and cold and George was very, very mad. I awoke that night quite shaken. Standing there in my nightgown, then, on the night of the turd, I wondered for a minute if George perhaps had returned, busted through the dreamscape membrane and, being shadowy and powerless in the dimension of the living, had left a log for me as the only punishment he could muster from the other side.
But really, that didn't seem likely.
Then a heinous possibility arrived in my head. Could I have done it? Big, hot shame began to crawl through my chest and stomach -- but I stopped it in its path. Simply not possible, I chanted to myself, for that was far too abominable a scenario to bear. Why, it just couldn't be. Besides, I reasoned, if I'd done it, how had it gotten up by my head, huh? I worked hard to block out the fact that the night before, when George was pursuing me mightily and gnashing his teeth, I'd woken up with my tousled dome down where my not-yet-webbed feet should have been. Yes, I was a thrasher, so it's possible that my butt could have been up by the headboard at some point in the night. But I was no baby pooping all over the place. I was big; I was 7!
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