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 26 years ago, but the memory remains terribly vivid. I was on my stomach with no pillow as I awoke, 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. It was as if someone had taken a pair of tongs and placed it there specially, just for me. I recoiled. I jumped. I scurried away like a palmetto bug startled by the light. From my safe harbor across the room, I rubbed my eyes and tried to examine the terrible, motionless log. Was this a dream? Was it reality? I racked my little 7-year-old brain for answers, becoming more 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 parcel out enough scraps under the table that day and intent on making me pay? Nope, it obviously wasn't a dog turd. It was more . . . robust than that.
Was it one of my four older siblings, trying to break me mentally?
Sure, my brother Paul had recently presented me with a weirdly shaped bottle of cologne. "Good God -- it's a bomb!" he'd yelled, seemingly out of nowhere. "Run! Run for your life!" I ran out of the house and tore into the street thinking that was the last I'd ever see of my family. But Paul, 11 years my senior, was a nice guy, relatively speaking. I couldn't imagine he'd intentionally take a dump next to me in the night.
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 weird things. For example, he'd 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 accidentally pulling some lever somewhere and ruining our trip to the 7-Eleven. Don also was fond of telling me that if I sniffled instead of blowing my nose when I had a cold, I'd 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 take a crap 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. I used to crawl in there in the middle of the night, or just go to sleep there to begin with, if she let me. Ensconced in her king-sized Serta with the garish gold headboard, I was in a cocoon of safety and joy. But soon after she and my dad divorced when I was about 4, Mom became a partier. I'd fall asleep there with her watching TV or talking on the phone next to me, 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. If ghosts can't beat you up or wring your neck, surely they can't make a real doody.
Then a heinous possibility arrived in my head. Could I have done it? Big, hot shame began to spread through my chest and stomach -- but I stopped it in its path. No, no, no! I chanted to myself, for that was far too abominable a scenario to bear. A 7-year-old pooping the bed? It just isn't possible. Besides, I reasoned internally, 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 hard 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. But I was no baby pooping allover the place. I was big; I was 7!
Hovering directly over the steaming anomaly and feeling jittery and shameful as hell, I knew I'd never solve the stinking riddle. I also knew I had no other alternative but to wake someone to assist, as I was too little to negotiate changing the sheets and disposing of the repellent interloper. I went with the least sadistic sibling, Lisa.
"There's poo in the bed," I whispered, shaking her shoulder in the dark. Looking confused and irritated, she ushered me back to mom's room. Somehow, Lisa didn't linger around reacting to the turd; instead, she just sprung into silent, efficient action. Assuming I did it, I guess, she drew a bath and stuck me in it while she put flowered sheets where solid blue ones had been. I didn't see exactly what she did with the ca-ca. Now I wish I had; it might have provided more closure.
Lisa dressed me in fresh jammies and tucked me into clean sheets, working like a world-weary nurse hurrying to finish the night shift. I passed out straightaway, probably exhausted from the stressful odyssey and tranquilized by the warm bath. When I came to the next morning, my parakeet was chirping in the next room and Mom was laying in bed reading, taking no notice of the new sheets. Lisa came in and turned on the TV, acting like nothing had happened. She didn't even look at me askance. I pretended like nothing had happened too, wanting more than anything to keep it from my mom, just in case it was actually me who'd given birth to the dung. I couldn't risk the possible humiliation -- nor could I risk potential banishment from the big bed. In this zone of silence, I couldn't begin investigative questioning. I would never get to the bottom of the origins of the puzzling poo; I had to just flush it out of my head and move on, closure or no closure, vindication or no vindication.
Fast-forward 22 years: It's 1995 and I'm on the phone, relating the story to my sister-in-law, the one married to Don, who's now a prominent businessperson in Boca Raton, Fla. "I think that's why I've been constipated all these years," I told her. "Having that mystery turd invade my space like that made me clamp down, I guess. Made my mind go and ruin my digestive tract. Haven't been the same since." She commiserated with me through little bursts of laughter.
Five minutes after we hung up, though, the phone rang again. It was Don's wife, now all agog.
"OK, OK, listen -- I think I have your answer!" she warbled, sounding as if she had insects in her pants. "Don did it! Don just admitted to it!"
I almost dropped the phone, so intense was the sensation of two decades of tension and uncertainty peeling away and falling to the floor. Tightened intestinal walls, clenched for 22 years, began to relax, to finally feel the flow of oxygen and blood that had been trying to reach them all along. Ahhhh . . .
But then, just as suddenly, disgust replaced relief. Oh my god, I'm related to someone who would crap by my head then not tell me for 22 years -- and now this guy has two kids and runs a company that's on the NASDAQ? Ugh, I want off the planet. Mixed feelings swirled like violent trade winds inside me. I almost dropped the phone again.
Then there was a ruckus on the other end and Don grabbed the receiver. "I was just kidding!" he laugh-spat. "I didn't do it! I don't know who did. I didn't even know it happened." I could hear his wife in the background whooping and giggling and admonishing him. It was a gleeful jamboree for them. For me it was an emotional roller-coaster ride, first through Nirvana, then through Hades, then returning to the unfortunate status quo: The clench-down was on again.
I suppose I will never be privy to who produced the mystery doo next to my innocent little head that night. Oh sure, I'd pay good money to get a little scraping of it and do some DNA testing so I could put the whole thing to rest and finally be at peace. But that's a moot point, now, isn't it? That poo is long gone, probably floating in the Atlantic Ocean, continuing its mission by scaring little kids on rafts.
Perhaps my best hope is that one of my immediate kin, purging decades worth tremendous guilt, will gush forth with the information when I'm on my deathbed. Given the improbability of that, I also hold out hope that once I've passed on, some sort of otherworldly being will greet me at the gates and produce the information before putting me through orientation. "Paul did it," they'll tell me in a sing-song voice, while harps play and cherubs titter. Or, "It was Marcia . . . la la la."
Then, finally, I will be whole. Too bad I will have no bowels to benefit from it.
Exit Stage Fright (2/26/2003)
Editor's note: With this installment we bid adieu to Germ Bag.
Cabin Pressure (2/12/2003)
Escape -- you might think it's what you desire. Until you've actually run somewhere.
New Traditionalists (1/8/2003)
It was Christmas Eve morning on Harvard Street. Marty and I sat on the hardwood floor near our...
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