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Parenting: a conversation

WIFE: Okay, my husband Karl will swear this is not true but it totally is… When our son Jason was very little and Karl stayed home with him during the days, Karl would often put Jason in the swing while doing chores or studying. One time, he looked over at Jason and saw he was covered in chocolate. He went over, stuck his finger in to taste, only to find out that it was not chocolate but diarrhea. I think it’s so traumatic that he has repressed the memory into his unconsciousness. I, however, think it’s hysterical, especially given how meticulous and germ-phobic Karl is.

COLLECTED POOP STORIES: I am thinking I would have known it wasn’t chocolate when my finger got about eighteen inches from my nose.

WIFE: Me, too! But Jason got a little older before the smell got really bad. And, I’m sure Karl was probably thinking about something else at the same time.

CPS: Wait. So he didn’t taste it. He just touched it.

WIFE: Oh, no. He tasted it. Definitely.

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Man’s best friend

Puppies are just so damn cute. If they weren’t, we would never let them piss on our laps and shit all over our houses.

Sweet Perfect Hazel was an amazing puppy; she was cute, she was obedient, she was calm, she didn’t bark. She was a border collie mutt, attentive and social and smart. She was an A+ dog in all things except Housebreaking. F. A solid, shitty F.

  1. We put down newspaper for her, patting the paper to show her that this is where good doggies go potty. She was so sweet. She’d scamper onto the newspaper, with us saying gopottygopottygopotty, and then she’d go to the edge of the paper, all four paws on the paper, and squat, her little doggie butt hanging over the edge of the paper so she could shit on the floor and not soil the beautiful paper we’d laid out for her.
  2. After she ate, I would take her outside on her leash. We would walk around. I would be super patient, waiting for her to do her business. Nothing. I would sing to her. Nothing. 45 minutes of nothing. I would eventually decide she didn’t have to go, so we’d head back inside. She promptly ran to a corner of the living room carpet and baked a Tootsie Roll. I think she was actually waiting to go inside so she could do her business.
  3. We locked her in the laundry room until she pooped. She’d cry and whimper and howl until we let her out, where she would promptly scamper somewhere exciting in the house and let it fly.
  4. We built a little pen outside, next to the kitchen door, where we could leave her cooped up until she pooped. Minimal success, and then we discovered that she could get out and we were too inept to patch the pen properly.

It was horrible. NOTHING WORKED. Crate training seemed cruel and unusual punishment and slightly unnecessary. My girlfriend and I were both 22; we had bachelor’s degrees but were still at the developmental stage where you get the phone shut off because you forget to pay the bill and it’s easier to just close the office door than clean up dogshit. This is actually quite a brilliant solution. We lived in an enormous house, a four-bedroom summer home on a lake, out in the wilds of central Virginia. The house was so big that if Hazel took a dump somewhere, we could just ignore it. Like the Mad Hatter’s tea party – move on to another room. So we did.

Hazel was an equal opportunity pooper. The house had vinyl flooring in the kitchen and laundry, hardwood in the living room and dining room, slate in the foyer, and wall-to-wall carpet in the bedrooms. She’d poop in all rooms, but she seemed to prefer the wall-to-wall carpeting. In this case, ignoring fresh dog poop makes sense – if you let it dry and harden, it is easier to pick up. I have a terrible gag reflex, finely honed from growing up with two poop-mongering black Labs. Trying to gingerly pick up Sweet Perfect Hazel’s moist poop and not have it smear into the carpet was a nightmare. Way easier to breathe through your mouth and pick it up tomorrow. Or maybe on the weekend. Yeah, that’s better.

I worked days and my girlfriend waited tables at night, so the only time Sweet Perfect Hazel was alone was if I went out at night and left her home. Frequently, I’d come home from work, change out of my suit and into casual clothes, and then take Sweet Perfect Hazel out with me to the restaurant where my girlfriend worked. It was during the summer months, and I’d sit on the restaurant patio having a beer with Hazel on a leash. It was far preferable to being alone out in the woods in a empty old house full of drying dogshit.

One evening I came home from work as usual. Coming in through the kitchen, I heard the phone ringing. I dropped my keys on the kitchen table and looked around – the phone wasn’t where it belonged. In such a huge house, a 1989-era cordless phone could be left anywhere, and finding it was a chore. I started jogging through the house toward the sound of the phone ring. This was pre-cell phone and voicemail; screening calls was unheard of. I picked up my pace, not wanting the caller to hang up. We were not only too lazy to pick up dogshit, but we were also too lazy to get an answering machine.

I ran through the rooms. Dining room – nope. Living room – nope. As I made a sharp left into the slate foyer, I spotted the phone on the bookcase, and I picked up my speed. I was wearing dress shoes, and my left foot hit a patch of something slick on the slate.

That’s when life kicked into slow motion.

My foot went out from under me, forwards, and I was launched into the air in a classic slip-on-a-banana-peel move. Except this wasn’t a banana peel. As I slid, I caught the pungent stench of fresh dog shit in the air, feeling it sliding underfoot, and my gag reflex kicked in. My foot went forward and I went backwards. Assaulted by the smell of dogshit, I vomited. A big, hot, involuntary jet of vomit shot into the air as I fell. I landed on my back, fortunate not to hit my head on the slate, unfortunate to fall onto the pile of dogshit. A spray of vomit landed on my teal 1989 power tie.

Sweet Perfect Hazel ran over to me, lying in the front hall sandwiched between her shit and my vomit, and started licking my face. Good girl.

The phone still rang on the bookcase next to me. I reached up and grabbed it.

“Hello?” I croaked.

“Are you okay?” my girlfriend asked, sixth sense on overdrive.

“Guess where I am,” I whispered.

“What’s going on?”

I explained the situation to her, my voice low to keep control. I thought I might cry. At first she was silent, and then I thought maybe she was crying, too. Soon I realized she was laughing and trying not to. Little high-pressure gasps of merriment pffted through the cordless phone.

“It’s not really very funny,” I said.

“Yes it is,” she shrieked, full on hoots of laughter now.

I was lying on my back on a pile of dogshit, with a puppy licking my vomit off the lapel of my charcoal suit. There was nothing to do but laugh along with her. We finished our conversation, but not until she retold the story to everyone within hearing range at the bar. I clicked off the phone and stood up. I stripped naked in the front hall, dropped my suit and tie and everything in a pile on the slate, and got in the shower. I left the pile of clothes in the foyer. I put Sweet Perfect Hazel on her leash and took her to the bar for a much-needed beer.

It’s worth noting that a year later, when we moved out of that gargantuan house, the landlords kept our entire security deposit. They said the house smelled. We didn’t argue.

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Not your father’s Oldsmobile

by JP Reese

When I was in high school, we lived in a split-level house on a hill in New Jersey. The road up to the house, Circle Ave., was one lane and twisted, and it was slow going to get off or onto the hill. My boyfriend Jimmy and I would lie on the basement floor shag rug and watch TV after school every day, scrounging snacks from the kitchen upstairs and necking. One afternoon around 5:00, we heard my Dad’s LTD outside and the garage door going up.

My Dad came running through the door into the house, threw his car keys at Jimmy, and yelled, “Put my car in the garage!” as he bolted up the stairs and disappeared. We looked at each other, not knowing what to think, and Jimmy shrugged and went outside to pull the car in. He came back into the house with a horrified look on his face and whispered, “That car smelled just like SHIT!”

Apparently, Dad was stuck behind one of the slower neighbors on his way up the hill and home, and he decided to let one in preparation for a nice, long visit to the toilet, après commute. As he later explained it after Jimmy had gone home, “I let go to get a better hold, and it slipped.” The car did, indeed, smell like shit.

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The Runner’s Manifesto

When running on the busy Chicago lakefront, be prepared for closed restroom facilities. Be prepared to run far and fast, because you are running on a thin strip of grass between Lake Michigan and Lake Shore Drive, and there are only bridges every mile or so for runners to access the more frequent restrooms on the non-lake side of the highway.

Be prepared to imagine your buttcheeks clenched so tight that you couldn’t sneak a well-lubricated Q-tip™ up there. Be prepared to accept that five minutes of such clenching while running is the equivalent of those little machines that scramble eggs inside the shell: your intestinal blender is set on purée.

When you finally give up and are reduced to hiding behind a clump of unmowed waist-high grass so that you can be seen neither by the people fifty yards away with the Frolicking and Curious English sheepdogs nor the heavy traffic on the road, be educated about the physics of nice flat rocks:

  1. they won’t scratch your exposed and sweaty ass
  2. they allow you to squat very low to the ground
  3. they have a far greater splash factor than grass

Next time:

  • you will wish to store a handkerchief in your pocket
  • you will wish to wear older, less white running shoes
  • you will wish to make your exit with haste, for Frolicking and Curious English Sheepdogs are expert at locating fresh purée
  • you will wish to remove your headphones while squatting so that you can hear the approach of strangers over the blare of C+C Music Factory

Be forewarned that being caught sniffing your fingers quizzically while sprinting from a clump of unmowed grass makes you look suspicious to dog owners and runners.

Be pleased with yourself for sporting compression shorts that are too tight to suffer crack contamination.

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The lake effect

Summer in a southern town: an outing to a small, man-made lake, my girlfriend and I. This was a special day, as we were finally taking out her little sailboat which we’d been hauling and storing for years without ever using.

At the lake was a tiny beach where you were allowed to swim – a crescent of imported sand, a tennis-court sized plot of green-brown water demarcated by a rope with bobbing buoys, the whole area packed with the hundreds of people who decided that this was a fine use for a sunny July day. There was a concession stand and public bathrooms and picnic tables, and the whole thing was entirely unappealing: hot and crowded.

If you are lucky enough to have your own 12-foot yacht, you don’t have to mingle with the rabble. You launch at the boat slip, so of course you fall in the water. The county park ranger tells you there there’s no swimming except in designated areas, so you tell her you weren’t swimming, but she pretends she doesn’t hear you. You clamber back into your yacht in your now-wet blue-and-white flowered board shorts, muttering under your breath.

We got the sailboat all set up and waited for the wind. We waited some more. A slight puff filled the sail, and we were glad. We were still only about ten feet from the boat launch, however. We paddled a bit with the single oar to get away from the no-swimming-woman, but it was impossible to move the boat with any speed or specific destination in mind. But there wasn’t much in the way of wind, so we decided to enjoy the sunshine, drifting around the lake. We drifted eventually to the center of the small lake and had a picnic, letting the light wind take us where it might. While I was enjoying my sandwich, my meal was interrupted by the emergency broadcast system. First, shooting pain. Then:

BOWELS: We are full. You have thirty seconds.
ME: I’m eating lunch!
BOWELS: Twenty-eight.
ME: I’m on a boat, motherfucker.
BOWELS: Twenty-five.
ME: There are bathrooms at the beach.
BOWELS: The lake is a giant toilet.
ME: I’m not alone! What about her?
BOWELS: Nineteen.

My entire life I have been deeply envious of anal retentive people. I have about as much retaining power as a sandcastle wall. These emergency broadcasts are accompanied by sharp, shooting pains which make it clear that my bowels aren’t fucking around. NOW.

I explained to her, in an oddly tense combination of great humility and panic, that I had to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW. That’s an unfortunate euphemism, but I couldn’t say that I was going to take a shit right in front of her. I yelled “Sorry!” over my shoulder and plunged into the lake.

First, I had to get off my board shorts. This wasn’t, of course, the first time that my bowels had pulled this particular stunt. I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say that I know you have to get the shorts off.

I got the shorts to my ankles when my bowels released their burden. I propelled myself away from the boat backwards so I wouldn’t be floating in my own squid ink. All the pain stopped.

Relief. Ahhh.

“Are you okay?” she called.

“Don’t look!” I shouted. There was a trail of tears between me and the boat, and the last thing I needed was for her to be looking at it. We’d been together for years, but there was no reason for her to inspect the shameful herd of tiny brown lake otters surfacing by the boat. I continued pooping; my bowels weren’t shitting me about being full. It was a lot.

I was so relieved that I didn’t crap on the boat and that the intense discomfort was gone. I was so relieved that I didn’t quite make full sense of the loud noise breaking the quiet of the lake.

A motor. A skiff with two park rangers buzzed toward me. The megaphone blared a man’s voice: “THERE’S NO SWIMMING EXCEPT IN DESIGNATED AREAS. GET BACK IN THE BOAT.”

I look at my girlfriend, her mouth an O of surprise. The boat circles around me, about twenty yards away. I’m going to have to swim through an entire otter colony to get back to the boat. I reach down to pull up my board shorts. But they aren’t there.

“NO SWIMMING. GET BACK IN THE BOAT.”

I can’t find my shorts. I do a 360 but can’t see them anywhere. They are blue and white and flowered, so I should be able to see them. This lake is not particularly clean, even on a good day, and today is most assuredly not a good day.

I wave to the rangers to let them know I hear them. “Gotcha! Everything’s fine,” I shout. I’m just shitting in your little lake.

“GET BACK IN YOUR BOAT NOW.” They are motoring closer.

I am swimming in the middle of a bad dream. I can’t just clamber back into the boat naked, for God’s sake, with two park rangers and a future ex-girlfriend watching.

I’m thinking I swim around to the other side of the boat to climb in. My girlfriend’s seen me naked, at least. I’m half-treading, half-swimming, and I feel what I imagine to be a particularly mature otter rub against my loins. Yuck. I look down and am gratified to see a familiar clump of blue-and-white fabric.

Saved. I fumble awkwardly with my shorts, trying to slip them on and keep my face out of the water, swimming away from the skiff while the rangers shout each last warning to me. I finally wrangle my legs into the leg-holes and pull them up. I am no longer naked, I am no longer full of shit, and I am happy.

I climbed back into the boat and waved to the rangers and smiled weakly at my future wife. She shook her head and grimaced and we paddled back to the beach.

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Some parties you don’t want an invite to

The Poop Date
by Norton Loomer

I learned everything I know about modern dating while sitting on the toilet one day after school.

Normally I don’t use the student bathroom for my business, but I had a teacher meeting to get to and didn’t feel like making the quarter mile trek to the staff bathroom, only to find the stall occupied by one of the pot-smoking janitors. Besides, it was after school, so I figured I was in the clear. Sure enough, the bathroom was empty, so I locked the door, dropped my pants, sat down, and admired the writing on the wall while I waited for the big event.

I wasn’t too far along when two rowdy students, way too rambunctious for a public bathroom, began making a ruckus. At first I thought they were just there to change for whatever after school activity they did, so I just continued to sit and mind my own business. They let out a string of profanity, but other than that, they weren’t really causing me any problems. I sat there and tried to go undetected, being careful not to expel any bursts caused by the buildup of six hours without a bathroom break.

But left alone I would not be. When the initial shouting was over, a whispering began. I couldn’t quite make out what the young lads were saying, but it seemed to have something to do with me occupying the stall. I continued to focus on my own business, but sometimes the pressure gets to be too much.

Then the banging started. “Hey, who’s in there?” one of them shouted in an awkward pubescent squeak while the door rattled and quivered. Unsure the little latch would hold, I ripped off some toilet paper and prepared for departure.

“Hey, answer us!” the other one shouted.

“Yeah. Get outta there. We’re on our poop date.”

I quickened my pace, but not in time. Like a nimble monkey, one of the students emerged over the top of the stall and shouted something unintelligible at me before leaping off in what looked like fear.

“Hey, I think it’s the track coach,” he whispered after a surefooted landing on the tile.

“I don’t care,” the other one shouted. “This is our poop date! He needs to get out of there.”

Embarrassed for all of us, I finished wiping but remained fixed to the seat. I wanted to give them the chance to escape. I’d already seen one face, and although I hoped it was a vague enough depiction that I wouldn’t recognize him in the hallway, I knew I would never be able to forget him.

“I’m outta here,” the climber said.

“No. You need to stick around for a poop date.”

The climber didn’t acquiesce. There was some shuffling of bags and feet followed by steps that gradually distanced themselves from the toilet. Then silence. Surely they were gone.

I rose, pulled up my pants, and stepped out of the stall, the toilet automatically swallowing behind me. Marching to the sink, I spied a young man hanging out by the urinal. He gave me a funny look, but I refused to make eye contact. I pretended it wasn’t one of them, that the funny look was just the reaction to seeing a teacher in the bathroom. Students don’t seem to think we have normal lives. They don’t expect to see teachers outside of the classroom. We don’t even have bodily functions. We’re just weirdos who coop ourselves up in a classroom for days on end, slaving away at lesson planning and paper grading.

After my meetings were over, I went down to the track to organize cross country practice. On my way into the stadium, the climber, dressed now in his football gear, gave me a curious smile, and I knew my embarrassment exceeded his. I nodded to let him know I would never speak of this, and his return glance told me that he would make his dating life a bit more private from now on.

That is until he posted a picture of himself naked on Twitter. At least that’s what I heard.

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There has to be a merit badge for this

On a Cub Scout field trip, we visited a clipper ship. It was a beautiful boat, lots of polished wood and portholes and brass fittings and all sorts of things that appeal to the nautical-minded Cub Scout pack. There were long banks of navy blue plaid cushions and a dark mottled shag carpet on the floor in the cabins below – it was the 70s, and shag carpet even followed you underwater. We’re talking half-inch pile here.

We learned that on a boat, the kitchen is the galley and the bathroom is the head. Our guide, a man older than our fathers, told us that if we needed to use the head, we should go first and then pump a handle next to the toilet. This was a white metal arm with rubber handgrips, on the floor next to the toilet bowl like an emergency brake. It’s a water conservation mechanism; on a boat, it’s an empty, waterless bowl and it flushes with a quick, powerful whoosh.

The pack followed the guide to other parts of the boat. While we were in the Captain’s Quarters, I received an urgent message from my netherworld: time to poop. It was perfect timing, since I could run back to the toilet unnoticed. I am a quick and easy pooper, not someone who needs the New York Times and a quiet half hour. All I need is a closed door.

I went back to the head and shut the door and pooped immediately. No problem. Quick wipe, quick zip of the Cub Scout uniform, and I was good to go. I pumped the handle to flush. Nothing happened. Dropping a log into a boat toilet is highly unsatisfying: there’s no water for floating, so it just sat there, marooned next to a wad of toilet paper. I pumped again, and a sad little whoosh took away the toilet paper, leaving a very stubborn Cub Scout muffin in the bowl.

I flushed again, feeling creeping panic. Nothing changed.

I made a snap decision: I closed the lid and prepared to abandon my shame. No one would know it was mine, and I would be free. I listened at the door; hearing nothing, I cracked it open and peered out into the hall. I was alone looking down a long corridor of shag carpet. Score! I closed the door behind me and went off to find the pack.

Then I was seized by an unusual tug of my conscience: you can’t just leave it lying there. The Cub Scout motto: I promise to do my best, to do my duty, to God and my country, to help other people, and to obey the law of the pack. An abandoned turd would reflect poorly on all of Pack 452. I did my duty, and now I had to get rid of the evidence.

I went back to the head and opened the door. I lifted the lid and looked at the obstinate little turd. One more try. I left the door open, so it wouldn’t look like mine should I be discovered. Disgusting, isn’t it? What churlish Scout did this?

I gave the white metal handle a very hard, double-handed pump. To my great surprise, the turd was ejected from the bowl. It flew through the air in a high arc, out the door, into the hallway, onto the carpet. There it lodged in the deep 70’s shag.

My poor little Cub Scout heart stopped. I peered at the turd; touching it was out of the question. This was just as bad as it could be. What could I do?

I looked out the hallway: it was empty.

I bolted out of the bathroom, dodged the carpet burger, and headed as far from that toilet as I could. I dashed the length of the boat until I found my pack, and I rejoined them as if nothing happened. Oh, I was just playing with a porthole, I would tell anyone who asked. No one asked.

I was back in the pack, breathing silent relief. Someone would step in it, and I would be far from the scene of the crime when it happened. Fuck Pack 452.

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You only turn 10 once… thankfully

Pipe exploded in our bowling alley spewing sewage onto a 10 yr old girl having a birthday party. I had to call the family the next day to apologize and offer compensation. The mom said, “Don’t worry, we love your place.”

Made me cry with gratitude.

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