The reason we ate grilled lamb all week was that we were traveling, we were young, and we were poor. My brothers and I were still in sticker shock from London when we arrived in Paris for four days, so we were looking for the cheapest food imaginable. I had been in Paris the year before, so I was in charge of accommodations; my two brothers were there for the first time. I found us an inexpensive but terrific hotel room in the Latin Quarter, tucked away on meandering street with little shops and lots of windows with food you could carry away.
And carry it away we did: greasily delicious, grilled lamb packed into a baguette with French fries. We two oldest, just out of college at the time, were so taken with this cheap food that we ate it for lunch and dinner. We’re big boys; sometimes we’d even order a second baguette, even though one was plenty. Our younger brother, Albert, a skinny high school student, quickly tired of the lamb, but skinny people don’t eat that much, and he was spending our mother’s money. My older brother, Simon, and I were spending our own, but more significantly, we were cheap. We stuck to the lamb.
The inexpensive but terrific hotel room had three single beds and a large bathroom with toilet, bidet, and shower. My brothers eyed the shower suspiciously – a showerhead sticking from a wall, and a drain beneath it in the tiled floor, the shower area marked by a ridge of tile. The best feature of the room was a big French window; we were on the third floor, and by spreading the windows wide, we had a view of the neighborhood and even of the Panthéon’s dome, if you stuck your head out and craned your neck a little.
It took perhaps two days for the Lamb of God diet to work its magic. We were on a crowded Métro train, and I expertly released what I thought would be an undetected fart. I was wrong. This wasn’t silent but deadly; this was silent but pestilential. Simon looked at me, his eyes wide. He glared.
“You are nasty,” he hissed. He didn’t have to ask whether it was me or Jean-Jacques next to me. We’re brothers; he knew. Then as the potency of my vicious fart revealed itself, he started laughing. A fart like that — sour, eggy, sweet — calls for appreciation. It was just fucking incredible.
Albert made a face and moved away from me, rolling his eyes in embarrassment at his older brothers. He knew perfectly well that the fart was just as likely to have been Simon’s and that Simon was redirecting blame.
I remember that particular fart well, not because it was the worst, but because it was the first. Almost immediately, Simon began to replicate my swamp gas, and the two of us were poisoning the air in a twenty-foot radius. Whatever genetic makeup we share includes the ability to manufacture the same grotesque stench. Our manufacturing plant began running 24/7.
We spent that day traipsing around Paris, incapable of stopping the fumes enveloping us like a cloud, Albert fifty feet ahead of us at all times. A lot of farting is not out of the ordinary; this was out of the ordinary. Never have I farted like this, and never in stereo. We came back to our hotel room after a day at Versailles, and the room still reeked of brimstone.
By the third day, Albert was in despair. He’d spent the entire night awake with his two older brothers tear-gassing the hotel room. “You guys have to stop it!” he cried, in actual tears. What could we do but fart some more and roll in hysterics while Albert hung his head out of the French windows, gasping for air? We discovered that when you lay on the bed, it smelled worse. Yes: this was the heaviest gas known to man, and it sunk to the floor. Albert eventually abandoned us, leaving us to giggle in our own stench while he explored Paris unmolested.
After a full day of Parisian fart tourism, we settled in to sleep. The French windows were wide open, and Albert had scooted his bed closer to the fresh air. Simon got up for the bathroom. He was in there for a while; I heard water running, splashing, possibly the shower. I don’t fall asleep easily, and I was beginning to be curious. Eventually, the door opened; light from the bathroom poured into our room. Simon was backlit in the doorway, but I could see that he was tracking wet footprints into the room.
“I couldn’t get the toilet to flush,” he said, loudly.
“We’re trying to sleep,” I told him.
He said, “I took a dump. It wouldn’t go down. Then I turned on the faucet and water sprayed up in my face. But the shit still wouldn’t flush. I had to smash it into the little holes with my heel.”
“What little holes?” I asked.
“The other toilet,” he said.
“What do you mean, other toilet?” I asked.
Simon was silent a moment, and I realized that he meant the bidet.
“I couldn’t get the shit to flush,” he said.
“That’s a fucking bidet!” I shouted. “It’s for washing your ass!”
He said, “Well don’t use it, because there are little pieces of shit caked around the drain.”
I started laughing.
“You are both so gross,” Albert moaned as he pulled the sheets over his head.