(Warning: Long post. 2200 words)
(Warning: Involves potty talk)
(Warning: I think this post is hilarious)
For some reason, when I was a kid, ordering onion rings instead of French Fries at Burger King was a big deal. Somehow I equated the purchase with mom and dad splurging for some very special reason. I held this belief that French Fries cost something like fifty cents and onion rings cost, oh, about seven bucks. Of course none of these impressions reflect reality in the least, but it is honestly what I believed as a child.
So, for years I thought of onion rings as some kind of exotic food rich people buy all the time and eat while lounging next to their pools that overlooked the ocean and were shaded by palm trees. I could only have this rare delicacy on special occasions. I never complained about it, though. I knew that my father’s job as a custodian paid very little, but was nothing to be ashamed of – even though I was.
So when I became a teenager, and had some of my own money, I decided that I would bust out of this terrible shell of poverty that I had been in for so long and purchase onion rings the next time I went to Burger King. I would pretend to be one of those rich people. I would feel rich and act like eating onion rings was no big deal, like they didn’t cost seven bucks.
One weekend a confluence of events occurred that lead me to an onion ring bonanza. I had some money in my bright orange velcro and canvass wallet. I was spending a lot of time with my brother, Jay, who was back from college for the summer and my best friend, Pat. I liked spending time with them because they could drive and I couldn’t. Friday lunch and there we were, at Burger King. I ordered onion rings and a side of Whopper. I nearly trembled at this momentous occasion. It was my first solo onion rings order with my own cash. An order of onion rings was surprisingly cheaper than expected. Sweet! Ah, the savory crunch and slick onion through my teeth made me feel sophisticated, like people who drink tea with their pinky extended. I ate that first onion ring in slow motion. I had arrived. It must be the same feeling people who buy cars that cost as much as a house and don’t even have to borrow money to do it.
Friday evening arrived and as luck would have it, we went to Burger King again. My brother’s girlfriend worked there and I think that had something to do with it. Whopper with a large order of onion rings. I ate them triumphantly.
Saturday rolled around and I got up early, about 11 AM, and was ready to eat. The three of us took off for Burger King again. For some reason Pat was living at our house this summer, or maybe he just slept there, I can’t remember. Anyway, once again I ordered a whopper and large onion rings. Delicious. Oh hey, what’s for dinner? “Whopper and onion rings, can you hear me now?” I was eating onion rings like I was making up for lost time. The starving kid whose dirty face has been pressed against the window from the outside got let in to the buffet and wouldn’t stop.
At the same time I had forgotten everything taught to me about the digestive system in high school science class.
Sunday morning was church. The entire youth group sixth grade and up sat on the second pew to the preacher’s right. We’d pass notes and giggle, get mean looks from the preacher, and fall asleep. When a guy sat next to the cute girl (the only one), he would accidentally let his hand touch her leg, just a little bit, so he could brag about it later. But we did it together and that’s what mattered.
On that morning before church, I felt like I wanted to stay in bed, and it wasn’t the usual “Oh crap, I gotta got to church,” kind of want to stay in bed. I really felt sick to my stomach. My mother, who wouldn’t take half an aspirin unless a migraine split her head in two, was not about to let me stay home from church. She would have counted it a sin as a Christian and a failure as a mother to let me stay home for so little. I mean really, there wasn’t even blood.
Everything was fine, at first. We sang hymns selected from the usual pool of about 20. The kids in the youth group kept trying to guess which song the song leader would select next. Someone was bound to nail it as there were so few songs to choose from. Then the sermon started and my stomach got queasy to the almost unbearable point. It wasn’t “I’m gonna hurl” queasy, but “Can I hold it?” queasy.
Then my stomach made some unusual noises. I hoped no one heard them but me. Since no one looked, I felt reasonably safe that it was silent to them. The sermon was really long that morning, like five hours or so. I wanted to leave the sanctuary and go to the bathroom, but sitting in the second pew left no possibility for a sneaky get away. I just knew my mother (in the fourth pew to the right of the preacher) would notice, force me to make eye contact with her and tell me to sit down and shut up in sign language. Those were the only words I knew in sign language. I just had to have faith that I could make it through the closing prayer. .
Then the sick feeling lowered in my gut. I knew this time that something terrible was about to happen. My fear was that I was about to rip like a thundering herd from below and that I would be heard by everyone. I would be ridiculed, taunted, and utterly humiliated for weeks on end if I did that in church. No! I had to stop it.
No use. It was coming on strong. I wiggled and shifted on the pew in anticipation of the coming blast. I figured if I situated myself just right the sound would be muffled into the soft padding of the pew and I would be saved the humiliation. This was an ingenious idea and had, in fact, worked in the past. However, this one was different. Never before had my digestive system had the force of four orders of onions rings behind it. Four orders of onions rings, that’s like, what, six to eight pounds of onions churning in my colon. I had no idea what I was getting into. In fact, I had no idea the onion rings had anything to do with my digestive issues.
About three fourths of the way through the sermon, the first salvo was launched. What I feared was a loud noise. Initially, I had great relief that it was completely silent. Not only that, my stomach felt a lot better. It was such a relief I immediately paid attention to the sermon. It was something on how to be right all the time and telling sinners that they were wrong.
After a few seconds, something in the air changed. It was like a dark, mustard-yellow, almost liquid, cloud of stench emerged from below, creeping slowly upward, targeting every nostril in a three pew radius. It was positively horrific. Out of the corner of my eye I saw heads cocking back and looking around. Honestly, I was so relieved that I had not produced an audible fart that I did not connect the disgusting odor to myself. But as everyone turned to find the guilty party, all eyes arrived at me. Realizing what was happening, I looked at Pat with a look that said, “You’re disgusting!”
My attempt to nonverbally accuse Pat of this olfactory atrocity did persuade some that he was the one who dealt the blow. I knew I was safe because it would be my word against his and since I was such an introvert and so unassuming (appearing), people would believe me over Pat. I had dodged a bullet.
The sermon ended and it was time for communion. Usually this was a relatively quick operation. A quick word on what communion was, a few stock prayers, pass the trays and we’re done. Well, it was Gilbert’s time to give the communion word. Gilbert speaks slowly and kind of bird walks from topic to topic. It was entirely possible that he could work in some comment about the sounds that squirrels make when they are mating into the words of communion. I know this because he did it in a prayer once.
This was not going to be a slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am communion. That queasy feeling returned, only this time more quickly and with greater force. Gilbert was still talking about something in the universe when I felt like I was going to release what was known in my family as, “Silent Death.” It was my father who created the phrase. It was my father who created the need for the phrase.
It was on that day that I learned how to flex certain muscles that I actually never knew I had. The little tasteless cracker was passed around on fake gold trays and all of the baptized people got a little piece. The smaller a piece you could break off the holier you were. I broke off a really small piece trying to be really holy. Maybe God would miraculously remove the gas. Nope. By the time the trays had been passed to the back pews, I could not stand it any longer. I had to leave. I was not going to unleash another one of those bombs on my friends. They would know it was me this time and I couldn’t just blame Pat twice.
I got up after the cracker was served, but before the grape juice (never real wine) was passed around. This move must have horrified my mother. I had broken the holy tradition of communion. There was no way communion took effect if you didn’t take the whole thing. If there is one time during the entire worship service that is the absolute worse time to get up and leave it is in between the cracker and the grape juice. It was tantamount to going to the bathroom at a Twins game during “Take Me Out To The Ball Game,” of killing kittens. Sacrilege.
But there was no other option. I had to get out of there. I stood up, but stooped over hoping no one would see me, and made my way to the outer aisle. I then walked briskly and silently, still stooped down, like spies do on TV, to the rear of the sanctuary, and exited the back door. The bathroom was just across the foyer. I pushed open the door with my shoulder as I was unbuttoning my pants in a panic knowing that there was a chance there was going to be some substance with this one.
The bathroom was empty. Whew! Having only one stall meant that there was a chance it was filled by someone else. However, being in the middle of communion as it was, my odds were pretty good of having the place to myself. I sat down and then the horrors began.
In about ten minutes, I had created something that was so disgusting, so repugnant that I actually gagged myself. Everything I looked at in that bathroom seemed to be filtered through a dark yellow fog of poison gas. It was at this time that I realized: It’s the onion rings. I was in a real dilemma. I could hardly breathe in that little bathroom, and it felt like the walls were closing in on me. I needed to get out of there. However, the message coming from down under was that I was only about half accomplished with my necessary task that brought me into the bathroom in the first place.
I then remembered the new muscles I had discovered during communion and thought that just maybe I could use them in order to make it home without any more damage. So, I decided to make a break for it. I knew church was still going on because the speaker in the foyer was on and you could hear it in the bathroom. It was the closing prayer. I figured that by the time the closing prayer ended and the announcements were read, I’d back seated with my friends and enough distance between me and my odor would have kept me from guilt had anyone walked in the bathroom after me.
No such luck. When I opened the door to leave the bathroom, in walked a deacon. Not just some shlepper member, but a whole deacon. I walked past him quickly pretending he wasn’t walking into the gas chamber. I felt guilty. But that guilt left immediately when I heard what I was sure to be a cuss word through the opening of the door just before it closed tight. Cussing was a much worse sin than bad gas, I actually thought to myself.
The rest of the day was spent at home, much of the time in the bathroom as my colon tried desperately to cleanse itself. This is when I knew for sure that my family really loved me.