Wednesday, February 8

The UW-Whitewater Swim Team.

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Pooping your pants will not earn you any friends.

When I was in kindergarten, the class pant-pooper was a kid named Benji. It seemed as if he had an accident every day, so much so that his parents started outfitting him with a revolving door of sweatpants in order to make the aftermath a little more bearable and easy to maintain. He pooped his pants for years; the last time I remember it happening, it was at his birthday party when we were in the 3rd grade. It brought the tee-ball game to a screeching halt.

I’m certain he didn’t have his problem under control in the 4th grade either, but I sort of lost touch with him after I accidentally hit him with a baseball bat and we stopped speaking to each other. Whether it was math, science, lunch or recess, you could always depend on Benji to eventually freeze like a statue in mid-sentence, eyes welling up with fear and embarrassment as he once again lost the ever-present battle of not vacating one’s bowels. Poor bastard; he’s probably in jail now.

My mother is convinced that I wasn’t entirely toilet trained until I was five years old, but this is revisionist history (and more importantly, just a funny thing to say about your kid in public). Truth is, my bathroom habits were exemplary. I never had accidents, always knew when I needed to go, never asked for help and always did my work in private. When other first grade boys took great pride in urinating off the top of a jungle gym like Moses atop Sinai (I’m only assuming that was part of the story), I was avoiding splashback and remembering to tuck. Such undignified behavior and accidents shall never befall me, for I was regal, responsible and possessing of adequate muscle control.

Then I got the flu.

You know the kind of flu I’m talking about. The little kid flu. The worst virus of your life flu. The sleeping on the bathroom floor, 103-degree fever, surrealist nightmare flu. Down was up. Up was down. Full House was my favorite television show. ‘Ice, Ice Baby’ was in constant boombox rotation. It was touch and go; for a good four days, I was confined to my room. The shades were drawn, my meals were slid under the door and the days started to melt into each other like soft pocket watches in the blistering desert heat.

It was on one of these nights in particular when the incident in question occurred. I was barely clinging to reality as I drifted off to sleep, sweat soaking through the sheets and mattress as I began dreaming about having to run a mile for gym class.

There I stood on the dewy track, wearing nothing but shoes, socks, and a pair of skintight swimming trunks that I inherited from an older cousin. They were purple, with the words ‘UW Whitewater Swim Team’ embroidered on the back. These Speedo shorts existed in reality, but I hardly ever wore them. I always pushed them further and further back into my underwear drawer, as they were ill-fitting and I couldn’t swim (I considered this false representation). Furthermore, they looked like a Crown Royal bag, and were nearly as tiny. However, I was low on laundry this week, so I had no choice but to don them. Why they had to follow me into my dream is beyond me.

When the gun went off, I began my journey around the track, overgrown with weeds and moss. Everyone was there to cheer me on: My mother, my 18-month old sister, Neil Armstrong, Hulk Hogan and Jimmy Carter were just a few of the more notable names in attendance. Not wanting to let them down, my legs began pumping and I hurtled my pale, mostly-nude body along the blacktop, the cheering and clapping serving as my incentive to set a Winneconne Elementary School class record.

Then I shit my pants.

My sprinting turned to a jog, then a saunter leading into a confused duck-step as the realization of what happened arrived in waves of confusion. The last thing I remember was Jimmy Carter
shaking his head in disgust as I began to awaken. My hair soggy with perspiration and body atrophied by this horrific flu, I peeled myself out of bed to steady my consciousness, make sense of what had transpired, and grab a glass of water. It wasn’t until I stood up that I made the unfortunate discovery. Of all the dreams that I ever wanted to come true, it figures that this was the one I was granted. Much like my disappointing effort on the track, I had indeed had a Benji moment in my own bedroom.

I was sick. My head wasn’t in the right place. Nothing was making sense to me, and now I was in a state of panic. It was probably three in the morning at this point, and any logical idea that I had to possibly quell this unfortunate circumstance was still hours or even days away. Going with the first idea I came up with, I took off my underpants and made my way over to the attic. My bedroom was on the second floor of an old farmhouse, and the attic was on the same floor, accessible by a spooky-looking half-door on the far side of the room. For years I would have nightmares about aliens and phantoms emerging from this door, but on this night, I pushed these fears aside and made my way towards the intimidating entrance. I had a deposit to make.

Working only under the guidance of moonlight, I pulled the tiny attic door open. Within were long-forgotten boxes of baby clothes and Christmas decorations, exposed insulation and probably about a dozen wasp nests. I clutched the underpants, reared back and flung the contents far into the pitch-black depths of the attic. It was over. I closed the half-door, remembered to wash my hands, and went back to sleep. My irrational fear was that I’d somehow face embarrassment or even punishment if it were discovered that I accidentally shit myself while in the throws of a sickness that I probably should have been hospitalized for. My theory (and I’m assuming here) was that I’d hide the evidence and it would never be spoken of again.

And I was right. For a while.

Months passed. I got better. By this point, it was winter and I had forgotten all about the tragic incident. My parents had taken trips into the attic from time to time, but my shameful delivery hadn’t been discovered. I was operating under the assumption that everything, underpants and all, had been eaten by mice. I had committed the perfect crime.

It was about two weeks before Christmas when I heard my mother screaming from the attic. I was playing River City Ransom on my Nintendo in the living room when my body suddenly went cold. This wasn’t going to be good for anyone. For the next 20 minutes, I eavesdropped on my parents as they tried to make sense of what they were looking at.

What is that?” my mom inquired.

It…it looks like shit,” my father eloquently stated.

What animal could have done that?” Mom fired back.

I dunno,” Dad said quizzically. “Maybe a raccoon. A big one.

Maybe we should put a trap up here or something,” Mom said. Surely, she didn’t want wild vermin running rampant throughout the house.

This went on for what seemed like forever: my mom and dad hovering over a pile of their son’s feces, hypothesizing as to its origin. Apparently, it all must have been thrown clear from the UW Whitewater Swim Team trunks that fateful night, and for that, I was simultaneously relieved and disgusted. In that moment, silently listening to this exchange from the stairwell, I knew how poor Benji felt every day of his childhood; being chastised, frightened and embarrassed due to a mere lapse in cognitive reasoning.

My parents cleaned the attic and bought a raccoon trap. I never told a soul, and they never caught the raccoon.

For a decade, I considered this the most embarrassing thing I could ever tell anyone about myself, and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I even told my wife, who now brings it up at any and every social occasion possible. Personally, I don’t think this should be held against me too much, though. If you dream about pooping your pants, and you wake up having pooped your pants in real life, and you cover it up by heaving the evidence into the adjacent attic, then have you really pooped your pants at all?

Yes. Yes you have.

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