In elementary school, my brother refused to use the school toilets because there were no doors on the stalls. Instead, Aron would wait until he got home . . . when he could. On the days he couldn’t, he tolerated the warm matter until it dropped below body temperature, making the “trouser load” unbearable, at which point he would find a fairly deserted area and abandon the waste—underwear and all—behind a tree or in a ditch.
When our mother couldn’t find any of his underwear, she insisted that he either use the toilets at school or at least bring his underwear home to be washed. Once, she even made him retrieve a pair of underwear out of a tree. Aron can’t remember why he decided to throw the soiled garment into a tree, but he recalls its heft, which gave it the lift he needed to get it to the higher branches. Still, the thought of toting dirty underwear was almost as unbearable as the vulnerability of sitting in a doorless john, pants hanging around his ankles. So, he tried harder to “pack it in” at school so he could make it home before he evacuated his bowels.
We lived just beyond the university where our father taught, and our walk home from school took us through the campus. After crossing a road between some of the classroom buildings and one of the outlying dorms, we could see our house beyond the dormitory parking lot—set between a trailer park and the town water-tower.
His urge had begun earlier in the day, but he had held it in. It redoubled itself on his way home, but he made it across campus with guarded steps. As he crossed the street and made his way to the parking lot, though, he realized he wasn’t going to make it. Seeing the goal before him, he says, caused him to anticipate the upcoming relief. His tensed bowels relaxed too soon.
There wasn’t much cover, but he didn’t want to have to carry soiled underwear, so he got between two cars and, looking around quickly to see if anyone was around, he pulled his pants down and let the warm turd inch snake-like onto the pavement. As he reached for a sheet of notebook paper, he was startled by a college student who walked around the front of one of the cars. Their eyes locked, both feeling violated. Hesitating an instant more, Aron hitched up his pants and walked quickly home. He didn’t look back.
* * *
Fecal matters stain my brother’s past. The stories vary, but usually they have something to do with his loose bowels. He has shit his pants under numerous circumstances. The time he was going fishing and had to pull over to relieve himself, in his hurry he made the mistake of stepping over the boat-hitch instead of going around. And, he tells the tale from his days as a probation officer: As he was leading one of his wards out of the courtroom, he tried to discretely pass gas only to feel warm foam trickle down his inner thigh. But, in a fashion that belies the shyness of a young boy who wouldn’t use the school toilets because there was no privacy, when he entered the outer chambers, he announced, “Man, I just shit my pants.” For him, it was just another crappy day.
* * *
Last Christmas, my family and I were spending the holidays with my folks in sixty degree Texas, away from the blustery grey of northern Indiana. Aron, unable to join us, called us on Christmas Eve and gave a detailed account of what he called the worst day of his life a few weeks before.
“Mr. Aron,” as his students call him, is a social worker for an alternative school in rural North Carolina. His days are seldom routine and often harried. Most of the students he works with have behavioral or learning issues, including severe ADD and bipolar disorder. Though some are limited, he says many of the students are intelligent but are just not recognized as such because of behavioral patterns. In his job, patience is not a virtue; it is a requirement.
The day began with his running late for work. Hedging his bets, he decided to swing by the McDonalds drive-thru. He emphasized he did not want any cheese on his breakfast sandwich, then, deciding to “manufacture a change” in his day, he smiled and chatted pleasantly with the young woman, got his change, and drove off. It wasn’t until several minutes later that he realized that he had forgotten his food at the second window.
As he walked into the restaurant to explain, the manager was yelling over her shoulder and everyone rushed around in panic. Some scurried from the drive-thru window to the food shoot and back, yelling at the food preparation crew who shuffled breakfast meat, eggs, and cheese between slices of bread. Others grabbed bags of food, jogged around the counter and out into the cool morning, returning with more complaints to fix yet another order. They were one order off. When Aron explained what had happened, the manager, cold but accommodating, gathered some food into a bag and handed it to him across the counter, along with his medium coke.
Back on the road, Aron took a sip of coke, pulled out his sandwich, and peeled the paper gently. Sticking gooily to the yellow wax paper was the darker yellow melted cheese. He paused then cursed under his breath. He hurled the sandwich out of the window and felt some mild satisfaction at watching it break apart on the asphalt through his rear-view mirror. Looking up, he slammed on the brakes, barely avoiding a car slowing to a full stop before turning right into a hidden driveway. Looking down, he saw the ice, syrup, and water slowly soaking into the passenger side floor-board, the cup lolling back and forth in the puddle. Now he cursed in earnest.
As his official day began, Aron discovered that one of his students, a chubby kid with greasy hair and his pants riding low, had forgotten to take his medication. Without it, he would be a distraction, so they climbed into my his truck to drive the thirty minutes to the boy’s home to get his medicine. The boy glanced at the paper cup in the sticky floor board but didn’t say anything. He fidgeted the whole trip. He turned on the radio, rolled down the window, turned off the radio, beat rhythmically on the dashboard, turned on the radio, rolled the window up, changed the channel on the radio, beat the dash. When he reached over to honk the horn, Aron grabbed his arm, hissing, “Stop!” They arrived at the boy’s home, he took his medication, and they began the thirty minute drive back to the school—the medication wouldn’t take effect for another hour.
After this, things slipped into a calming routine for the next few hours. Since he had to make a home visit after lunch, he went out to his truck, slid into the seat, and turned the key. The engine was silent. Aron sat a moment, collecting himself before he went back into the school. A couple of the students helped him jump his truck, and they stood around talking for a few minutes while the battery recharged. The mood was light, and to make it lighter he adjusted his stance and farted, then paused, feeling the all too familiar warmth.
After cleaning himself and running his underwear under cold water in the sink, he took a deep breath, wadded the boxers into as tight a ball as he could, and tried to leave without drawing attention to himself.
“Mr. Aron shit himself!” the students called out, laughing.
With a close-mouthed smile, lips barely showing, Aron walked up to his supervisor, who made no effort to curb her laughter, and told her he was going to call it a day. Wet-eyed, she could only nod.