Some things start off with a bang and others with a bombastic eruption.
It was my oldest son’s birthday and to celebrate, he wanted to host a fishing derby. We set off to look for prizes and found ourselves rummaging through a bargain bin of unwanted toys at a local store. There were lots of trinkets perfect for rewarding a catch of a blue gill or pumpkinseed. But at the bottom of the tub, my fingers latched onto something else. I pulled it out of the bin and it looked impressive and slick, even to an adult. It was an electronic gadget the size of a small dinner plate with a dozen buttons in vivid colour, each labelled with names like wind, toot, rumble and baked beans. Our eyes grew wide. This was no ordinary party favour: this was a flatulence machine.
My son was bubbling over with excitement, and I had to admit, I was intrigued, myself. The thought of some unsuspecting parent bringing it home from the fishing derby gave me a certain fiendish pleasure and I purchased it without a second thought. But I resisted my son’s pleas to try out the machine immediately. This was not a toy for us, I reminded, but a prize for his fishing derby. And being such an exceptional gadget, it deserved to be awarded as the grandest prize of all – the trophy for the biggest catch of the day.
As his fishing derby approached, my son begged tearfully to play with we had come to call reverently The Flatulence 500. Eventually, to safeguard the machine from his prying fingers, I placed it high on a shelf out of reach. He seemed to forget about it. But what I took for complacency was instead fierce determination. When his birthday came, my son fished with furor and did not stop until he hooked a five pound bass. He won his own fishing derby. The Flatulence 500 was his to keep.
Suddenly our summer was set to a soundtrack of flatus in varying keys, from a timid squeak to a roar worthy of a thousand cabbages. My son and The Flatulence 500 were inseparable. He used it to finish his sentences. I could no longer have a conversation with him that was not punctuated with an uncannily appropriate dose of wind.
More than anything, he wanted to take The Flatulence 500 with him to day camp to show it off to his friends. I refused. Then one morning, when I dropped him off for his day’s activities, something caught my eye through the open zipper of his backpack. Having been denied the right to bring the gadget to camp, he was covertly smuggling it in.
Miffed, I snatched the machine from his bag. I was heading down to Toronto for an important meeting and did not have time to deal with the foolishness of The Flatulence 500. My son shot me a guilty look. But I was in a hurry and could only wag a punitive finger at him and throw him a scowl before confiscating the contraband and shoving it into my briefcase.
A voice in my head said, “That’s probably not a good idea.” I ignored the voice.
Traffic heading into the city was terrible and I became hopelessly stuck in a mess of construction compounded by the frenzy of morning rush hour. By the time I arrived at my client’s office, I was a half hour late. I cringed. These were not people who took time lightly.
As the receptionist guided me down the long hallway, I tried to calm myself by meditating on the line where the grey carpet met the grey walls that accented the grey artwork in matching grey frames. Still, nothing could quell the dread that was rising inside me. When the boardroom door swung open, ten stony faces stared at me, unimpressed, from above their grey suits. The room was silent. Everyone had been waiting for me to lead the meeting.
Right, then, I thought, taking a deep breath. I decided spontaneously to do away with my notes and threw my briefcase to the floor to get things started with haste.
Something rumbled near my toes. By the time I heard the faint hiss, it was too late to contain it. The Flatulence 500 was already letting it rip, building slowly and emphatically from a leak to a roar. To my horror, I had accidently depressed the button on the most expulsive flatulence of all: the symphony of fire.
Not a word was said in the room as my briefcase violently off-gassed for what felt like minutes. Unable to speak, I desperately surveyed the audience. No one laughed. No one even smiled. I had to smoothly segue into my presentation without so much as an acknowledgement of the seismic activity at my feet or an opportunity to at least point out that the leak was not mine.
I don’t know what people talked about when I left the boardroom that day, but I laughed so hard on the drive home that there was no point in scolding my son. These days, I sometimes think I should carry a flatulence machine with me all of the time, to ensure that the people I deal with have the requisite sense of humour.
By Anita Odessa