ME: “Gather ‘round kids; Grandpa has a story to tell you.”
OLDEST GRANDDAUGHTER: (excited) “Come on, Juniper, get over here; Grandpa’s going to tell us a story!”
YOUNGEST GRANDDAUGHTER: (not excited) “Grandpa’s full of shit, Mary Jean-Jane. Not in all my eight years has he ever told us a true story.”
But they gather ‘round anyway because they love me, and they’re respectful young children. They’re willing to suffer through the occasional story because, as the adage goes, “don’t bite the hand that buys you awesome Christmas presents.”
American Indians are also known for story-telling. To be clear, I’m not an American Indian; I’m trying to create an analogy here, so be patient. American Indians, or so I’ve heard tell in stories, pass their culture down from one generation to the next through storytelling.
Years ago, through stories, the younger American Indians learned from the older generation, for example;
- How to set a trap for a hare; or . . .
- Where the berries grew biggest in the springtime; or . . .
- How to tell when the weather was going to change; and . . .
- How to hunt Buffalo and how to follow the herd.
But then the white men shot all the Buffalo – for sport – piled them up like cordwood, and let them rot. And the Buffalo didn’t come anymore.
And the younger generation of American Indians grew tired of the stories.
GRANDFATHER: “Running Water – bring Coyote-Howling and Sidney, and Grandfather will tell you a story about the Buffalo.”
RUNNING WATER: “Come Coyote-Howling and Sidney, Grandfather is going to tell us a story about the Buffalo.”
COYOTE-HOWLING: “Grandfather is full of shit. The Buffalo are all gone.”
SIDNEY: “Screw that Buffalo baloney. Let us start a gambling casino and take the white man’s money for our own. We will exact our revenge for eradicating our buffalo through the roulette wheel and the slot machine.”
COYOTE-HOWLING: “Good idea Sidney, the white man is stupid and lazy, and we will – someday many moons from now – have the last laugh.”
And so it goes, it would seem, with all younger generations.
Storytelling persists regardless of the general lack of respect we older people get from smart-alecky young ’uns. Studying history in school is very much listening to stories of the experiences of a previous generation. Bible stories too were a part of many of our childhoods.
Depending on your religion, the story of the birth of Christ, the manger, a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, the north star, and the wise men; a great story that has been handed down through the years.
We tell some stories for enjoyment. We tell other stories to educate. And still, others we tell as warnings: don’t do this.
Such is the story of the Easter Fart.
With my granddaughters seated patiently at my feet, I begin the story.
“The entire family has gathered at Easter Grammy and Grampy’s house for the traditional Easter Celebration. (My Granddaughters call my in-laws the Easter Grandparents because that’s the only time they see them.) “First on the agenda, I tell them, “is coloring Easter Eggs.”
Because as you know, not only does the Easter Bunny bring children baskets brimming with jellybeans, he also brings them hard-boiled eggs. But not just plain white hard-boiled eggs – what sense would that make – they’re also bright pastel colors. And of course, because marketing departments of American companies can’t leave anything alone in their quest to make more bottom-line profit it’s no longer enough to color the eggs plain pastel colors. No, now we have to have swirly eggs, and sparkly eggs, fluorescent eggs, and bejeweled eggs. Which, when I think about it, is better than the lame white wax crayon we got when I was a kid. You’d try to write your name on a white egg with a white crayon, but of course, you can’t see what you’re writing because, hey genius marketers – it’s white on white, so your name comes out looking like D$9iT, and then you cry, and Mom refills her glass of Rose and adds another ice cube.
“So,” I continue, “we’ve colored the eggs, and they’re beautiful pastel, swirly, bejeweled works of art. And because, you know Grandpa, and how I’m always watching out for my wife and child . . .”
Juniper, the youngest granddaughter, rolls her eyes.
“. . . I feel it my duty to sample one of the hard-boiled eggs – to make sure they’re cooked appropriately. And of course, you can’t eat a hard-boiled egg without a cold can of beer, so I have a cold can of beer too.
“This egg,” I tell the children, “along with the cold can of beer, would later come to be known as “the detonator.’”
Juniper says, “Can I go watch T.V.?”
“No,” I tell her, “we’re just getting to the good part.”
“There’s a good part?” she asks.
“So we’ve colored eggs, and I’m sufficiently satisfied with their color, taste, and texture. It’s now time for the traditional Easter Eve supper.
“Easter Grammy decided that since Country-Style Spareribs were on sale, we would have a (new) traditional German Lutheran-themed Easter Eve supper of sauerkraut and spareribs, mashed potatoes, and baked beans.”
“Yuck!” says Juniper.
“Juniper, quit interrupting Grandpa,” says Mary Jean-Jane.
I glare at Juniper, and she glares back.
“Well, I happen to love sauerkraut and spareribs, mashed potatoes, and baked beans, so I loaded up on all of it.”
“Still yuck,” says Juniper.
And now Mary Jean-Jane rolls her eyes. At Juniper, of course, not at me.
“Kids, so you know the technical aspect of what’s happening here, and just as an informative aside, bombs are made by filling a metal canister with gun powder or some other kind of explosive stuff and then inserting a detonator.”
Suddenly, with the talk of bombs, Juniper begins to feign interest.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, Juniper says, “and the detonator’s the hard-boiled egg. You already told us that.”
I smile all-knowingly at her.
“Yes, Juniper, you are absolutely correct.”
Juniper beams with fake pride. Mary Jean-Jane rolls her eyes and utters “whatever” under her breath.
So I ask them, “If the egg is the detonator, can either of you tell me what the gunpowder or explosive material is?”
They both look perplexed and rub their respective chins in thoughtful concentration. Finally, Mary Jean-Jane tentatively raises her hand.
“Is it the sauerkraut and spareribs, mashed potatoes, and baked beans?”
Beautiful, caring, respectful, kind, geniuses. Those are my granddaughters.
“Absolutely Mary Jean-Jane,” I congratulate her.
“But Grandfather?” asks Juniper.
Either she’s taken in by the importance of the story or she’s jerking my chain, I can never tell with her. But she refers to me in the formal, “Grandfather.”
“Is the bomb inside of you? Won’t you be hurt?”
“Ah, little one, let us continue with the story, and you’ll find out.”
“So basically Grandpa is now a walking time-bomb. Like a crazed radicalized Muslim bomber wearing an invisible exploding vest over which I have no control. But, as you see in all the movies, I don’t have the benefit of a dead-man switch I can hold in my hand. My inevitable detonation is at the mercy of some higher power.”
“What’s a dead-man switch?” Juniper asks.
Her concern that I have a bomb inside me forgotten.
“Well, it’s . . .,” I begin.
“Juniper, just let Grandpa tell the story.”
“Keeping in mind now, girls,” I say, “we’re in Wisconsin; LaCrosse, Wisconsin no less, which has more taverns per-capita than Vegas has hookers; what else would you do with the family and kids on Easter Eve than go to a tavern?”
“Grandpa, what’s a hooker?” Mary Jean-Jane asks.
“We’ll get to that later,” I say.
“And where else would we go, girls, but a tavern called Share Bears on what is known as French Island.”
“I like Share Bears,” Juniper says.
Share Bears is an entirely appropriate name for a bar in Wisconsin because the legal drinking age is six. And as a business owner, you have to know your target market. And at the time, what six-year-old didn’t like the Care Bears animated TV show of which Share Bear was a star? And of course, the kids can’t get to the bar themselves; you can’t drive in Wisconsin until you’re 12, so the parents bring them, and they be like, “Well, as long as we’re here.”
“So off we go,” I say, “the lot of us. Uncle Burt and Aunt Karen, the Easter Grammy and Grampy, the kids, and grandkids, because again, what says family more than a night in a tavern.
“It’s a friendly little tavern, clean, not too crowded. Plus, they had a pool table and – rarity of rarities – a shuffleboard table and a big box of cornmeal. You don’t eat the cornmeal; you sprinkle it on the floor to make it slippery, so your opponent falls on their ass if they’re not careful.”
“What’s shuffleboard?” Juniper asks.
Geez, Louise, “It’s not important to the story,” I tell her.
“Then why bother telling us there was a shuffleboard table?” She asks back.
“Colorful details add to the story,” I reply, somewhat exasperated.
“Even if we don’t know what the details are?” she continues.
“Geezus fucking Christ!” Oops. “Sorry, you’re right, Juniper. I should include details you’ll recognize. There was also a claw machine. Okay?” I ask.
“I like playing the claw machine,” she replies satisfactorily.
“Good, okay. So because beers were fifty cents and because Easter Grampy is always on the lookout for a good buy, whether he needs something or not, he bought a round for everyone. Kids too, because they were – after all – over six years old.
“So here I am, primed and ready and busting at the seams with sauerkraut and spareribs and mashed potatoes and baked beans. And somewhere down below all that is a hard-boiled egg—a hard-boiled egg stewing in a bubbling pool of beer and sauerkraut juice. And now I’m packing more beer on top of the load already in there. The bubbles bubble and the baked beans and sauerkraut do their thing, and the hard-boiled egg is saying, “Holy crap get me out of here!” and it happens.”
“What happens, Grandfather?”
The girls have been listening wide-eyed, in rap attention for more than five seconds now.
“Is this where you get hurt?” Mary Jean-Jane asks.
Her concern is touching.
“Don’t worry, honey. Just listen.”
“We’d taken a break from the shuffleboard and the pool table, and we’re gathered around one red chapped-vinyl covered booth. We’re chatting away, having a good old time like any other Christian family spending the night before Easter in a tavern when the detonator detonates. All the pent-up gas from beer bubbles, sauerkraut and spare ribs, mashed potatoes, baked beans, and more beer bubbles – not to mention the hard-boiled egg detonator – explode in a hot, wet wave or effluvium unlike anything ever witnessed by humankind.
“You’ve seen Terminator Two, right?” (I know, but they watch a lot of movies.) “Remember that part where Linda Hamilton – who plays Sarah Conner – is dreaming about the Skynet takeover? She’s at the playground, and a nuclear bomb explodes. People instantly turn to ash, and the shock wave flattens everything in its path? Well, it wasn’t like that. Exactly.”
“Grandfather!” Juniper wants the truth.
“Well, nobody dies – but they all wish they could. First, one person, then all of them, begin moving slowly away from me. The expressions on their faces are like, “something is not quite right.” Which quickly changes to, “God in heaven, what is that?” And then their own sauerkraut, spare ribs, mashed potatoes, and baked beans start to work their way back up from their lower intestines. They retch, and they convulse, and they gag, and tears – literal tears – come to their eyes.”
Mary Jean-Jane, always the more caring and compassionate of the two, is concerned.
“You made everyone cry, Grandpa?”
Juniper sees the irony and smiles contentedly.
“Grandfather’s fart made them cry. That is so awesome!”
“People sitting at the bar look up in wonder and “test-sniff” the air like you always do when you smell something bad. Some of them look at their beer and test-sniff it, wondering if perhaps it’s a skunky keg. The bartender takes a faltering step and drops the beer glass he’d been polishing, catching himself with both hands on the bar. Several patrons rush to the door, hands covering their mouths and nose. When the door opens, a fresh spring breeze distributes the foul reek through the rest of the bar, enabling everyone to enjoy that, which only I have created.
“And I stood there, proud and tall and relieved. And that, my dear Granddaughters, is the story of the Easter Fart.”
“Please, Grandfather,” they plead, “tell us another.”