My friend, Eugene, has a friend named Purly. Purly has an uncle who owns a camp way the heck back in the hills. The camp is really just a shack by a pond but Purly’s uncle rents it out to city people who come up to hunt. He makes good money with it, too. A few years ago, he let Purly, Eugene and me use it at the end of the season in exchange for doing a little job while we were there.
The camp is primitive,and the latrine is never more than two fifty-gallon drums, stacked on end in a hole, with a board across the rim to sit on. A canvas tarp provides privacy on three sides (the fourth provides a view of the pond) and it has no roof. Each year, Purly’s uncle folds the top of the upper drum over with a sledge hammer, buries the whole mess and digs a new hole somewhere else. Our little job was to fold over and bury that season’s latrine, which was especially full due to heavy rains the week before.
We hadn’t even been there an hour when a red squirrel ran past with one of Eugene’s candy bars in its mouth and disappeared into the woods. Eugene doesn’t like squirrels except for eating, and when it ran by again, this time dragging a Slim Jim, that squirrel became Eugene’s obsession. He set elaborate traps for that squirrel and he threw rocks, cans and knives every time he saw it, but it was persistent and cunning and it generally happened that while Eugene was looking for the squirrel in back of the shack, the squirrel was running around the front with another candy bar.
By the third day Eugene had given up on deer hunting and spent the entire morning sitting on his bunk with an axe. Quite frankly, he was making me nervous and I don’t know how many times I said, “Careful with that axe, Eugene” before he finally set aside the axe and picked up his shotgun instead.
Not sure how a shotgun was safer than an axe, Purly and I suspected it might be best to continue any drinking we might have been doing outside, and it turns out we were right because not three minutes later there was a thunderous blast from inside the shack. A cloud of sleeping bag down billowed out the door, followed closely by a red squirrel carrying a Baby Ruth bar, followed closely by Eugene, who let loose another blast from his shotgun just as the squirrel ducked beneath the canvas of the latrine wall.
Eugene stalked to the open side of the latrine, with exaggerated, Elmer Fudd-like stealth, and as Purly and I moved around for a better view, Eugene rushed the can, looking in quickly and pulling back. He must have seen something in there because he quietly chambered two more shells, ducked back in and stepped gingerly onto the sitting board.
Considering that he had a shotgun and was shooting into a barrel, it seemed that Eugene was taking extra careful aim, but when we realized he was just being careful to miss his toes we had to shrug in admiration for Eugene’s commitment to gun safety. Our highly considered opinion was, however, somewhat tempered by the feeling that Eugene might not have thought this one through very well, but before I could suggest that it might not be a good idea to discharge a double-barrel shotgun into ninety-some odd gallons of excrement, he had gone and done it.
The sound of the shot was muffled, aimed down into the can as it was, but the force of the blast, along with the shape of the stacked metal drums, created a semi-solid column of fetid human waste that shot skyward past Eugene with a monstrous, hissing roar. The narrow sitting board offered little protection and his pants legs billowed as the cuffs were blown up past his knees and his T-shirt flapped wildly as it was pushed up over his head.
Purly screamed and I howled as the brown geyser shot above the canvas walls and into the still, fall air. Then we both gasped in horror as it paused briefly, hanging in space for an instant, before losing shape and dropping with a not entirely liquid splash, after which, except for the sound of a few drips and some trickles, all was silent.
Invisible tendrils of stench slowly spread, winding toward us, causing us to wretch and cover our faces and when Eugene stepped down off the plank, his trousers askew and brown goo dripping from his hair, Purly recoiled in disgust as he realized that he had just seen what he had seen. I, on the other hand had a hard time not laughing, holding my side as I gasped for air and pointed at the squirrel, who had watched the whole thing from a branch twenty feet up, calmly chewing through the wrapper of Eugene’s Baby Ruth bar.
Folding over and burying the barrel was an easier job than we had expected, thanks to the contents being blasted out, and I’d like to think that Eugene learned a lesson from all of this but somehow I’m just not sure.