As a young child, I had a pretty hardy constitution, as I remember. I got the usual colds and the flu a few times, some scrapes, a header off my mom's bed, and two unfortunate run-ins with some barbed-wire fences. Oh, and I jumped out my bedroom window with an umbrella, Mary Poppins-style and broke my ankle. Alright, so maybe I was a little reckless, but I was basically healthy, is what I am saying. Heh.

When I got to my teen years, my guts started going to hell, and for the longest time I didn't know why. I would just suddenly feel pain, nausea, and KABLAM. Kablam would go on for hours, and sometimes days. My mother would actually sit with me in the bathroom while I cried and moaned, and she would hold my hand, and clean out my puke bucket, and never once even wrinkled her nose. She would look at me with infinite sadness and say, "When you hurt, I hurt." That is either crazy, or sainted. Or some of both. I ended up being diagnosed with some food allergies many years later. Hooray.

Anyway, early on in this charming change of gut-events for me was The Easter Incident. I must have been about 13, and as always we had made the drive up to my grandparents' house about an hour and ten minutes away for Easter dinner. My Grandma Lizzie was a fabulous cook; I liked everything she made, and she made a ton of food, as is the Midwestern custom, and everything from scratch. There would always be sour-cream mashed potatoes with butter, fluffy biscuits with butter, sweet potatoes with butter, freshly-baked slices of sourdough bread with butter, corn pudding with butter, green beans with butter. The without-butter items were cottage cheese, a small bowl of assorted pickled vegetables, gravy, and salt and pepper. Tall glasses of milk from the farm were poured for the kids, icy cold water for the adults. And of course, because it was Easter, Grandma Lizzie had made a massive glazed ham, studded with cloves. It smelled amazing.

We all sat down and oohed and aahed over the bounty. Grandma brought out the blue Delft plates, and we began to pass the dishes, all except the mighty ham, which my father cut in huge slabs and plopped on our plates. We would fill the plates until food would slosh off the sides, go for seconds, and sometimes thirds, then rest our stuffed stomachs for an hour or so until we could ram down some apple pie with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese, and another cold glass of milk, coffee from a bubbling percolator for my dad and grandparents. It really was an obscene amount of food, but man, so yummy.

After this gullet-jamming festival vaguely having to do with Jesus, my mom and Grandma began the process of Dividing The Leftovers, a sacred event. We got the bulk of the spoils, since Grandma was all of 4'11' and ate like a bird, and Grandpa Guy, who was also thin, seemed to sleep most of the time. The many containers of Tupperware were then loaded into our car for the tedious ride through the Wisconsin countryside back home. We waved goodbye and headed out into the sunset, hoping always to get home before dark. It was snowy and cold still, not unusual there in the early spring.

We were about 10 miles into the drive when I started feeling seriously bad. It started with pain. Pain that got sharper and sharper until I had to say something, because I was starting to sweat and feel very worried.

"Um, my stomach doesn't feel very good."

My mother whipped her head around to look at me. "Oh my goodness, you are as white as a sheet. Bob, pull over!"

"Oh, Christ!" My dad had such a way with words. He slowed the car to a stop into the gravel on the side of the mainly-deserted country highway, and my mom told my brother to ride in the front while she sat with me in the backseat. I took my seatbelt off and put my head in her lap, as my dad drove off again. The pain was increasing so much, and I started to cry while my mother stroked my head.

Then it started. The cause of the severe pain I was having became all too obvious.


I started letting loose from my bowels the most uncontrolled, ungodly horrifying rancid blasts of glazed ham gas the world has ever known. They kept coming and coming, long and loud and painful, twisting through my intestines like an evil knife. My dad and brother and mother all cried out in agony at the intense stench; it was powerfully overwhelming and hung in the air of the car, heavy and nauseating and stunning in hamosity. Despite my dad now going about 80MPH and the cold weather outside, all windows were lowered in an attempt to continue breathing. My mother, my sainted mother, covered her face with her sweater, while I cried and farted and moaned. My dad, nervous and irritated, went to light a cigarette.

"BOB! NO! YOU'LL KILL US ALL!" my mother screamed. She was worried the spark from the lighter would ignite the entire vehicle, and we would erupt in methane-flame, crash, and burn in some farmer's snow-covered cornfield.

It was at this point that the full absurdity of the situation was absorbed, and everyone started laughing, including me through the tears and the pain, because at the end of the day, hideous-smelling incredibly loud farts are funny. My mother laughed until she cried, and apologized to me while continuing to giggle. We froze and laughed and cried while I continued to pump out evil ham gas.

My dad drove straight past our turn off to the next town, where we made a stop at the hospital emergency room. They poked and prodded and x-ray'd me to make sure I didn't have something more serious, gave me meds for the gas, and sent us home again. My mother threw all the lovely Easter Tupperwares away, and it was a long long time before we had ham again, but that story became family legend.