I just returned from a three-day trip to a town, more accurately described as a “hole,” in middle America whose name seemingly slipped right down into it. In any case, it certainly slipped my memory. A shame the town did not follow.
I will forever ask myself why I had stayed there so long, considering the fact that the tourist brochure received in the mail had featured a picture of the books lining its library shelves below the heading of “Things to do.” The title of one of them, “Beating Boredom,” caught my eye. The “Nightly Entertainment” listing had advised, “Open Thursday evenings”—the library, that is. The town had been closed on all others.
Ihad spent my first evening there (regrettably not a Thursday) checking the expiration date of my library card (from where did the idea come?) and picking the lint out of my belly button. I feared that it would only get worse.
The sheer thought of the place induced me to release a boredom fart, which at first annoyed me, but ultimately allowed me to delight in the fact that it gave me something to do. I had only wished for more. In fact, I had wished that I could have farted myself into oblivion.
When it came to gas remedies, I had tried them all: Gaseous Gurgles, Fart Frenzies, Rectal Releases, and Burp Booms.
And when it came to farts, I had made them all: the silent seep; the barely audible air puff; the ooze; the muffled melange; the silently-slinking; the constipated creep; the grim reeker; the gurgle in the girdle; the dainty dud; the “Can’t you hold back, butt crack;” the stomach rumbles before the farts tumble; the “Close your mouth—there’s another way out;” the wrong-end sneeze; the anus can’t retainus; the wheeze; the all-morning rectal retention; the little bugger of a fart which neither comes nor goes; the “Baby, give it up, give it up;” the nose knows what your ear can’t hear; the “I think I can, I think I can;” the trickle down sulfur; the stinky slinky; the reluctant rivet; the pip-squeak of a pop; the posh panache; the fog horn; the plentiful pellets; the balloon burst; the atmospheric escape; the deflating derriere; the aim-and-fire; the turbo-tuba; the honking hunk of a rump; the incredibly unforgettable; the dreaded puff-and-stuff; the oompah band; the wretchedly reeking; the return-to-sender; the flameout; the airing of my views—and pews; the ignited fuse; the indoor pollutant; the distant rumble; the thunder before the lightning; the origin of the earthquake in the office; the muscle strain preceding the fart drain; the skunk is in my rump; the bomb-bowling butt; the fart-sputtering airplane propeller; the never-ending; the buttocks rocks; the real reason the gas mask was invented; the sigh released by the non-talking hole; the reason I vibrate up and down in my chair; the reason behind the thick fog in the room; the “You could also burp, you twerp;” the syrupy seep; the all-day creep–down to the exit point; the dripping drool; the torpedoes shot by the human cannon; the submachine gun fire; the boom box; the rocket flare; the blown fuse; the rectal reaction; the back-firing car; the bombs away; the implosion or explosion; the Mount Vesuvius eruption; the atom bomb; the thunder mountain; the bubbling booms; the pop goes the anus; the gaseous gluttony; the reeking revenge; the “Something I ate last Tuesday is finally surfacing;” the rectum-running lubricating liquid; the number three, fart-and-shit, combo; the “It’s runny, honey;” the “Propel me into the next room;” the “Prepare for blast off;” the “I need to get into the bathroom right this minute;” the “The fart was so huge that I thought that I was giving birth through the wrong end; the “I can evacuate an entire building with the smell alone;” the “I wouldn’t want to be the chair I’m sitting in right now for all the money in the world;” the sound fades, but the smell is forever; the “I want to share last night’s dinner with everyone–take a deep whiff and you can just make out the broccoli; the “With gas like this, I’m glad I sat next to my worst enemy today;” the “You’ll remember this moment for a long time to come–just sniff your clothes; the “Don’t light that match anywhere near me today;” the alternative energy source; the “It’s gas, you ass;” the fart-code of exam answers; the undecided; the inescapable; the dual-direction; and the try-again-later. And all this was on a good day. I would not want to describe a bad one.
One of the trip’s most important lessons had already been taught: gas passes time, as well as air—and usually an odor detectable up to three blocks away.
Morning arrived. Instead of bringing the usual emotions of hope and happiness, it only brought sadness and depression: the one activity even this town was not without had already passed—sleep. Now what would I do? I could always look forward to the clock reading 12 hours from now.
The thought of a pending shower put a sliver of a smile on my lips, but, then again, how long could that take? Surely there must be a Guinness Book of World Records for the longest one. I seriously contemplated breaking it.
I inquired at the hotel’s front desk about daytime activities. (I was surprised it even had a front desk and dare not have asked for the Activities Director.)
The clerk advised me about the museum and its involvement with history. Finally, something to do, I thought with great relief. I had no idea that there had been a history museum there, but the clerk quickly corrected, “It’s not a history museum,” he had stated. “The museum is history.” The thought of returning to my room and putting my pajamas back on already flashed through my mind.
“Well, what is there to do?” I inquired with determination.
But the clerk only starred at me in stark silence until he glanced down at his watch some three hours later. “Well, look at that!” he exclaimed. “It’s time for lunch already.”
The last time I had noticed a wave of relief on someone’s face as pronounced as his had been when my coworker had released a submachine gun fire of farts after consuming a spicy Mexican medley called a “meal.”
The rest of the town seemed to share the clerk’s enthusiasm for lunch: the little restaurant (the only restaurant) across from the hotel was packed—translated as “something to do”—and I was wedged between a nondescript man and a weathered woman who snorted with every swallow. Since the area had been predominantly rural, I could only wonder if its people had, with time, begun to sound like their farmyard animals.
Sensing a post-meal depression with little to look forward to other than dinner, I left the restaurant and strolled down the town’s streets. (There was only one, but I used the plural to dignify it a little.)
Amidst the frigid temperatures, I walked for a considerable time until the soft, purple light indicated dusk. (All right, it was a small town and the walk was hardly any round-the-world journey.)
A crowd of people in the distance indicated that some type of event was going on. Perhaps there was a winter concert or something, I enthusiastically thought, as I eagerly approached. Finally there was something to look forward to.
But, as I closed the gap, I realized that the gathering had not been for pleasant reasons, and several uniformed police officers had taken charge of the scene.
“Wow, what happen?” I inquired of the man next to me.
“Well,” he hesitatingly spoke, “there was an apparent suicide attempt.”
“A suicide!” I exclaimed. “Who, what, why?”
“Well,” he continued, “one of the town’s folk, a 14-year-old girl, tried to take her life.”
“Take her life!” I retorted. “Why would someone so young, with her whole life ahead of her, try something like that?”
Thinking it over, he responded, “The reports are still inconclusive, but it’s rumored that the reason was boredom.”
Boredom mortem, I thought. Why was I not surprised? Could any other town stake such a claim?
“Was-was she successful,” I hesitatingly queried?
“No,” he responded. “She couldn’t be.”
Puzzled, I asked, “Why couldn’t she be?”
Pointing to the distance with his finger, the leather-faced man whose straw-like nasal hairs blew in the wind beneath his cowboy hat explained, “Because the river was frozen.”
Frozen, I thought. “She could’ve always tried another river,” I suggested.
Shaking his head, he corrected, “Ain’t got but one river. Town ain’t got but one of everything!”
Again, I found no surprise.
“I know this girl through a mutual friend,” he shared. “This is the story of her life: generally whatever she tries, she fails.”
What a shame, I thought. This could have been just what she needed to renew her confidence. She probably views this as just one more of her life’s failures.
“So-so where’s the girl now?” I had wondered.
“Home,” he retorted. “When she found out that the river was frozen and it was getting late, she knew she was in much greater danger than suicide.”
“Much greater danger than suicide?” I had wondered. “Of what?”
“Because it was getting so late, you know what could’ve happened?”
“No, I don’t,” I confessed. “I’m not from around here.”
“Well,” he began, as if it should have been self-explanatory. “It was late and she ran the risk of missing dinner. Why,” he laughed with irony, “her mother would have killed her!”
I raised an eyebrow.
And with that, it was time to begin the long, return-walk down the town’s single street and visit its top tourist attraction—the library. After all, it was Thursday evening!
Up the steps I went and through the door, where, somewhat disoriented, I met the head—and only—librarian standing behind the circulation desk, a woman of about seventy with a hook-like nose on which I could have easily hung my coat.
“I would be interested in taking out one of your books,” I prefaced.
“Well, do you have a library card?” she inquired.
“Why, no,” I hesitatingly answered. “I’m not from this town.”
“Well, then,” she responded, “that wouldn’t be possible. You have to have a library card to take out a book.”
“No,” I shook my head, “not according to your tourist brochure” which I promptly removed from my pocket and unfolded to show her the picture of the book-lined shelves printed below the “Things to Do” heading.
“Oh, that,” she mulled. “That’s only to entice tourists to visit the town.”
“Does it work?” I wondered.
“Well, you’re here,” she spat. I suddenly felt anything but honored. The way she twitched and extended that nose, I swear I could have hung two coats on it.
The reason I felt disoriented was that there had indeed been shelves, but no books on them. “Where are all the books, anyway?” I inquired.
“They’re all taken out,” she responded.
“All taken out!” I exclaimed with disbelief. “No,” I shook my head. “Look at this picture,” I urged. “There must be thousands of them.”
“Twelve,” she retorted.
“Twelve what?” I wondered with a furrowing brow.
“Twelve books—exactly twelve in the collection.”
“But the brochure…” I urged.
“That picture was taken in a studio—a set. We have exactly a dozen, if you include the two magazines and Aunt Erma’s recipe stack.”
The town has a studio to simulate a library of books, but no books in its library, I thought.
“Twelve titles,” I repeated. “They can’t cover many subjects.”
“Actually, they do,” she corrected.
“Well, what can the most popular one be?”
She lowered her voice to a whisper and closed the gap between us to the point where I feared that her nasal hook would get caught in my ear. She appeared poised to share nothing short of a military secret with me. “It’s called ‘Beating Boredom,’ by Dr. Penelope Mills,” she revealed. “A very recent acquisition—this decade. Someone just took it out a day or two ago—a 14-year-old girl.”
I shot her a glance, which had little distance to travel, since her facial nozzle now virtually penetrated my inner ear in a new-found expression of “passion for books.”
Exactly what did that title recommend, I had wondered?
“And you’re telling me that you can’t take books out without a library card, anyway,” I pressed, diverting attention from what was now truly on my mind.
“That’s right,” she replied, after she had finally removed her nose, which somehow seemed a little limp with a droopy hook.
“Well, what if I had a library card?” I had wanted to know.
“We have no books to take out,” she reasoned.
“Well, if this is the town’s top tourist activity and you can’t take out the books,” I pleaded with waning patience, “then what is the top thing to do here?”
She thought it over for a few seconds and responded, “The library. Do you see this picture?” she asked as she unfolded the very brochure I had just given her. “This is a beautiful collection of books. And we’re even open Thursday evenings.”
This circular argument was obviously going no where and the librarian exhibited the same alter-level of reasoning which everyone else in the town seemed to have. Abruptly turning round, I headed for the door.
“Wait!” she yelled. “Don’t forget your brochure. And don’t forget to show it to your friends. This is a mighty fine book collection. Who wouldn’t want to come to town for a collection like this?”
Descending the steps in a state of discombobulation, I could only think of one thing: was I the only sane one in this entire town? If I were, I was rapidly losing that quality.
The only things awaiting me that evening were gas and belly button lint picking, and I actually looked forward to both of them.
Morning arrived once again—and my ticket out, preceded by my check-out—of the hotel, that is. As I picked up my suitcase in the lobby, I heard a man checking in inquire, “Exactly what is there to do around here?”
Fishing through some papers on the desk, the hotel clerk produced the now-famous brochure and opened it to the picture of the book-lined shelves. “The library,” he responded. “Do you see this picture? This is a beautiful collection of books. And it’s even open Thursday evenings.”
Shooting him a glance, I quickly exited the hotel’s front door, suppressing the urge to release an overwhelming scream for fear of being restrained in a straight jacket and taken away to a town just like this. But I was already here. Releasing a fart instead, I sensed it signaled the beginning of one of those “bad days.”