Lying in bed the morning after the last night party, snuggled between two of my favorite most ridiculously tall and wonderful friends, one expresses regret for having vomited alarmingly red and chunky bile all over the side of the hotel bathtub the night prior. “At least you didn’t shit your pants,” I tell him, darkly. It had been a serious concern of mine in the preceding 36 hours, especially when I knew that the last night party meant total obliteration. At four o’clock in the afternoon, the mechanic is in the shop, holding a 60 of vodka in each hand and pouring them both into one of the 30 liter Gatorade dispensers used for juice all season. “We need you to test drinks,” they tell us. The next day while we’re all bleary and incoherent and lined up for our paycheques, a blond-curled bedecked forest gypsy is being encouraged by the owner of the company to “finish the keg, for god’s sake,” while being held in a 45 second keg stand. Normally, no matter how wild a party might get, I do not fear losing control over my bowels. However, the morning prior, I had literally shit my pants for the first time since childhood.
Let me explain.
A week prior, leaving the Big Pic, I’m cleaning up empties. Our rookie crew of planters, comprised mostly of eighteen year olds away from home for the first time, is unimpressed with the length of time our camp move is taking, the shifts worked, the end of the season both imminent and far away. They’ve straggled slowly onto the bus while half-assed accomplishing camp move tasks like filling shitter holes and cleaning up garbage. I don’t blame them, by this point. The shifts have gotten a little out of control and my food budget is blown. It has been a long seven weeks. A small piece of a shattered beer bottle pierces the skin of my palm and draws blood. I pull out the bloody fragment and throw it away, glittering, into the garbage trailer, repaired from an encounter it lost with a young black bear (twice). No biggie. My out going bus driving crew boss friend and I fill the coolant in both buses at the last minute and depart an hour before the rest of the convoy. The old buses overheat when pushed to normal driving speeds and it is necessary for us to depart early to make time.
That small wound from a shard of a Pabst Blue Ribbon bottle festers into an unsightly and gigantic abscess. We are a good two hours drive from town and so close to the end of the season, I want to avoid the drive to the doctor if possible. I wrap the hand and continue work, the ping-pong ball sized sac of pus impeding my ability to grasp anything with my right hand. When I wake up one morning with a high fever and red lines starting to streak around my wrist, indicative of blood poisoning, myself and another planter with bronchitis head to the hospital. I am prescribed hard-core antibiotics, the kind that disrupt your gut flora and have to be taken with a meal. I am to take them four times a day for three weeks. The doctor at the hospital makes me scrub my camp-filthy hands with three kinds of soap and disinfectant before she’ll touch it. Grimacing, she prods around none too gently with a needle and syringe, attempting to lance the infection, but it lies too deep beneath the skin to be able to do so.
Despite the antibiotics, my fever persists overnight and into the next morning. I am feeling so poorly, I spend a long period of time sitting wrapped in my wool sweater and a few large blankets. It is at least 20 degrees outside and I am shaking and shivering yet with a sort of abject frozen misery. I finally pull it together enough to get up and take over from my assistant to flip pancakes on our poor, abused little flat top, using my left hand and huddling over the warmth the propane burners are emitting. And suddenly, and absolutely without warning, my stomach shifts, and I have shit my pants. With absolutely no warning whatsoever, I am in a predicament. On the verge of fever sobbing already, I croak out, “Gotta go,” and throw down the pancake flipper to waddle toward the back door, stopping only to grab a roll of toilet paper on my way out the door. I awkwardly cross a barren expanse of quarry heading for the isolation of my tent, where I pull off my jeans, sobbing, and throw them far into the woods, along with my ruined underwear. Just a day prior, in town with my stomach fever upset and antibiotic contorted, I thought to myself, “If you ever think you might poop your pants, make sure you’re wearing underwear. What a lifesaver.” Now that it has happened, delirious with sick and chill, I clean up without emotion and dispose of my pants.
Returning to the bus later, I simply declare, “I shit myself,” and return to my stoic drivers seat. I’m not shy about bodily functions. Earlier in the season, we pooped together in a copse of woods beyond the diesel trailer, where my friend gathered handfuls of soft leaves for me to wipe with when I forgot to prior. (I then ride the dump bike in a triumphant naked circle around the campfire, holding Russel Sprout, my pet brussel sprout, aloft). All of the zippers on the shitter doors break and we peek out at the camp as we poop. We set one up in Manitouwadge facing West and call it the sunset shitter. Worn down, defeated by circumstance and milestone after milestone, I have just shat myself. I am resigned to my fate and spend most of the day sleeping in a crumpled heap on the drivers seat of the bus while my second cook does all of the meal prep for the day. The gymnast east coaster crew boss looks after me when she gets home. The pus is finally starting to burst through the needle hole the doctor tore the day prior and she squeezes and prods at the ball until most of it has been squeezed out. She sanitizes and bandages and repeats as necessary and eventually, the hand is totally healed. I remind myself, heading in party night, “The only rules are “Don’t leave Canada,” “Don’t take off your fannypack,” and “For god’s sake, whatever you do, don’t shit your pants.”
Image credit to Jonesy’s OneDrive compilation of pics from this season.