The first part of this entry is kind of gross; I’m not gonna lie about that. The good news is that it’s also really funny, and it’s about a joke I played on my brother when I was about fifteen years old.
We shared a big bedroom at Dad’s house. One day, Brother was lying on his bed doing homework, and I was lying on my own bed reading a book. He got up to take a break, or watch TV or something, and at the same time I got the urge to pass gas. Being the older brother, it was my natural impulse to walk over and pass gas into his pillow. I repeated that action as the need arose, and I thought it would be even funnier if I was able to really stink up his pillow as much as possible, so I took my shoes off and rubbed my smelly socks all over it, inside and out.
A few minutes later, Brother walked back into the room, and I was reading on my bed, as if nothing had changed. He reclined on his bed, with one elbow on the offending pillow, and returned to his studies. After a few minutes, he sniffed the air and said, “Do you smell something? It smells weird over here.”
“Hunh,” I said, as casually as possible. “I don’t notice anything. Smells fine here.” My bed was ten feet away from his.
He turned back to his books for a while, but then curiosity got the better of him again. “No, really,” he said. “Are you sure you don’t smell anything? It’s pretty bad.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, shrugging my shoulder. “I don’t smell anything weird at all.”
He turned back, determined to find the source of the odor. He sniffed up and down, then got a really strange look on his face as he looked toward his pillow. That was the moment I’d been waiting for. As he brought his nose closer and closer, the realization hit him, and I burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.
“Gross! What the heck did you do?” he asked, as he pulled off the pillowcase, smelled the pillow itself, and grimaced.
I was still laughing, but I finally pulled myself together enough to give him an answer. “I might have farted on it a few times. And I also might have slipped and accidentally rubbed my socks all over it too. Yeah. . .I might’ve done that.” I started laughing again. He did too, as I recall.
A few years ago, I told a girl I was dating about The Pillow Incident, and she was slightly repulsed by it. She saw the humor, but she also never quite believed that I wouldn’t do that sort of thing again. I assured her that I wouldn’t, since I was thirty four years old, and she of all people had nothing to worry about.
Why am I telling that story now? I’m not sure, exactly, but it came up in conversation with a friend the other day, so it had been bopping around in my brain lately, and I figured that I should tell it here too, under the heading of Childhood Stories. I did learn that I shouldn’t tell that one when I’m on a date. Not a very sexy story, as it turns out. Ha ha.
One other funny childhood story (this one’s not gross, don’t worry) that took place in that bedroom was when my brother and I were wrestling one day, and it kept escalating and escalating, like it does sometimes between brothers. We were joking around, pulling clothes and stuff out of each others’ dressers, and pretty soon we started pulling the blankets off of each others’ beds too. It was all in fun, as if to say, “So, you wanna start something? Okay, well, how about THIS?” We kept one-upping each other, until all of our clothes, blankets, sheets, and mattress pads were strewn around the floor of the big bedroom. We were laughing like hyenas, and my brother reached for my actual mattress and started to pull it from my bed frame.
That’s when Dad walked in. He heard the commotion and came over to see what was going on. His jaw dropped. “What the hell are you guys doing?” he yelled. “Clean this crap up now!” His tone of voice broke the spell of our laughter, and we looked up, somewhat mortified, to see that we had completely destroyed the room. Our beds were in a gigantic heap in the middle of the floor, and it looked as if a tornado had touched down in our room, but had spared the rest of the house. He stood and watched us incredulously as we put everything back together.
That house was really great. It was owned by family friends who went to our church. Their aging mother lived in the house for decades, and our friends lived in the house up the hill. She was in her eighties, and was starting to be unable to live alone anymore. They wanted someone to live in her house, but they wanted it to be someone they knew. It was a perfect situation. They kept the rent low for us, and we happily moved in.
The house is over a hundred years old now, and it used to be the only house on the street. It’s situated on the old Evergreen Highway in Vancouver, which runs right along the Columbia river. We used to be able to walk down to the waterfront and play down there. These days, all of the roads are private, and gated, and so far I’ve been unable to find a way down past the railroad tracks to the river. Our old house is now surrounded by a group of newly built houses, and the wild, wooded hillside is now a sleepy cul-de-sac like a million others.
Such is the way in America, I suppose. Open spaces don’t last long, particularly in Portland, where the Urban Growth Boundary is strictly enforced, and space is at a premium. Vancouver doesn’t have a law like that, so urban sprawl is the order of the day, but this house is in a long-developed residential neighborhood, and we felt lucky to have had the opportunity to live there.
It’s probably worth mentioning that our bedroom at the time of these stories was in the bedroom on the back of the house, on the far left side of the picture. The layout of the house changed sometimes, too, because at another point, we lived in the upstairs room and could look out over the river and the airport. We even bought an airport radio and would sit up there for hours with binoculars and a notepad, writing down the names and flight numbers of the planes as they landed and took off.
If you’d told me when I started this entry that it would morph from a disgusting tale of pillow desecration into a nostalgic musing, I might not have believed you. Yet here we are, and I stand by my choices. For the record, I solemnly swear not to soil any more pillows, and I won’t tell that story on any more dates. In fact, if I’m on a date, and you hear me start to launch into it, I hereby give you permission to step in and save me from myself.