Please Pass the Gas
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I remember my first whoopee cushion like it was yesterday: its hospital-pink hue, the sharp scent of rubber, and that powdery, bitter taste when I blew it up.

On school vacation, my father would take my brother, John, and me in to work. We'd draw pictures in the morning while sitting on the red office waiting-room furniture, amidst shelves of boring-looking law books. Sometimes, if Dad's office-mate, Pasquale, had a friendly secretary, she'd talk to us for a bit. Otherwise, we'd draw and play with Dad's big metal corporate stamps that would press circles of words into ordinary paper. In the afternoon, Dad would take us to lunch at Dini's, the seafood restaurant across the street with the most magnificent fish tank. We would get lobster thermidor and Shirley Temples.

After lunch, our father would always take us to our favorite store, Jack's Joke Shop. We would delight in the chattering teeth, the fake vomit and dog poop, and the disappearing ink. There were so many wonders to behold at Jack's Joke Shop.

  
 
We were on Christmas vacation when we first discovered the whoopee cushions. We brought them back to Dad's office and waited for someone to get up from their chair. Finally, Pasquale's secretary, Lorraine, got up to file something, and we immediately rushed to our task. Lorraine was a wonderful sport, playing along and acting surprised when the rousing fart exploded.

That evening after dinner, our father went to visit our grandparents. As soon as our mother went in to take her bath, John and I set her chair up for a double.

We were watching Little House on the Prairie when she came out. She sat on her chair, the whoopee cushions worked their wonderful magic, and John and I exploded in laughter.

Our mother was not amused.

"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! That is not one bit funny or cute!" she exclaimed angrily.

She then went on to deliver a speech so inspiring that my brother would later write a song about it. It was a speech that will always remain a historical one for John and me. It went something like this: "Passing gas is a natural act of the human body. It is caused by something in the system that doesn't quite agree with the person that ate it. And it's nothing to make fun of!"

I tried desperately to block the image of a steak standing up on my plate and saying with a polite British accent "I don't quite agree with your decision to consume me, and should you opt to disregard my wishes, I shall cause you to fart." I knew if I laughed, she'd get even more pissed. Then she turned to my brother and said, "Say ya went over to Michelle Moran's house [Michelle was a girl my brother had a crush on], and ya had a piece of chicken. And, for some reason, that piece of chicken didn't agree with you, and you were passing gas all over the place?!"

In hindsight, it occurs to me that John and I would create visuals during our mother's long speeches in order to entertain ourselves. Poor John was seized with the image of himself being propelled from room to room of Michelle's house on a great disagreeable, chicken-powered, rocket fuel fart -- and he burst into laughter. I was still trying desperately to stifle the image of my British steak, but John's laughter shattered my thin wall of self-control, and I, too, exploded in laughter. Since we were not displaying the appropriate remorse, our mother was further incensed, and we were banished to our rooms for the evening.

I couldn't be angry with John for getting us into trouble. Knowing how hard it was for me not to laugh -- and taking into consideration that he was younger and more sensitive -- I understood completely.

We never used the whoopee cushions in our mother's presence again.

Who knows why the whoopee cushion so troubled our mother. Perhaps she had a bad piece of chicken before her first date with our Dad.

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