You might question the truthfulness of this story, but 25 shit-covered southern belles will tell you it is solidly anchored in two gallons of soupy cow shit.
Brian, Ray, and I considered practical jokes an art form. Our friends and enemies were our canvas and turds were our medium on more than one occasion. To stay ahead of our competitors each stunt was always one notch better than the last. It was impossible to continue to improve them perpetually; in theory we would reach perfection at some point, and perfection, my friend, was The Shit Bomb.
The Shit Bomb was our tour de force. Not only was the Shit Bomb the greatest practical joke in the history of mankind, it was a metaphor for our entire childhood as we abruptly transitioned into our adult lives. It took all of our best skills and worst morals to craft such a beautiful beast. The three of us were The Shit Bomb, just as The Shit Bomb was us. We cannot relive The Shit Bomb, just as we cannot relive our childhoods.
After this incident I graduated and unfortunately parted ways with Brian and Ray. Despite having not lived in the same country since, or not communicating for months, we are all still brothers and best friends. My departure has always weighed heavy on me, especially when their desperate wives or girlfriends call hoping I might be the one person on the planet to talk them out of opening an underground casino in a house of worship.
As to be expected, my desire to travel baffled my dad. Having graduated at the top of my class and with some solid work experience, I had several job offers — all of which paid more than he was making as a public school teacher and football coach.
“You’re going to be a bartender?!?” my dad commented with a squinted face. “You’ve done some stupid shit in your day, but this has to be up there. But hell, it’s your life, just don’t send me the bill.”
We did not really fight as he did have a point. I was being a dumb-ass, but at this point he was well aware of my penchant toward logical behavior.
Mom, on the other hand, understood completely. We have always been the most alike, and therefore the closest. She jokes that it is because I am her oldest, if only by a few minutes. Although my mom has an adventurous soul, she was not able to live out most of her dreams. Given her sketchy childhood, her dream of raising a “normal” family consumed most of her adult life. When I explained my career plan, or lack thereof, she was ecstatic. She ran to the store and bought me the nicest backpack and camera she could find and only asked that I send back plenty of photos.
The Shit Bomb was the climax of a four-year-long practical joke war with our neighbor, Big M. Big M lived above us and was a heavy-footed individual with a black belt in cock-blocking who would have made an excellent stunt double for the late John Candy. You could bring a girl home at any time of the day and she would show up on your couch and eat Cheetos. Even if we called her out on it, she would just laugh and sit there like Chester Cheetah with a slower metabolism. She was truly good time kryptonite.
I cannot say for sure how this particular practical joke war started, but I will outline the significant tactical maneuvers that led up to our masterpiece.
The first incident occurred on a hot spring day. Auburn, Alabama comes alive in spring with the dogwood trees and daffodils in bloom and the hot southern girls finally starting to show some more skin — including Big M. She refused to wear anything but flip-flops in the spring. If I were her I would have covered my feet; her toes looked like sausages if sausages ate sausages. For some reason we did not want to know, Big M was drying her mattress in the backyard. Although we shared the duplex, the backyard was ours, or at least we said it was.
“Get yer crab-infested mattress off our yard!” Ray told Big M, who was standing on the upstairs porch. Ray always had a way with words.
“Up yours, Ray!” Big M squawked back in her paper thin sweat pants.
“Move it, or I’ll burn it.”
“You’re chicken shit. Our neighbors might notice a bonfire here in the middle of town, dumbass.”
Since this was our first year at Auburn, Big M was unaware of the Do not dare Ray Womack under any circumstances rule.
Ray sashayed inside, picked up a jug of lighter fluid and a box of strike-anywhere matches. We tended to always have these two items readily available for just such an emergency. Without a word, he stalked out and sprayed the entire jug of lighter fluid on the mattress, despite the fact a mattress burns like a hot damn even without the extra help.
“What are you doing?” Big M shrieked from her perch, a safe 20 feet away.
“What do you think I’m doing,” Ray said as he backed away.
Without a second thought, Ray stood back and lit the fire with his customary match strike, a thump sending the match flying end over end like a burning paper football. The match would fly lit for about seven or eight feet, always leaving plenty of buffer in case he overdid the Boy Scout juice. The mattress was instantly in flames with black smoke and the smell of ass filling our apartment complex. Come to think of it, maybe this was not so much a practical joke as just pure vandalism. Regardless, it is still an important element to this story.
“How ya like them apples,” Ray yelled over the crackling flames as he strolled back inside with Big M screaming in the background.
Within seconds a few metal springs and a big black rectangle in the grass was all that was left of Big M’s sleeping apparatus. Big M retaliated by putting our furniture out in the yard. We enjoyed the new furniture layout with a cold drink and easily put it back in our house before nightfall.
The second incident was an epic upper-decker. I know the upper-decker is now hip and part of pop culture, but this was 1994 and we had been performing upper-deckers for years at this point. We did not read about it on the Internet, we dreamt it up from scratch, which means it is likely we performed the original upper-decker in 1986. We will not be looking for royalties, as I do not believe you can patent taking a dump in the back tank rather than the bowl of a toilet. It takes a skilled plumber and a lot of water to fix this disgusting mess. Upper-deckers were perfect for frat boy parties and made a good distraction while we stole their condiments and CDs.
This particular upper-decker was unique. The traditional deposit was a bit embarrassing to time, which could lead to accidents. It also had certain intestinal limitations.
Auburn’s vet school had a variety of animals in the school pastures close to campus. It took a few minutes to find the soupy Grade A caca, but when we did, we filled a five-gallon bucket half-way to the top with ole reliable — cow dung. I am glad they did not spot us; it would have been uncomfortable to explain why we were stealing a bucket of cow shit.
After Big M went to class, Ray quickly shimmied the lock and we proceeded to the toilet. First we cut off the water to the tank. Second, we flushed the toilet leaving the back tank dry. Next, we poured in the diarrhea. Lastly, we cut the water back on. The water did not actually come out; the trigger ball was floating on top of the mountain of mud, keeping the water valve closed. We jetted.
Big M usually stopped for a few beers and some wings on her way home from class on Thursdays, and this Thursday was no different. The walls of our place were made of onionskin; we could hear each other fart even through two or three walls. We followed her footsteps above us to the bathroom where we could actually hear her pee; thank God she was not dropping a deuce or we might have all died in our own vomit.
When she was done, she flushed the toilet, but a flush is not what she got. She got a slow shit lava flow. After a brief period of confusion, she lifted the back of the tank to see what was going on. Seeing the tank filled to the brim with excrement not of her own making, she panicked and dropped the lid on the tub, shattering it into several pieces. It did not take her long to piece together the rest.
“I hate you dickheads!” Big M shouted as she jiggled the handle in an unsuccessful attempt to stop the onslaught of oozing cow shit.
It took her weeks to fully flush out the sewage. She was pissed, but still only managed a weak retaliation that I cannot even remember at this point.
Chapter three of the lead up to The Shit Bomb occurred during our junior year. Believe it our not, I was a very serious student and in the throes of my engineering exams. I could not concentrate with Big M’s heavy steps and late night drunken debauchery. I was pissed and I wanted to retaliate once my exams were over. She did not interrupt Brian and Ray’s studying, as they did not give a damn about school. This also meant they had plenty of time on their hands and needed the entertainment of another attack.
“What do you want to do to her, Nate?” Ray asked.
“She keeps me up all the time,” I answered.
“Well that’s easy enough — car horn,” Ray said implying that I had been in a classroom too much and lost all my country street cred.
“Obviously,” Brian said.
“Yeah, obviously. I haven’t really slept in a few days,” I said, making an excuse for my lack of vision.
The car horn was another of our standard moves. We had used this trick dozens of times and it always delivered.
While Big M was at class we broke back into her house and ran speaker wires out our window and up the wall into her bedroom. We mounted a semi truck horn Ray kept around for this specific purpose under her bed.
The speaker wires were completely hidden, so we had all the time in the world to wait for the perfect night, which inevitably came that Saturday. Big M had hit the bars hard and we heard her stumble into her place around two a.m. We listened as she made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and watched a little late night Simpsons. She wound down in a less than an hour and went to bed. Ray started the clock.
After she had been in bed for thirty minutes, we figured she was good and passed out. Ray brought out the battery and set up his station. Ray had charged the battery in the living room for three days to make sure it was fully topped up.
“I love this trick,” Ray said sincerely. “It’s like a favorite fishing hole.”
Ray then expertly applied the red to the red and black to the black. A car horn has a different sound once it is removed from under the hood, especially a semi horn. It will rattle your teeth. The noise is painful and uncomfortable. It is so loud and all-encompassing it is impossible to even figure out which direction it is coming from.
Big M immediately began yelling.
“Heeeeeeeeelp! Heeeeeeeeelp!” she screamed as she stumbled and fell into her furniture. “What the fuck is going on, somebody help me!”
The noise combined with her inebriation made it impossible for her to get her crap together and even make it out of the room. After falling two or three more times she stumbled out and on to the porch in her sexy pjs that she had no business wearing.
“I hope y’all burn in hell!” she slurred as tears began flowing down her cheeks.
We pretended to be empathetic and stopped the horn. As soon as she had cried herself back to sleep, we laid back into it. This scene repeated itself two or three more times with her finally collapsing in a drunken, sweaty exhaustion in her doorway. With her incapacitated, we retreated to our living room to debrief the episode over some chocolate milk and Lonesome Dove. We watched Captain Woodrow F. Call beat the crap out of the scout in slow motion 10 or 15 times.
The next day we broke back in and salvaged our horn, and Big M retaliated with a shaving cream and water balloon attack. Water balloons? Really? This was like following up Pearl Harbor with a game of badminton.
In the end, there can be only one…
It was the spring of 1998 and graduation was upon us, or at least some of us, Brian and Ray hung around for a few more years, as I have mentioned. It was a Wednesday morning, and Brian, Ray, and I were having some of our bulk cereal in the living room and reading Calvin and Hobbes, Popular Mechanics, and Money Magazine respectively. While Brian was engrossed in his scholarly literature, he was also flipping through what little mail we received at the house.
“Here’s an invitation to Big M’s graduation party.”
“It’s this Friday night,” I responded. “I doubt I’ll go.”
“Ditto,” Ray said with a mouth full of cereal.
“What’s she doing after graduation?” I asked.
“I think she got a job in Huntsville or something,” Ray answered.
“We’ll never see her again,” I said without an ounce of sadness in my voice.
“The last time, huh,” Brian said as he rubbed his chin.
“Ever,” Ray said in a serious tone.
“Ever,” I said in agreement.
“Cancel yer classes boys, we’ve got work to do,” Ray told us.
“I’ll get the coffee goin’,” I said as I was gathering up some notepads and my wallet.
It was only seven o’clock in the morning, but it was as if Ray’s bootlegged power had shorted and was electrifying the entire room. Everyone was on the same wavelength; no breaks, no girlfriends, no phone calls, no homework, no anything except plan the greatest practical joke in the history of mankind.
With nervous energy and caffeine jacking our veins, all three of us strolled around the room, which was about the size of a medium closet. The brainstorming alone lasted almost half a day. Our legal pads were full of ideas and doodles and we were exhausted. There is only one thing in the world that will revitalize a southern boy and cure all ailments. Hangover, heartbroken, failed a class, syphilis; no matter your illness, a sliced-mild-pickle Byron’s Barbeque sandwich will fix it. We each had our usual three with Baked Lays (we were trying to cut calories) and went back to the drawing board.
The sun was starting to set on the plains when we began ranking our ideas. Everyone had ownership over their ideas and fought hard for them, but in the end we had a list of five. In no particular order they were; a shit bomb, steal her car, turn a cow loose in her apartment, electrocute her in her sleep, and shoot her with pellet guns. We had all three been pellet gun snipers earlier in our careers. After much debate we took a vote based on feasibility, impact, and vision. Everyone got a first, second, and third-place vote. The Shit Bomb got all three first place votes. Democracy and destiny had spoken.
We now had two days to come up with the design. Ray and I were both in engineering and Brian knew his way around a cow pasture, so we had the perfect skill set for the task.
Ray brought out the white board. Things were heated but respectful as we argued the merits and dangers of each design. After much discussion, we put the design on paper and we all had a well-deserved drink.
“How much money y’all got?” Ray asked, knowing we were all running on fumes at the end of the quarter. Everyone started digging in couches, wallets, book bags, and desk drawers. All in, we had $28.45.
“I guess that’ll have to do,” he said as he tallied up what he thought our materials would cost.
Luckily, Home Depot was open 24 hours a day in the off chance three college students were building a late night shit bomb. We all three walked in with our diagram, $28.45, and Ray had a few tools with him to double-check our sizing specs.
I feel it is best to not completely sketch out the design of The Shit Bomb. Some kid might copy it, kill his chemistry teacher, and sue me. Basically it was a five-gallon bucket with a spring-loaded shit catapult in the middle. The acceleration was generated using eight strands of double thick surgical tubing, 16 times as strong as one wrist rocket. The shit cockpit was a hard to find two-gallon metal mixing bowl. The trigger mechanism was pure genius; it was made out of hinges, nails, and fishing line, and worked somewhat like a mousetrap. Once we had our materials, we strolled home to begin construction.
Construction was difficult. Trying to contain this amount of force yet have it on a feather-touch trigger was no small task. We might have brought it up, but we never seriously considered decreasing the power. After a brief sleep, we woke with fresh brains to give it another go. By noon we had our first prototype.
“I’ve got butterflies,” I confessed.
“Me, too. But I think it’s because we’re out of food,” Ray replied.
“Damn I hope this works,” Brian said. “We’re cuttin’ it close and I doubt we have time for a plan B.”
We used a softball for our first trial, as we figured it weighed roughly the same as two gallons of shit. Cocking the mechanism into place was dodgy; it took two of us to push it down while the other placed the nails in the appropriate hair trigger slots. Imagine setting a mousetrap strong enough to kill a capybara; it was nerve-racking.
“Nathan, get that damn nail in there. My arms are startin’ to shake,” Ray said.
“I’m goin’ as fast as I can, you wuss. I’ve almost got it.”
All three of us slowly walked away from the bomb. There was some creaking and moaning but nothing exploded. After our hearts slowed down, Ray picked up the fishing line trigger.
“Ready?” Ray asked.
“Please work,” I prayed.
“Come on baby, you can do it,” Brian added.
“Three, two, one,” Ray said as he pulled the string.
Everything occurred so fast it was hard to tell exactly what had happened. The bucket went flying through the air from the whiplash as the thousands of pounds of tension were released. As the bucket hit the ground we scanned the sky for the softball.
“Is it in the bucket?” Brian asked, obviously pissed.
“It’s not in here!” I answered as I looked in the contraption that had landed at my feet.
“Weird,” Brian said.
The softball landed ten feet away from us, having been airborne for what seemed like ten minutes. Our faces lit up like a kid on Christmas who just opened a box with a Red Rider machine gun in it. We all began jumping around and hugging in excitement. Even in our wildest dreams we had not planned on it working as well as it did.
“That sucker’s badass,” I said.
“Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit,” Ray said as he danced the Cotton Eyed Joe around the yard.
“We’ve done it!” Brian said with a double arm pump.
Ray made a few adjustments. One was to build in stop pegs at the top of the bucket that would stop the rocketing bowl at its peak, further slingshotting the contents skyward. He also put some extra weight in the bottom of the bucket to help stabilize it.
“Where are the nails?” I asked.
“That’s a good question,” Ray answered, puzzled.
“I guess they never came down,” Brian philosophized.
“What’s say we tie a safety string to them when we do this thing for real. It’s all fun and games until we kill Big M.”
“Not a bad idea, Nate,” Brian said.
The party was only a few hours away and we still had lots to do. After several more trial launches we had this thing down. We were launching the softball a couple of hundred feet in the air. It was a magnificent contraption; we had really outdone ourselves.
The Shit Bomb was not complete; it needed some window dressing. Brian ran behind the ghetto grocery store to steal a box large enough to hold our pride and joy, while Ray and I went to Hallmark and spent our remaining $6.75 on shiny silver wrapping paper, a red bow, and a nice card. The nice card is the part that I feel pushed this joke over the edge and most likely solidified the fact that if we do go to hell, we will not need to wait in line.
We reconvened and went to the school pastures and spent almost 45 minutes finding the cow shit with the perfect viscosity. It couldn’t be too dry; it would just bounce off the socialites. If it was too watery, it might not have the firmness needed to reach our desired target area.
“I think I got it,” Brian said from down the hill.
Ray and I ran down.
“I think you’re right,” Ray confirmed, poking it with a stick. “Let’s test it out.”
Ray had a small pot from our kitchen, which I would like to think we did not reuse, that he used to scoop up the sweet doodoo. He practiced throwing the ammo in a jai alai motion with a rapid stop halfway through the swing. It worked perfectly every time.
“Boys, I think we have our shit,” Ray told us as he started filling our bucket.
Although we were able to build something that would have made our engineering professors proud, wrapping a present was beyond our capabilities. A random homely girl walked by our apartment, and Brian dropped a smooth line on her and asked her for help.
“What’s in the box?” the girl wondered.
“You don’t want to know,” Brian answered.
“It’s not a dead body, is it?” she inquired.
“I can honestly tell you it is not a dead body,” Brian said, as if that made everything better.
“You’re right, I don’t wanna know,” she said as she caught her first whiff of our projectile, which was casually kicking it in the corner.
That girl must have worked in retail. It looked like a perfect shiny metallic box with a removable metallic lid when she finished. We stuck the bow on and signed the card.
“Dear Mandy, we’re sorry we could not make it to your graduation party. We’ve had a lot of fun over the last four years and we will sincerely miss you. Congrats! Brian, Ray, and Nathan”
It was complete, and we had several painful hours to burn. Big M was no longer living above us and had moved across the street into an apartment, possibly for safety reasons. The party started around ten. With a set of binoculars and from the comfort of a conveniently placed barn, we kept close tabs on the party attendance.
This was a true southern belle party. The girls were wearing summer dresses with pearls and the guys who attended were in their frat boy uniform — khaki pants and navy blue blazers with gold buttons. After graduation these dillholes would be doing air-golf swings outside an unfortunate coworker’s cubicle. If this middle-aged frat boy behavior ever happens to one of us, the others have carte blanche to drag his ass out in the yard and put him down with a framing hammer — likewise for listening to Jimmy Buffet or using work clichés like ‘thinking outside the box.’
There were appy plates, punch, and monogrammed napkins. Along with the frilly invites would surely come the matching frilly thank-you notes the next day. There would be a designated photo taker who would take the stock cheek-to-cheek photos cheerleaders and sorority girls are taught in their childhoods. The coffee table was covered in a lacey table cloth and being used as a gift table.
At around midnight we decided the party was full and went back to our apartment to prepare the package. Once there, we cocked and loaded the cannon with the sacred caca. With a dangerous cloud of irony looming, this was more nerve-racking than the dry run. Although it would have been disgusting, we did have back up ammo just in case. Ray carefully slid the bomb into the box and connected the trigger line to the lid.
I was the lookout while Brian and Ray gingerly carried the box towards the apartment. The party was on the second floor, and I could see the nervous sweat on Brian’s forehead through the binoculars. They set the present at the door and met me at the barn. A rookie would have rung the doorbell in this situation, which would have increased the odds of getting caught and not seeing the punch line.
“What the hell is that noise?” I asked.
“That’s my leg jumping up and down,” Brian answered nervously. “Damn, I hope this works.”
“Someone will come out for a smoke sooner or later,” Ray said.
“We should have done a dress rehearsal with the real shit,” I worried.
“I think it’s a bit late for that, Nate,” Ray said.
“There is not anyone we can really pray to for this type of thing, is there?” I asked to no one in particular.
We waited and waited. I became so excited I started to lose feeling in my legs. Ray was using the binoculars to keep us informed of everyone’s movements. We could also hear every word they were saying in the quiet Alabama night. There was nothing too exciting, no drunkenness. This was a classy affair and everyone was behaving like responsible adults, except the three sketch-balls in the barn. Finally, one of the guys came out for a smoke.
“Mandy, there’s a really big present out here for ya,” the dude said as he lit his cigarette — the cigarette that would eventually save his life. He got a friend to help him carry the box in and set it on the gift table and walked back outside to finish his smoke.
Big M pulled off the card and read it to herself.
“Oh… they shouldn’t have.” She then reread the card to her friends who had gathered around the enormous box.
“I know y’all think they are dickheads, but deep down, they are really good guys,” Mandy told the sweet, angelic sorority girls, who obviously found us a much lower class than themselves.
“What is it? It’s huge,” she said as she reached for the lid.
As she lifted the lid, the universe heard only one noise:
If I had a choice between reliving the next three seconds of this story or meeting Jesus Christ, I would punch that hippy carpenter right in his mouth. I swear the soundtrack to Braveheart was playing in the background.
A millisecond after the universe heard “click”, hell rained down on this socialite soirée. The time it took to go from “click” to everyone in a twenty-foot radius covered head to toe in shit was less than a tenth of a second. It was instantaneous.
The shit came out with such force it blew the lid out of Big M’s hands and into the kitchen. The cow diarrhea exploded from the box in a large, flat, mushroom cloud. The shit flew in all directions. Everyone, every wall, every gift, every piece of furniture, and every morsel of food was blanketed in a sheet of brown. All of them stood frozen in place looking down at their shit-covered arms. No one knew what had happened. And then the head of their sorority, miss squeaky-clean high society, put it all together.
“It’s shit!!!!!!!!!” she yelled at the top of lungs as she ran towards the bathroom.
People began gagging as they tried unsuccessfully to remove the shit from their face and mouths, which were possibly open if they were eating or talking when lightning struck. It was as if someone had dropped napalm on their small village. People were running, but had no idea where or how to get to safety. One of the guys was trying to wash the shit out of his mouth with a Miller Lite on the porch.
The three of us could not contain ourselves. We were howling out loud and slapping each other on the back, shocked at how well it had worked. We couldn’t move; we did not want to leave this state of bliss. Everything in life at this moment made sense. We were Gods. Ever since this moment, life has been miserably incomplete. Maybe she heard us, or maybe she remembered the signed card — either way, Big M was on to us.
“I’mgoingtokillyoumuthafuckers!” she screamed out the door with her voice cracking.
“We’ve got to get out of here,” I whispered trying to pull it together.
“We can’t leave yet,” Brian said hysterically.
“I can’t breathe,” was Ray’s contribution.
We stayed in the barn until two of the guys at the party came looking for us. I am not sure exactly what they had planned if they had found us. This was one of those cliché macho moves frat boys do to impress the girls, yet they have no real intentions of doing anything to help the situation. It wasn’t like we left the country; we were “hiding” at our apartment watching T.V. and eating pork rinds less than 75 feet away with the door open. Douche bags.
Like my parents, I hope I am able to ignore the peer pressure of today and let my boys run wild like undomesticated miniature donkeys. Maybe they’ll have a scar or two, do something dangerous or stupid — or both. Maybe they won’t get a 2400 on their S.A.T. or go to an Ivy League school. And maybe they will not take family portraits on the beach in their khaki pants and white button-downs with the obligatory golden retriever (the prerequisite canine of the white upper-class). And maybe they will not be invited to join a boring, elite country club that smells of decaying skin and mummified flatulence that is run by a man named Biff or perhaps Preston. And maybe I won’t fork out the extra dough so they can be taught Mandarin in kindergarten.
Or perhaps, they’ll learn from their stupidity, be able to wipe their own ass when they head off to college, be able to handle rejection, failure, and critique without a lunch box full of meds. Yeah, they might not make it to Harvard, but maybe they’ll have the self-confidence and balls to make up for it. And when it comes to learning a second language in kindergarten, if we’re talking about competing in a global economy, I like their chances. A double backflip gainer off a rope swing trumps a bilingual PowerPoint presentation any day of the week; I don’t give a damn what they teach you in business school.
Back in our apartment, every time we got it together, someone would start snickering and we would start laughing all over again. This went on for hours until we were all hoarse and had cramped stomachs. Things finally started to calm down around 4:00 a.m., and we were all falling asleep on the couches.
“I love you guys,” I said in my raspy voice as I drifted off.
“You’re a fag, Nate. But yeah, you’re right, that was awesome,” Ray said.
“Ditto,” Brian said, as the sun was starting to come up.