Giving the gift that keeps on giving

Barry Smith

(NOTE: My brother, Bryan, has informed me that if I plan to write about our childhood exploits then I had better be prepared to pay him. So I’ve decided instead to write about a fictitious brother, Byron, who shares all of the same history and characteristics of Bryan, except for that pesky desire to be compensated.)Without giving too much away, I call this story, “The Time I Puked On My Brother.” Actually, I guess that gives all of it away, but I felt you deserved at least a little bit of warning.As the sons of recently divorced parents, my brother, Byron, and I were spending the weekend with our dad in his newly acquired post-divorce swinging bachelor trailer. I was 11 at the time, Byron was 5. I had come down with some horrible stomach virus, so had been flopped out on the couch for most of the day watching Saturday morning cartoons. The only thing worse than being nauseated as an adult, if you can recall, is being nauseated as a child. When you’re a child, you usually haven’t discovered alcohol yet, so you don’t fully realize the recreational benefits of self-induced nausea.I was growing more unstable as the morning progressed, but had yet to call forth my breakfast. I could tell, however, that the time was coming when I would get to hear that snap, crackle and pop all over again. But I did not plan to go willingly.I hated throwing up. It terrified me and I hated it. Years later, after an unfortunate run-in with a plate of day-old calamari in Greece, I managed to overcome my fear, due to the brute repetition of such an activity that comes with food poisoning.As I lay on the couch, I do my best to keep things under control. I breathe deeply. I grit my teeth. I fluff my pillow. But I’m not fooling anyone, just avoiding the inevitable. But I have hope. Maybe I can wait this one out. Maybe if I’m still enough it will all just …Mayday! Mayday! Up periscope! All hands on deck!I jump off the couch and make a mad dash to the bathroom. I’ve waited far too long – I can feel the Rice Krispies at throat-level as I hook my left hand on the door frame and fling the door open with my right. My momentum carries my frail and trembling body forward, tonsils first, toward the toilet with a mighty “Gahhhhh.” Unfortunately, a few minutes earlier Byron had decided he needed a bit of commode time, so as I burst in, there he was, with a front row seat to an event you don’t even want to see on TV. Or read about, probably.Whenever I relate this tale, which is a lot more often than anyone should, I always stop at this point and try to offer some perspective from the kid sitting on the crapper. Picture it: You’re 5. It’s a Saturday, a day off from school, and you’re out playing in the sandbox when you realize you need to take care of some business. So you head inside and plop yourself down on the toilet. You’re too young to read, so you’re just sitting there thinking about whatever a 5-year-old thinks about when CRASH! The door flings open and someone resembling a human firehose comes rushing towards you, completely covering you with … good Lord, it’s just too much to contemplate. No advance warning. No loud knocking. No “I have to use the bathroom NOW!” warning. No nothing. Just peaceful silence shattered by a flung open door and … you know.My brother looked up at me for a good long second, then down at his new … well, dinner jacket, I suppose you could call it, and he started to whimper. Then cry. Then yell. All pretty normal reactions. I even thought so at the time. I felt immediately better, of course, because that’s the way these things work. But I did feel bad for my brother. And not so much because he was an innocent child, covered in puke and crying. No, I mostly felt bad for him because of the very next thought that I had: “I can’t wait to tell this story.”