Mission Impossible, Part 2
When last we left 11 year-old Lorna, her Mission was to be the Perfect Child: apple of adults’ eyes and bane of her sisters’ lives. Her heart was in the right place. She wanted to be one less worry for her already overly stressed mother. She would soon learn that trying gets a little girl only so far…
The rule that tripped me up concerned body-function noises. Perfect Children simply didn’t have them; Bad Children did and were proud of them. It was hard—possibly fatal—to stop a burp, hiccup or fart once it commenced. Sneezes, when handled with discretion, were allowable because, like detonating an atomic bomb, they were unstoppable. I guess adults assumed children had some magic power to stop a burp, hiccup or fart once it started brewing. Chosing to stop separated the wheat from the chaff. I never felt choice was involved: my body needed to expel something pronto and being a Perfect Child meant I had to violate a natural law.
During the tortuous Catholic festivities leading up to Easter, I attended the interminable Stations of the Cross. This very solemn ritual lasted a week, or so it seemed. I felt the need to go to the
bathroom sometime midway between Jesus falling the second and third time. I had an egg salad sandwich for lunch. Finding a bathroom never crossed my mind—I didn’t believe churches even had bathrooms. It seemed unholy to pee or poop in church.
I felt rumbling in my belly; then lower. Squirming to prevent an explosion only got me looks of disapproval from my grandmother and Mom. My step-grandfather and sisters were taking an interest in the developments. Holding in the amassing gas became unbearable; but letting it out was unthinkable. I’d rather be taken out on a stretcher with a burst intestine than fart in church.
Physiology won out over dignity and out came a long, loud, send-me-to-hell-for-sure fart during a moment of silent prayer. Any physical relief I felt was overshadowed by unspeakable
embarrassment. There was no hiding who did it. I blushed a lovely shade of cardinal red from scalp to sole. While others in the church did their best to ignore my noxious relief, my family was
obligated to react.
“Lorna!” Mom and my grandmother whispered in unified mortification.
“Lorna!” my step-grandfather and my sisters whispered in wonder and a touch of respect.
To seal my wickedness, laughter bubbled up uncontrollably—just like the infamous fart. It was as if Beelzebub himself possessed me—I was his foul instrument and there was no stopping my blasphemous guffaws. I bowed my head so no one could tell if my heaving shoulders were evidence of sobs for Jesus’ suffering or devil-possessed laughter. I tried to look reverent, but my reputation was, forevermore, soiled.
My underpants were, too.
My Perfect Child status took a major hit that day, but the pressure was off to be perfect. My Mission, however, was in jeopardy. Could I do anything to restore my reputation or was it ruined for good?