The Green Mile

Haven or hell hole?

We have been invited to a friend’s cottage this weekend. It’s called a cottage in the East, a cabin in the West. Whatever moniker you prefer, this particular lodging is still under construction and has, as yet, no indoor plumbing. This means it’ll be a weekend with an outhouse.

The Frau must really want to get out of town because she is prepared to stare down this particular longstanding primal fear. She hates the outhouse. I think she would rather risk being snagged by some large carnivore in the bushes than having to open that creaky wooden door that leads one, inevitably, to the pit of despair.

It’s not just the smell which, anyone in the janitorial arts will admit, defies any attempt at deodorization. It is the vulnerability that the outhouse represents. And it is the abyss..that black putrid void, that window of most odorous oblivion over which you must hover…that chills the heart and clenches the nethers.

Curiously, some people find comfort in this most rustic of evacuation locations. Some folks regard it fondly as a kind of funky reading room…the perfect spot to leaf through old issues of Popular Mechanics. I have met bottle collectors who consider an old outhouse pit much the same way an archeologist dreams of an unopened Egyptian tomb. Some of the best crockery, china and glass have been recovered from a long-lost kybo. And there are some sentimental observers of the heartland’s vanishing architecture who have been saddened by the demise of the privy. I once visited a spot in central Alberta that had gathered together a fine collection of shitters. It was a place for people to contemplate all that has been lost to progress. It was a place to reminisce about the advantages of one holer or two.

But there will be no lingering for the Frau this weekend. She’ll hit the mooned door after every last attempt to deny the body’s urges has been exhausted. She might even be willing to risk the most toxic kind of procrastination. I  noticed she turned down fresh fruit with her cereal this morning.


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