The Walk of Shame

The Walk of Shame
© Wes Gow

Ed is my sister’s father-in-law who once tried to kill me by sabotaging a bear hunt.  I’ve let it go (MOSTLY!), but this particular episode provided a sort of sweet revenge in which the good Lord granted me a front row seat to his divine vengeance on my behalf.

The bear hunt I’m referring to occurred in the fall, and the events I’ll recount now take place that following spring. 

Spring gobbler season!  Nothing like it.  Of all the hunting and fishing activities I’ve enjoyed, turkey hunting wins by a wide margin for several reasons.  First, it’s communal, unlike sitting in a lonely tree stand for hours on end watching your fingernails grow.  Second, you don’t have to worry about your scent.  Deer have a godlike sense of smell, which supremely hinders smoking a bowl of your favorite tobacco in the beauty of the forest.  Third, it’s spring, not fall, which means quite simply that you’re surrounded by new life instead of impending death!  Don’t get me wrong, I do love fall.  Like just about every other context in life, my wonderful wife has opened my eyes to the beauties of this season.  But once the pumpkins and stuffing and presents are gone, you’re left with months of just holding it together.  In contrast, the conclusion of spring only means more sunshine and hot dogs and jean shorts!

Anyway.

Ed and I set out to bag the ol’ thunder chicken.  In addition to our camo and calls, we packed our fishing rods and tackle.  Pennsylvania, like Virginia, requires hunters to exit the woods by noon for at least the first two weeks of the season.  So after a morning on the roost, we rigged up our rods for an afternoon of trout fishing.

The setting was gorgeous:  a mountain spring that gradually rose in elevation, winding its way through a canopy of oaks and pines.  True serenity.

Ed parked the Exploder (foreshadowing!) at the base of the spring and we were soon climbing alongside its banks, making the occasional cast and reveling in the experience.  I paused for a moment in our ascent on a small plot of earth that had forced its presence out into the water.  Ed continued around the corner, gingerly sidestepping me and certain of finding fish further upstream.

The next several minutes are relatively unknown for me.  I was most likely lost in the moment, despite the slight disappointment of learning what stream trout fishing is really like.  I’ll let you down easy here.  When reading about such a sport, you might envision something like a scene from “A River Runs Through It.”  But in my experience, fishing for brown trout is much more akin to a carnival game jigging for toy fish with a child-sized fishing rod.  The rig and catch are pretty close to scale.  Still, it’s better than any day in the office, that’s for sure!

While I was delighting in peace and tranquility, though, the time that had elapsed from the moment Ed left me must have passed very, very differently for him.

I have no memory of what we had for lunch that day before heading out to the stream.  But whatever Ed had consumed evidently had plans contrary to spending the afternoon quietly traversing his GI tract.

As I mentioned earlier, Ed left my presence as a man with a hopeful outlook on life, light-hearted and unburdened.

Now he rounded the corner like a man possessed (which he was, in a manner), one fraught with anxiety and fear, heavy in step.  In an instant, the synapses of my brain translated the billboard-sized message that every aspect of his physical posture was heralding:

“I AM LADEN WITH TURD!”

His brow was furrowed and his eyes were intensely focused on the singular mission of making his descent before the contents of his bowels won the day.  Sweat beading on his forehead despite the cool, shaded altitude.  Shoulders hunched and abs flexed, waging a losing war against organs and gravity and impending shame.  His gait was a curious combination of urgent speed and tight, calculated steps.

Ed passed behind me and upon the Good Word I’ll swear I heard him mutter, “Boy oh boy…” in such a yearning for deliverance that indicated both his own objective shock at his predicament as well as a vulnerable, transparent doubt of securing any outcome other than desecrating himself and God’s green earth.

Ed was in a tight spot, and one that’s common in all misadventures:  the “ok now how do I get out of this” phase.  There was no Portalet or outhouse or rest area anywhere nearby, and Ed was certainly in NO constitution to drive.

There’s some primitive, evolutionary trigger in men that does not produce empathy in such situations.  It’s terrible to admit, but I laughed.  A lot.  Probably to tears.

Miraculously, he must have covered an impressive amount of ground despite his condition, for I heard no cries of relief or screams for mercy that day.  Ed disappeared down the trail and I’ll never know (or inquire) about the details that transpired.  

Somehow, some way, Ed once again ascended the stream of life and dignity and rejoined me in the day’s excursion.  He was a changed man, visibly worn out from the recent conflict, but eternally grateful to be wearing his pants and fishing for trout.

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