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Smell the Coffee: Breaking the barrier is a serious matter

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Apologies to those offended by stories of bodily functions and to my editor, who I'm certain prefers that I not travel down roads such as this.

When last I was single, my daughter was 5 years old. Now, she's 16. While I've learned there are perks to dating with a daughter the age she is now -- clothes I can borrow, shoes, jewelry, makeup tips, advice on what's cool -- I've learned 5-year-olds are capable of opening certain doors far more easily than a teen.

One door in particular. Except "door" isn't exactly the right word. A better choice might be "barrier." Five-year-olds are all about breaking barriers.

Especially embarrassing ones.

When my daughter was 5, she was a fan of bodily noises. Few things struck her as funny as a noxious butt burp and in spite of my pleas to refrain, she delighted in sharing her gift with the world. There we would be, in some serious situation -- a crowded waiting room, parent-teacher conference, Sunday school -- and she'd let one fly. There was never a need to gracefully ease from the polite world into one of foul-scented realities. That girl of mine forced the issue.

But over the years, the novelty lessened. While that seems like something for which a mom would be grateful, there are times a child's crude tendencies can make wandering into the land of life's little inevitables easier. Like when one becomes part of a couple making the transition from early dating days to something more serious.

To be honest, my boyfriend had no problem breaking the barrier. He broke it early and often. Not so with me. I'm apparently cursed with a shy sphincter. While the occasional poof! might've slipped out while I dozed, he insisted those didn't count and began to take offense at my inability to be relaxed enough to free an air biscuit in his presence.

So extreme was my intestinal fortitude that Didier began to make suggestions that I was an alien life form. It seems odd to suggest a person could get offended by another's inability to toot, but this particular shortcoming apparently suggested I was not as comfortable in his presence as he clearly was in mine.

And then last Saturday, Didier and I went to Kings Island amusement park in Ohio for its annual Halloween Haunt where, once it gets dark, the park essentially turns into one big haunted house.

Which we made even more scary.

It wasn't intentional. The great weather last weekend prompted more people than usual to go to the park, causing the lines for the rides to become so long they were daunting. The lines for the many restaurants, however, were not, so Didier and I entertained ourselves by visiting a variety of food vendors over the course of the day. By the time it got dark, we'd consumed two bean-heavy burritos, shared an oniony burger and several slices of pizza. Then stirred the contents with a few spin-y rides.

And then we got in line for a haunted corn maze.

By the time we were halfway through the maze, with scary-masked actors popping out behind random turns, my stomach had begun to churn wildly. It was becoming painful to hold in what was trying so hard to get out, but we were inching forward slowly through wall-to-wall people so I was concentrating on maintaining my mostly unblemished track record.

Apparently I wasn't the only one having trouble. Didier was digesting all the same foods as me.

We weren't far from the exit when Didier nudged me to get in front of him. I recognized the look on his face, was familiar with the meaning behind that ornery little grin. I knew what was coming.

Just as I knew that I could, if I chose, add my own grief to his sin.

Which I did.

Our intestinal synchronization caused the most foul reaction imaginable. Those behind us -- they screamed. Masks were torn off. There were shrieks and coughs and cries of burning eyes. There was shoving and cursing and a surge toward the exit by a dozen or so unfortunates who had been trailing behind us.

Those in line to get into the maze near where our screaming crowd was racing through to get out were likely left with an excited anticipation over the scariness of the haunted trail they were waiting to enter, not realizing the most frightening elements had just strolled past. Looking innocent.

And amused.

And maybe just a tiny bit proud.

The Fumigator took my hand and squeezed it. And I, his little Crop Duster, squeezed back.

Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinfuller@gmail.com.


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