This small post is dedicated to a man/boy who, though we met many times, I never engaged in conversation. A man/boy named Mario Herbst. That is no pseudonym. The lawyers be damned. If he takes offense to what is written here, come and find me. I’d love to have our first chat.
In speaking of my childhood, it often comes across as seemingly idyllic. Life in the suburbs; stable, nurturing parents; fragrant orange groves and an open field with a creek as my playground; riding on bales of dull white cotton in the Disneyland Christmas Parade; a mother who really knew how to cook. At first blush, some less fortunate may wish they could have traded place. That is until they learn the saga of Mario Herbst.
We had an older kid down the block who talked us into dropping our drawers as he claimed he was studying to be a doctor. Brian Williams was his name. (Yet again, the lawyers be damned). I should be talking to a therapist for the rest of my life about Brian according to the namby-pamby child psychologists. But the shrinks would be wrong. If I am paying a buck seventy-five an hour to talk to anyone, I’ll be talking about Mario Herbst.
Mario was gifted: not as a singer, not as a poet, not as a painter. But he was an artist of sorts. He was, to put it indelicately, a fart* artist.
Mario could break wind anytime, anywhere, on command. It was his gift. I hope his offspring, if anyone was unfortunate enough to mate with him, are reading this page. And it is my hope that his children look at him with disdain from this day forth. I hope his employer, an employer who is offended by nothing, nay nothing, more than the those who “blow the bowel bugle” is reading this post. And it is my hope his employer is in a firing state of mind. I hope his gastroenterologist (I picture a diminutive Indian woman easily offended by coarse, brutish Americans who have mastered the “trouser cough”) is reading these words. And it is my hope it is just before deciding which of her two sickest patients--Mario being one of them--will be placed in the placebo group of a promising new drug trial and which will get the lifesaving medicine. Enjoy the sugar pill compadre! I hope… well, you get the picture.
Mario was introduced into my life by my older brother Randy (that’s Glen Randall Bell if you are one of the aforementioned lawyers). Randy learned of Mario’s “gift” and put him to work at stake dances. Stake dances, in the late seventies and early eighties, were a big deal for Southern California Mormons and their friends. One Saturday a month, a stake (a grouping of local congregations) would hire a rock band and host a dance for youth ages 14-18 (and a few pathetic 21-year-old guys who couldn’t play in their own league).
As kids are inclined to do, they formed small groups of eight or so around the dance floor. As the music blared, Mario would walk by one of these gaggles of youth, pause briefly, and flatulate some of the worst smelling intestinal gas known to man. Unheard over the music, he would just walk off as his compatriots observed the aftermath surrounding the targeted group. Invariably, these unsuspecting youth would soon begin to gag on the vile stench and begin accusing one another. Chaos and hilarity were sure to ensue.
My brother, one of the observing compatriots, enjoyed this little game so much he decided to create a home version. In the home version, there were no stealth launches of decaying fecal vapor. Randy would simply pin me to the floor and Mario would assume launch position, target my face with his anus and “step on the duck.” Half the size of my brother. I was helpless and exposed. Many a time have I inhaled the noxious mixture of hydrogen sulfide and methane that Mario produced.
(As I write this, it occurs to me that my brother could not have avoided the flatus being expelled as well. Apparently that was part of the thrill.)
Three and a half decades later I still shudder when encountering the name Mario. Those were experiences that left me scarred. I couldn’t even enjoy Nintendo’s Mario Bros. when it was all the rage. (Though it is fitting that Mario and Lugi battled creatures emerging from the sewers below New York. I’m pretty sure what emerged from Mario Herbst could compete with any major metropolitan sewer.)
*My lovely, innocent daughters, who have been exposed to more than a few internal eruptions of my own, may take exception to the word fart. They prefer the more benign “toot.” With all apologies, toot implies the puff a unicorn might accidentally make as it hops over a rainbow. Mario did not toot. When he let it rip, his bowel explosions would put said unicorn in the ICU.