The Great Double Caper of ’79 (Part 2 of 6)

Part 2: The Terrible Benevolence of Uncle Willy

Uncle Willy’s real name was Charles. But everybody called him Willy. He was retired from the Air-force, and now worked for the U.S. Postal Service. He had been nice enough to offer to let me spend the summer of 1979 living in an Airstream trailer in his back yard. Besides a bed, I had some storage, a little table, a boom box, electricity, and a mini-fridge. No bathroom. I had to go into the house for showers and whatnot. I also spent a lot of time in the house with Willy and his family watching the big TV with cable. HBO, no Showtime.

For the first couple of weeks I was there, Uncle Willy spent most of his time perched on the sofa like, well, I want to say Jabba the Hut, but I won’t. For one thing, it’s low-hanging fruit, too cliché. He was a short, heavy man, well north of three hundred pounds. For another, there wasn’t an evil bone in Uncle Willy’s body. He was a smiley, good-natured man. As un-Jabba as you can get. Instead, I’ll say he sat on the sofa looking like an enormous sea lion. Like the biggest Alpha at Pier 39, mostly sedentary looking adorable, but occasionally throwing his weight this way or that, causing mild alarm to those around him. The reason for his having taken up residency on that sofa, though, was that he was recovering from the surgery he’d had right before I moved in. He’d had a tummy tuck, or stapling, or gastric bypass, whatever the procedure was in 1979.

One of the side effects of this surgery was uncontrollable flatulence. And Uncle Willy’s farts that summer became a thing of legend. When attempting to measure or classify a fart, I guess there are two basic criteria. Sound and smell. In ranking farts by sound, a sliding scale might range from “Cute Little Toot,” to “Thunder Butt.” Then you have the smell. While there are numerous categories regarding the composition of the smell, that’s a more advanced level of fart analysis than we need here. For our purposes, it is enough to agree that smell can be placed on a continuum of offensiveness from a mild cheese-cutting to wallpaper-peeling. Conventional fart analysts have long maintained that there is an inverse relationship between these two characteristics. Hence the most notorious of farts, the classic SBD. That summer Uncle Willy displayed an utter disregard for the inverse fart corollary.

When Uncle Willy let one rip, the sound was inhuman, deeply disturbing. At its base, each fart was a deep, rumbling, window-rattling Thunder Butt. But moist. And flappy. Most instances died out with a bit of sputtering. A single issuance could go on for ten seconds or more. I know ten seconds doesn’t sound very long, but look at a clock or stopwatch for 10 seconds while making a fart noise. See? If you tried actually farting for 10 straight seconds, you’d pass out, shit yourself, or have an aneurysm, I’m pretty sure. Uncle Willy had created a completely new, unique fart sound classification, never heard before, nor replicated since. As for smell? Right out of the depths of Hell’s backed up sewage system. There was sulfur and rotten eggs stirred into a whale carcass washed up and decomposing on the shore, layered with roadkill slathered in a rancid spinach dip. All with a slight hint of compost and gym socks. And on an average day, Uncle Willy could let loose two, sometimes three of these monstrosities per hour. You had to be pretty committed to a particular TV show or HBO movie to stick it out. The experience had a lasting effect. To this day I can’t watch an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati without a slight hint of olfactory recall. Uncle Willy was no savage though. Each and every incident was accompanied by a cheeky grin, a whaddyagonnado shrugging of the shoulders, and an apology. And he kept a can of Glade which he sprayed liberally. No one had the heart to tell him that adding “Hawaiian Evening” into the swampy morass of the room only made it worse.

I kinda hate that farts are the first thing I think of when I remember Uncle Willy. He deserves better. He took me in that summer, after all. Lent me the trailer and an old beat up Civic to drive around. Let me watch his HBO. Didn’t give me any grief after walking in on my date with 1979 Playmate of the Year, Monique St. Pierre. He was nice enough to take me to a couple of ballgames that summer. When the Braves hit a home run and we all jumped to our feet, Uncle Willy, big-ole smile, would do the self-clasping handshake, pump it over one shoulder, then the other like an old-time champeen wrassler, or a Soviet Premier. He would literally shout, “Hooray!”

By all rights, that’s how I should remember Uncle Willy. But, man. Once you’ve set world flatulence records that will stand for all time — like DiMaggio’s hitting streak — in multiple categories? Well, that just casts a cloud over everything. Your legacy is a done deal.

© 2020 Whiskey Leavins


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