The Dump
Steven P Warr

"My journal December 23, 2090. Yay! Christmas in two days and best of all, now I know the secret."

For as long as I can remember, my Grandpa Alex has loved to show us the black and white video of his Grandpa Steve running from the backdoor of his grandpa's little house toward a small board shack that he calls an "outhouse." In an obvious desperate rush, halfway, the eleven or twelve year old blond-haired boy slips and falls on his butt, with his arms and legs windmilling. He then struggles to his feet with a sheepish grin on his face and trots the rest of the way, opens the door with the moon-shaped hole in it and disappears inside. The family has laughed uproariously about that endlessly over the years.

What was so urgent and exciting in that shack back when there was no color in the world? The adults secretively mumble something about "taking a dump." Maybe that was where the color was? I myself have watched that video over and over and I still don't get it. What was so all-fired important about that little shack? My brother Barry has no clue, and worse, he doesn't care.

"Barry," I said to him, "why don't you care about what is so important about that shack in that video?"

"Mom and Dad think there is nothing so funny," he said with that crazy eye-roll look he has been using lately to show that I'm too stupid to live. "It's just grown-up sense of humor. There's nothing in the shack."

I pestered him and everybody else over and over, risking yet more sarcastic eye-rolls.

For days after one of the showings, I couldn't think about anything else but the answer to that question. I googled "dump", "shack," "run from house," "color" and many other words or phrases, but to no avail. There was just nothing about it anywhere. I could not find an answer for this secret. My education, like other kids my age, was completely online and it led me to many questions. With everything else, I had previously been rewarded with not only the answer, but also a detailed discussion of the topic with just a short and sometimes shaky query. Most times, I would really love the topic, explaining with glee, a detailed report to my mom and dad. This lack of anything was surprising, but I was reluctant to pin my parents down. When I ventured to discuss the video with my mom, her expression rapidly morphed into the "where do babies come from?" response and just dropped, stone dead.

Yesterday we visited Grandpa Alex, and I managed to find him alone in his personal office. I broke through my reluctance to ask, and ventured directly, "Grandpa, what was in the shack?"

It was clear he immediately understood my meaning, but his face took on the tone of that of my mom. But, he gradually dropped it and his face relaxed into a companionable expression. "I'm gonna' tell you, even though your mom will probably fry me, and you may not understand anything I say."

"It seems absolutely unbelievable now, after all these years," he began furtively. Then he paused, as if groping for words.

After a moment of thoughtful silence, he stumbled on with a question to me, "What is your favorite nutripill?"

The question surprised me, because the one I always had for dinner was the mint chocolate chip, and I thought everyone knew that. I did sometimes have the strawberry in the morning, and when we went to McDonalds, I might choose the big mac pill, but mint was by far my favorite.

"Why, mint chocolate chip is my favorite, Grandpa. I thought you knew that."

"Well, I did," he replied, "but I wanted to make a comparison between our meals now and what they were when I was your age." He paused again, with the look that I got from my mom or dad when I asked about the video.

I could see no connection between what he had said and my great-great grandpa's frantic rush, but his expression alone made me eager for him to continue, so I blurted "What, Grandpa?" in probably, a slightly disrespectful tone.

"Do you know anything about the process of making nutripills?"

I had done a report for my science class last year about that exact subject, so I knew that everything about it was done by robotics. The part that could actually be seen was actually kind of gross. Truckloads of "raw materials" were dumped into one end of the building. That was then processed by automated machinery to separate the nutrients from the "waste material" by a difficult to understand method. I left that part out of my report. The worst part was how the "waste material" was handled. It is really ugly, brown, runny, and really smelly. This is piped into waiting auto-driven tanker trucks to be used for something called "fertilizer" and some other things I didn't understand. The good part was the restaurant at the nutripill distribution center.

I told Grandpa about my report.

"But Grandpa, what does that have to do with the shack?"

Grandpa hesitated again, reluctant to tell the whole thing and its connection to the question.

His struggle was plain on his face, but he ventured on. "When I was your age, mint chocolate chip was my favorite, too, but it was very, very different."

Instead of continuing however, he abruptly got out of his chair and stepped toward the door with such purpose that my immediate thought was that he was abandoning his revelation totally, but he stopped at a small cupboard, opened it and produced a medium size ceramic bowl.

As he came back toward me with the bowl in his outreached hand, he said expansively, "My mint chocolate chip filled this entire bowl."

My mind was reeling, and I couldn't hold back. "That must have been enough for a month or two, or even a year," I yelled with a broad grin.

What was he trying to say to me?

"No." he said, "It wasn't even a full meal. It was what we used to call dessert; a treat we'd have after eating a much bigger plate of food."

"What? That's impossible! There's not enough space to fit all that."

"There is." he said and poked me in the stomach. "All that space above your belt and below your ribs, used to come out over people's belts. I know you have seen pictures of fat people in old pictures on the Internet. It doesn't come out like that anymore, because just around when I was your age, a thing called genetic engineering changed food so that it contains only nutrients. So all we need to do now is take a pill or two a day. We chew them because it tastes good."

I still didn't get it. So people got fat. What did that have to do with the run to the outhouse?

My expression must have made my question plain to him, because, now on a roll he rushed on in desperation.

"With those large meals, most of what we ate was not usable by our bodies. In fact, some of it was poisonous and if not for some of our specialized internal organs filtering it out, people would die. Some did die anyway. There is a natural process to rid our bodies of the non-nutricious part of our food. That is called defecation when solid waste comes out of the small hole in your fanny.

He stopped and stared at me appraisingly.

I was left unable to speak, but weird questions cycled through my mind. What would it be like to be able to eat an entire bowl of mint chocolate chip? That sounded heavenly. What about defecation--that must have happened in the small shack? The hurry demonstrated in the video told me that experience must have been great fun?

I later realized that Grandpa had said something else, but I had quit listening by then, my mind reeling.

Now there is only one thought in my mind.

All I want for Christmas is to take a dump like my great-great grandpa did.