Ways to not go to the toilet in the bush
I've been writing things that I can't quite publish just yet - correspondence on some fairly emotional topics. But I can see that it's been a week since I last put something up so here we have a little taster from the book I'm working on, My Year of Crazy. In this story, Coco's dad is taking the whole family on a tree change and urban, fashionable, hip Coco is not too happy about it.
A week later I had turned into a Neanderthal.
My wildest imagination could not have prepared me for where our inner-city, café loving, beach babe family ended up. I could almost cope with the idea of looking like a grotty farmer for a year. I could nearly get my head around living in a shed to build a house. I was close to getting used to the idea of being two hours drive away from the city.
But reality, as they say, bites. Chomps, even. Chews, mashes and swallows. And then spits out the bones at the end.
The first clue that things might be even worse than I had expected was when we drove down what dad optimistically called the 'driveway '.
"I'm getting out! Stop the car. Mum, tell dad to stop the car. He's going to kill us," I was yelling about 10 minutes down the steepest hill on the slipperiest track I'd ever seen.
"It's okay Coco. We have a four wheel drive. This is what these sorts of cars do," said dad.
I ignored him, took a breath and kept screaming. ''Stop the car! I'm going to die!"
Josh started to laugh at me. "Ha ha. Coco is a scaredy cat," but even his face went white as we bumped over 10 million big rocks in a row and I saw him start hanging on to the armrest.
20 minutes later the sandy track came out of the bush, turned past an olive grove and came to an end in a green field. Dad stopped the car so we piled out, stretching and rubbing our bruised and battered bottoms. Mum breathed in deeply and smiled. "Oh look at this, David. It's incredible. What a view."
I turned around to see. It was true. There was a view. And I'll admit it, it was pretty nice. Green paddocks, trees following a creek at the bottom of a small valley, and in the distance, black and white cows milling around some hay bales. Cute, if you like that kind of stuff. Which I do, but only on holidays and only really in postcards.
Right now I had more pressing matters to think about.
"Mum – I need to go," I hissed, crossing my legs. That was another reason I had been screaming on the way down the driveway. Every time the car hit a rock I nearly wet my pants.
Mum stopped admiring the view and looked at me hopping up and down. "David, is there a toilet here?" She said gesturing around the paddock.
"Uh, yeah? You think?" Said Charlie, laughing. "There's nothing here."
"No. I meant in the shed. Does it work yet?" she said.
"There's a pit toilet near the shed. But I think it needs some treatment before it'll be ready for use," he said. "It won't take long though."
"Long? How long are we talking?" I wanted to yell, but I wasn't talking to Dad so I had to hold it in. Meanwhile I was having trouble holding it in at the other end.
"Mum, I need to go," I said again, dancing now. "Seriously. Now."
She looked annoyed. "Okay then. Go."
I raised my eyebrows at her. "Um, where?"
"Where do you think?" she hissed back. "What, do you think I'm just going to magically produce a toilet out of thin air? Find somewhere."
I gaped at her. "What?"
"You're a big girl," she said. "Cope. Off you go."
I could feel tears starting to prickle but I blinked them back. "Fine," I said stiffly, and headed off to a line of bushes and trees down at the bottom of the paddock, my chin held as high I could push it. The plan was to look like I didn't care, but let me just say it's tricky to walk like you're dignified and cool when you're about to wee your pants, when you're trying not to step in cow pats and when you're trying to ignore your brother sputtering with laughter behind you.
I turned to yell back at him. "Just so you know, the pit toilet probably stinks. I wouldn't want to go there anyway!"
This is so not funny, not fair, not funny, not fair. I grouched to myself in my head. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Who buys a stupid farm without a stupid toilet? Who has to go in the bushes? Stupid, not fair, dumb, stupid farm.
I kept walking, trying to avoid stepping on sticks and cow poo, while walking with my legs practically crossed and trying to stick to the few bits of flat ground I could see. There were holes all over the paddock and I didn't want to twist my ankle, especially not in white lace-covered ballet flats, which I noticed were already getting reddish brown around the edges, the colour of the dirt under the grass. Great, now I'll have to clean my shoes too, I thought.
When I finally reached the bushes I picked my way through the prickly bits until I couldn't see the others. Finally. I thought. Some privacy. I let out a big breath and blinked a few times to clear my eyes.
That's a good spot over there, I thought, seeing a little clear area behind a big dead branch lying on the ground. I started to undo the button of my jeans as I stepped forward, but the branch was bigger than I thought. I'll have to jump. Careful...
And that was when everything got much, much worse.
I took a small leap over the tree branch but by that time I had also undone my pants just enough so that my legs got confused about how long they were and tried to do more than was possible. Basically, it was a world-class trip up and I landed on my face on the other side of the log.
But that wasn't all.
As I landed I heard a splash. It was me, landing in a small stream of water.
But it wasn't just water. It was water mixed with dirt, which makes mud. I now had mud from my forehead to my knees. (My feet were still on the other side of the branch.)
My hands were covered in dirt and as I got up, groaning, I instinctively went to brush them off on my jeans. It was only then that I discovered that the terrible smell that had just reached my nose was a cow pat, which I had squashed in my fall and which was now spread out all over my thighs, on my jeans and now on my hands.
As bad as this was, I was determined to not let it get worse. I still needed to go. I knew that if I went back to my ridiculous family covered in mud, that would be bad enough. But I also knew that if I went back, having wet my pants as well, I would hear about it until my dying day.
Yuck, I said to myself. Completely gross. But I can't deal with it now. Smearing my hands on grass, I continued on to the clear patch I was going to use as a toilet. I squatted carefully over the grass and a few other green, slightly spiky plants I had never seen before and did, finally, what I so desperately needed to do.
Aah, that feels better I thought. The relief! But I was nearly falling over, so I shifted myself slightly to adjust my balance. That right there was the thing I should not have done. As soon as I moved, a shooting, burning pain grabbed my bottom and spread down my leg and up my back.
I couldn't help it.
"My bum is on fire!" I said. "Help me!"
If I had been dancing before, it was nothing to the jig I was performing now. The pain was stinging and burning and all I could think about was getting relief somehow. Suddenly it came to me.
I know! The water!
Without even pulling up my jeans I shuffled over to the mud puddle I'd fallen into before and sat, bottom first in the water. I could almost hear the sizzle. It helped – true, only slightly – but it was better than nothing and at least I wasn't screaming anymore.
About a minute later Mum and Charlie burst through the bushes.
"Coco! Are you okay?"
"We heard you yelling," said Charlie. "What's the matter?" And then she started to laugh.
"What's so funny?" I said, huffily. "I hurt my bottom, that's all. I'm okay."
"That's all?" Said Charlie. "It doesn't look like that's all."
She had a point. I was sitting, wearing lace ballet flats and what was formerly a white T-shirt, in a stream with my pants down, covered in mud on my top half and smeared with smelly cow poo on my bottom half. She thought it was hilarious. But I didn't feel like laughing.
"Leave me alone." I stood up, ignoring my still slightly sore bottom, did up my jeans and walked carefully past mum and Charlie, who was still standing there giggling.
"Coco, sweetie…" said mum. But I ignored her and kept walking, out of the bushes and back up to the car. Behind me, mum and Charlie were scrambling through the twigs and leaves.
Hmmph, I thought. Could this day get any worse?
Let me tell you: I've got to stop saying that. Because every time I do, something bad happens.
It wasn't until I was nearly back to Dad and Josh that I realised that there was something dripping down the back of my jeans on one side. It felt different from the water from the stream, so I put my hand on the back of my leg and nearly fell over when I pulled it back and looked at it.
My hand, previously covered in cow poo, was now totally red from blood. My blood! Yes, this could definitely be worse, I thought. Don't cry, don't cry, don't cry.
"Coco!" yelled Mum from behind me. "You're bleeding." She ran up and pulled down my jeans, just like she would have if I was five years old. Embarrassing much! "Let me see!"
"Mum!" I started, squirming my head around, but I stopped talking when I saw a black blob stuck to my bottom. "Mu-u-um! What is that?" My tummy was clenching with fear. This was creepy. I nearly said, "Help, I'm going to die," but stopped myself. There's nothing worse than being a baby in front of everyone.
I was frozen in fear, looking at this disgusting black thing attached to my bum, with blood pouring down my leg when Charlie caught up to have a look. When she did, she started laughing all over again. This time she was rolling on the ground.
Fear disappeared. Now I was just mad at her. "What?" I snapped. "Why is this so funny?"
"Ha ha!" she gasped in giggles, clutching her stomach. "It's a leech!"
My eyes opened wide and I nearly lost my lunch. I felt sick to my stomach. A leech? An actual leech? On my bottom? Eeew, yuck, ew, disgusting. This was just too gross. But I was determined not to lose it and show them all I was a mess. So I curled up in a ball and pretended to be dignified and calm while mum pulled the leech out and got some antiseptic cream and bandaids out of the car.
"Wow, Coco. You really stink," said Josh. "Waaay worse than a pit toilet." He held his nose. I stuck my tongue out at him, and then realised I had grit in my mouth. Double icky gross. I tried to spit it out without actually spitting but I ended up swallowing it instead.
It was at that point that I noticed my lace ballet flats were ripped. On both feet. Disaster, I thought. My favourite shoes. Completely stuffed up by a stupid tree branch. I sighed, and realised mum was still dabbing blood off my leg.
"I think you got stung by a nettle," said mum, taking a closer look at my bottom. Thanks mum. Great stuff. Check it all out. "It looks like something's brushed up against you while you were going to the toilet. "
"A nettle?" said Dad. "You've got to watch out for these things. There are some pretty vicious ones in the bush. Also, I probably should have reminded you – in fact, all of you guys – to be careful of snakes too. It's still the season for them. And there are some nasty Browns around in this area."
"Snakes?" I said. It was my first word to Dad in two months. "Snakes?"
And then I lost it. I cried. Sobbed, sniffled, snivelled, bawled, blubbed, howled, wept and wailed. And I didn't stop for the next two hours.
This was not supposed to be my life. I was not supposed to be stuck on the side of a mountain on a cow-pat filled paddock avoiding snakes and stingers and leeches, ripping my best shoes and going to the toilet in the bush. This was crazy-land. And for the next twelve months, there was no way out.
I was trapped.