Defecation Nation, by Emily Burtch

For a graduation present, the father of my siblings took my friend Kaitlynn and me on a trip to Peru. Our first week was spent trekking the Inca Trail, a 27 mile staircase that culminated at a  trough at Macchu Picchu. We made it. We did it. Our thighs, our butts,  our bodies, were sore. We were tired. We did it. We were riding high, higher than the 14,000 + foot elevation we scaled. Our lungs were strong. We were strong. Our trail leader was hot. Aldo’s butt was hot. Manly man alive. This one’s for you Aldo baby. My little taquito (not an actual Peruvian cuisine).

A sense of accomplishment permeated our walk and our talk. “What need has man for drugs?” a query voiced.

“Mmmmmm, drugs.”

The thing about traveling with parents, other than their inabilities to not make scenes, to travel without incessant complaining, to simply fucking “go with the flow,” is their need for ‘travel guides.’ We had a tour scheduled, and on said tour, we were to embark on a scenic boat trip to the Uros Islands on Lake Titicaca (middle school giggles).

A boat ride. What’s so bad about that? And who would guide us but another Aldo, a depressingly less virile form of the first. We depart on a 4-hour sputter, and arrive at an island, one of them, I have no clue which, and we deboard to meet our “Mamis” who will house us for the evening.

These Mamis dressed in their traditional garb, balloon like wool skirts with nearly fluorescent flowers, into which white collared shirts with similar neon flowers were tucked. After our Mami began leading us to her “house,” Father turns to us and says, “Looks like too much inbreeding.”

Good one Bob. We chortle. Mamis eyes were constantly fixed in a semi-cross-eyed stare about two inches to the upper right of the viewee’s forehead. Her teeth seemed to be set in multiple rows of jagged misshapen shards of bone. She didn’t speak, even though Kaitlynn spoke fluent Spanish to her. We were puzzled.

Mami cooks us a meal. A soup. Pink potatoes. We exchange glances. We eat.

Aldo the Inferior schedules a hike. We hike. ‘Nothing compared to Macchu Picchu,’ I think. Arrogance abounds as I run down the hill. Suddenly, something doesn’t feel right. The leaps of affected agility in descent have rioted my digestive systems. I hear gurgles. Bubbles form and pop of intestinal juices. As one familiar with poop, and all poop related accidents, my better intuition senses danger. Mami’s suspicious dinner has reared its mighty head.

“Daddddd,” I say, the tumultuous plead in my voice warning him of the forthcoming ‘fun.’ “I think I need to go to the bathroom.”

Our blessed Mami was suppose to meet us at the bottom of the hill, to guide us to her home before darkness set in. She failed to appear. Things were getting questionable down under. More hikers were finding their way to the bottom.

“Dad,” I groan. ” I need to find a ditch or something, like immediately.”

We walk in the direction we think her house might be. I see a large rock, and a man in the distance. The time is now. Fecal matter has already seeped. The prairie-dogging is no more. Full on shit is in my pants.

I crouch down behind the boulder. Man approaches quickly. Father hands me his hanky. I fumble to see the stitching. “# 1 Dad” on it. Words that had never been more true. All I have time for is to rip my panties (good ones too) on each side to dispose of them. I realized after that I had torn away the one barrier I had between liquid feces and my own demise. I kick them under a rock.

The motion of the ocean moves in waves. I feel another wave approaching. I begin to bolt in a direction.


“Dad! I have fucking diarrhea SEEPING DOWN MY PANTS! I CAN’T JUST STAND AROUND! ”


Kaitlynn chuckles.

“Dad!!!!” I return, unwillingly. Diarrhea oozes to lower back thigh.

Another man approaches. But hark! ‘Tis Juan, Mami’s husband. He shows us the hidden path to the house. I make a beeline to the “bathroom.” Let’s get this clear, I’m all for roughing it. I like dirt, I like smell, I like the absence of luxury, but not when my butt is exploding. Kaitlynn holds a flashlight as I squat over a hole and attempt to clean myself. Luckily, they have ONE roll of toilet paper, especially for us foreigners. It is gone in seconds. I remember the “#1 Dad” hankie. I wet it in a bucket and attempt to cleanse myself. I rinse out my pants in water. Soap is unheard of.

I climb to our beds. “Guys, do I smell like poop?” I am greeted with the unfortunate affirmative.

“Kaitlynn, do you have anything I can try to clean up with?”

She hands me alcohol swabs. Desperate as I am, I put swab to anus.

Sometimes, late at night, when there’s just the right smell in the air, I can still feel the burning and hear the screams.
After graduating Berkeley with a degree in biochemistry, Emily relocated to Florida for a prestigious internship with NASA. When she’s not preparing for the STS-125 Servicing Mission 4, she enjoys knocking ice cream cones out of children’s grasps.

Back to Nonfiction.

Back to Issue 2 Portal.