We were sitting at the dinner table one night, my brother Andy, my mother, and me. I was about sixteen, and Andy was seven years my junior. As we savored another one of Mother’s delicious meals, the only sounds in the room were the clink of silverware against plates and the mastication of food. It cut through the air, loud, raucous, obnoxious. It came from Andy.
“In some countries, people belch to show their appreciation for a meal,” he once told me. “In McDonald’s, a guy will walk up to the counter, lean over it, and belch at the person behind it.”
To this day, Andy’s policy has always been to let ‘er rip. You should never squelch a belch. On the other hand, I’m concerned about offending people. When I’m alone with my husband, I follow Andy’s directive. At first, Bill complained when the noise filled the air, but he likes to fart so we’ve come to an agreement that allows us each to expel wind in our own way.
When I’m away from home, I squelch it. This isn’t easy, especially when I’m talking. I’ve occasionally punctuated my sentences with noisy expulsions of wind.
As adults, Andy and I still try to out-belch each other, especially when his kids aren’t around. We keep score on a scale from one to ten with one being the lowest. We also base ratings on whether we’re consuming carbonated beverages at the time. If the belch is loud and long and we’re only drinking water, the score is higher. It’s funny, but when I’m with Andy, I can never get a score above six with or without carbonation.
I recently wrote a poem about a belch which I’ll paste below. I was sitting in a poetry workshop, and it came from the woman next to me. Rose and I have attended many writers’ conventions and workshops together. She’s in her mid seventies, a grandmother, not given to loud expulsions of air in public. When the event occurred during a writing exercise, it was all I could do to keep from laughing and keep on writing.
When the presenter asked us to write a poem about something out of the ordinary, I jumped at the chance to put my experience on paper. I shared it with the group, much to the amusement of everyone, including Rose.
It could have been worse. When Rose and I attended a poets’ convention in Salt Lake City, we had an opportunity to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir live. Rose could have accompanied the strains of “Sunrise Sunset” with a loud discharge of wind. Since drinking carbonated beverages is not acceptable in the eyes of the Mormons, I can imagine choir members shaking their heads and bowing them in silent prayer for the poor sinner in the fifth row.
The room is silent
but for the scratch of pencil against paper,
murmur of voices,
flip, rip of pages.
Unexpected, it cuts through the silence,
breaks my concentration.
I fight to diffuse a bomb of mirth
that threatens to explode.
The effort brings tears to my eyes.
After a moment, I continue writing,
but my heart’s not in it anymore.
Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome