birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Poopy Pants

This isn’t an important detail, but I was wearing black, white, and gold plaid pants that day. Yeah, I was feelin’ it. I was working at my parents’ medical supply store at the time and I went to the post office to drop off some mail, probably a bunch of appeals for reimbursement denials to get paid for stuff we’d already given out to patients. Anyway, there was a lady standing in front of the entrance of the post office asking for change. Trying to get enough money for the bus, she said. Normally I assume that’s just a line but, that day, I really believed her. I wish I could remember her name. I know she told it to me. I honestly didn’t have any cash on me but I wanted to help her get enough money for the bus fare. She needed plenty of change, actually, because she had to catch the bus into Downtown and then transfer to another bus into the Valley from there. Turns out, it was pretty tough to get strangers to hand over their money, even spare change. Maybe we were too much of a confounding duo. A young Asian woman in loud plaid pants and a middle-aged white lady who looked and smelled homeless asking for money.

We managed to get enough change for the second leg of her trip. I wasn’t sure what to do. I couldn’t stand there panhandling all day. I told her I needed to get back to work.

“I don’t know what to do! I POOPED, Helen. I POOPED my pants.”

She showed me her bum. She had indeed pooped in her pants.


I wanted to run away screaming and then throw up somewhere clean and not smelly but I held it together. I grabbed a handful of Tyvek Priority mail envelopes from the post office and spread them across the passenger seat of my car. Several layers. I told her I would give her a ride into Downtown. She got in, though I could tell she felt guilty about her poopy pants. I think that’s why she kept repeating herself. It was a confession of sorts.

“I POOPED, Helen. I POOPED my pants.”

The smell instantly filled the air in the car and I couldn’t be polite. I pulled down all the windows and flew down 8th Street as fast as possible, trying to keep my nose in the direction of the outside air.

She said some other things too, besides reminding me that she had pooped her pants. She said she lived in a trailer park and that she had to leave suddenly a few days ago because her partner had attacked her. I told her I was worried that she was going back there. She said it would be alright. I didn’t know what else to do but nod my head and keep on driving toward the bus stop in Downtown.

I asked her for her number. I said I would check in on her to make sure she got home okay. I called the number the next day but she didn’t pick up. I tried a couple more times and no one ever picked up.

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