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

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Explosive Diarrhea and Vomiting 

About a week before we moved into the house we were building, we had a roof, a subfloor, one wall with an open clearstory and door way. What we didn’t have was plumbing unless you count the five gallon bucket with a plastic toilet seat attached to it. We didn’t have a breaker box or other sort of wiring other than electric box attached to the pole about ten feet from the house. We had been using its two outlets for months to power saws and batteries for drill bits and sometimes a fan or radio. We were picking up a used refrigerator the next day and an office water-cooler the day after that. There were piles of plywood in the center of the house, a foot high pile of sawdust in one corner, random nails and screws strewn across the floor, and scaffolding inside the house. 

Jim, my husband, was ecstatic while we sipped beer sitting on one of the window frames. It was well after dark when we could no longer work by flashlight, when we had to pack up and assess the work for the next day. “It’s going to be great,” he said. “We’ll wire breaker box and the refrigerator. We’ll use water from the cooler. We’ll get dish tubs for dishes. Maybe we’ll eat frozen meals for a while.” 

I was not so optimistic. Working until 9 pm each night on the house and then driving the hour back to Birmingham and washing my overalls and Jim’s work clothes to rid them of chiggers and then cooking some sort of supper had me exhausted. 

“What about showers?” I asked. 

“We’ll go to the gym.”  

“We can’t keep cutting wood in the house. I can’t stand having sawdust in all my clothes. In fact, we need those big plastic tubs to store our clothes in or bugs will get in them.” 

“That’ll be fine.” 

“You know our stuff is going to mildew. It’s too humid.” 

“We’ll deal with that.” 

“What if something goes wrong? Something always goes wrong.” 

“Like what? It will be like camping.” 

“We could get explosive diarrhea and vomiting. Then we’re are totally screwed. No way they’ll let us in the gym then.” 

Jim looked at me like I was crazy.

“It could happen. It does happen. We have to be careful. Things go wrong and quick. We can’t keep building like this and expect it all to be ok.”  

After four years, we have walls with real outlets in them. We’re still without plumbing unless you count the plastic bucket inside a wooden box with a wooden toilet seat attached to it and the outdoor shower. But no one has had explosive diarrhea and vomiting. No one was more  unprepared for that than I was.