Stink in a Bottle

[Exercise: Tell me about a storage unit or someplace you stored things.]

I’ve always been suspicious of people’s intentions, even as a child. Children have little power and it’s easy to write off the things they do as “kids' stuff.” It’s only now, upon greater self-reflection, that I’m beginning to understand the underlying purpose for some of my actions as a child. One way I used to “test” the adults around me was to play pranks on them. This enabled me to solicit their attention, on my terms.

I had a collection of pranks that I stored in my closet, in a small shoebox. I had a few standards—a whoopee cushion, a pack of chewing gum that emits a mild shock when you attempt to take a piece, plastic poop, rubber roaches—but my favorites were those that generated a greater, more disturbing reaction. I’d “accidentally” squirt disappearing ink on someone’s shirt so I could observe the disappointment on their faces, followed by relief once I divulged the truth.

My all time favorite was “Stink in a bottle.” (Yes, stink can be bottled and sold for a profit.) I’d knock on strangers’ doors, leaving a wad of stinky toilet paper with the words “Smell me!” written on it, at the foot of their doorsteps. Then I’d run and hide someplace where I could peek out and see their reactions. Some picked up and tossed the stinky paper aside, but to my satisfaction, many smelled it first. Only the occasional dunce failed to look down. I find it telling that I wrote, “Smell me!” instead of “Smell this!” indicating my desire to be “smelled,” looked at, paid attention to.

The most disappointing (because it had so much potential, but took too long to produce results) was the plastic ice cube with a fly inside. The pain of pretending to be interested in adult conversation as my unsuspecting victims casually sipped their drinks was too much for an eager child to handle. Most never even noticed the fly or if they did they pretended not to. But I doubt they were pretending because I would have noticed. I’ve always been good and discerning who’s telling the truth and who’s not.