Total Eclipse of the Moon
Twenty minutes ago Zack's cousin Billy stole the T-shirt, cut-off jeans and fruit-of-the-Loom briefs Zack had left on a hook in the outhouse. Without noticing, Zack had pulled the outhouse door almost shut behind him and hung his swim trunks on a hook. Billy sneaked up, snatched the trunks, and ran off, cackling, into the woods.
Now Zack rises to his tiptoes, puts his mouth to the crescent moon, and whispers, "Help!" His head begins to whirl from sweat and the stink of the toilet hole. He could bolt for the woods, but the trees hide a jungle of poison ivy. He could sprint for the cabin, but someone would spot him. Tearing off two sheets of toilet paper, he wipes his dripping forehead.
All of a sudden the crescent moon goes dark. The door rattles against the flimsy latch. Uncle Bruce, who talks as if every word is crammed up inside his nose, says, "Hello?"
Zack shuts his eyes. "Just a minute!"
"That you, Zacky boy?"
"Yes!" Zack wraps a few layers of toilet paper around his sweaty groin and buttocks, but the paper instantly clumps and dissolves. He wads it up and tosses it into the toilet hole.
"Hustle your butt! I gotta take a dump." Uncle Bruce whistles "Born to Run" as he leans a shoulder against the door. The boards creak. "Come on, Zacky! You get your little pecker stuck in the hole?"
Uncle Bruce crams his face against the moon hole. "You alone?"
Zack squeezes his naked backside into the corner. His forehead brushes an ancient strip of fly paper suspended from a nail. "Of course!"
The latch shakes free and the door flies open. Bruce's chubby head thrusts into the outhouse. Zack slips through the crevice of open air between the door frame and his uncle's enormous belly. Bruce's fat fingers clutch at his shoulders, slipping off in Zack's rush of sweat and panic. The boy hurdles a beach ball and sprints toward the cabin.
Uncle Bruce shouts, "Zacky! You're naked!"
Zack stubs his toe against a rock in the weeds, but loses only a step. His mother comes onto the porch with a gin and tonic in one hand and a bag of potato chips in the other. Her big brown eyes meet Zack's. She tosses back her head and squawks with laughter. Potato chips scatter.
Zack veers left toward the woods. Billy steps out of the bushes. He has Zack's swim trunks draped over his hair like an Indian headdress. He cocks a handful of mud at his ear, ready to fire. Zack pivots and dashes for the lake, but old Mrs. Alstead from next door stands directly between him and the water. A wicker basket filled with driftwood tumbles from her trembling hands. She screeches, "Zachary Norris, put on your clothes before I call the cops!"
Zack's cousin Ellie and three other girls rise from the water in pastel bathing suits; one by one, they point at Zack and scream. He wheels toward the cabin, leapfrogs the croquet mallets, and darts for the far corner of the house as Uncle Bruce's voice rises above the cacophony:
"Get him, Billy!"
Something cold and wet slaps hard against Zack's bottom. As if in slow motion -- with his mother's laughter and the little girls' shrieks echoing in his ears -- Zack's knees buckle. He trips and falls toward the weeds, toward years of shame and humiliation, toward wretched interviews for pathetic jobs, toward belittling breakups with women he truly loves and who never really love him back, toward a lifetime of scratching his way to some semblance of respectability -- down, down, down he falls through a thousand holidays and gatherings when the story of this long ago summer day gets told and retold, when the family hoots and laughs because there he landed, face-down in the weeds with his pale buttocks exposed to the world through a thick, dark splatter of mud.