A Walk in the Countryside

BY HARRY DELANEY

Since I was a young man I have suffered from diverticulitis. As a consequence of my condition, I have avoided certain foods. I tend to get dreadful cases of irritable bowel if I consume pulses or plums or drink too much milk. So when I met my wife I made the supreme sacrifice and gave up baked beans – a food I’d grown up with as a child and loved.

Some months after our marriage in 1987, on my birthday, my car broke down on the way home from work. This was nothing new – at the time I was driving an old Granada and it was forever playing up. I called my wife from a nearby phone box and told her that I would be late because I had to walk home. The house we were living in was in the countryside and I knew a few cut-throughs down bridleways which would make the walk manageable – it was a sunny day, so the walk would not take much more than an hour. I had missed lunch and remember I was absolutely starving.

On my way back home, I passed by a small cafe in a village and the odour of burgers emanating from it was more than I could stand. Back then, for whatever reason, these burgers were served with chips and a sizeable side of baked beans. This would be my birthday treat to myself, I thought. With miles to walk, I figured that I would walk off any ill effects by the time I reached home, so I stopped at the cafe and, before I knew it, I had consumed the burger, chips, and the baked beans. On the way home, I tried my best to release as much gas as was brewing.

Upon my arrival, my wife seemed unusually excited to see me and exclaimed delightedly: “Darling I have a surprise for dinner tonight.”

I dared not tell her about stopping off at the cafe.

My wife then blindfolded me (this is not a usual thing) and led me to my chair at the dining room table. I took a seat and, just as she was about to remove my blindfold, the telephone in the kitchen rang. She made me promise not to touch the blindfold until she returned and went to answer the telephone call.

The baked beans I had consumed were now seriously affecting me and the pressure was becoming most unbearable, so while my wife was out of the room I seized the opportunity, shifted my weight to one leg and let rip. It was not only loud, but it smelled dreadful too. I took my napkin from my lap and fanned the air around me vigorously. Then, shifting to the other cheek, I let rip three times more. The beans were causing me considerable discomfort. The stink was worse than cooked cabbage.

Keeping my ears carefully tuned to the ongoing conversation in the other room, I went on like this for another few minutes. The intermittent release was indescribable. Irritable bowel syndrome can be a very painful condition when a release is not viable.

When eventually the telephone farewells signalled the end of my freedom, I quickly fanned the air a few more times with my napkin, placed it back on my lap and folded my hands back on it feeling very relieved and pleased with myself.

My face must have been the picture of innocence when my wife returned, apologising for taking so long. She asked me if I had peeked through the blindfold, and I assured her I had not. At this point, she removed the blindfold, and the twelve dinner guests seated around the table chorused: “Happy Birthday!”