Several years ago a toilet for employees of a St. Paul, Minn., bank exploded, and the guy on the receiving end asked for $50,000, an amount that also included the cost for new three-piece suit.
His lawyer claimed “a geyser of what we believe approached 300 gallons of raw sewage came blasting up out of the toilet with such force that it stood him straight up.”
It reminded me of the time a Rapid City neighbor kid and I blew up the second-story toilet and some of the timber supporting his house. Jimmy McKeever and I were bored. The Fourth of July was a day away. We had the patience of 12-year-olds.
We could hardly wait for the Forth of July. We had cherry bombs, or Silver Salutes, as they were called then. We decided to try out just one before the legal time for fireworks arrived.
Silver Salutes were powerful. In fact, they may be banned now, except for use by coal miners and military demolition experts.
We’d heard from older guys that the Silver Salute fuses actually burned under water. That hardly seemed possible to us. We decided to find out.
Jimmy lived a block from our house on Clark Street, across the street from the Catholic Church convent. We called it the nunnery.
We were in his upstairs bathroom when we discussed the highly improbable thesis that Silver Salute fuses burned underwater. No one was in the house at the time.
As all parents are painfully aware, boys of 12 know all the questions and also all the answers.
Since it was 12-year-old Jimmy’s toilet, he would light and throw the Silver Salute. It was my 12-year-old responsibility to flush the toilet and close the lid.
The fuse was lit and sparkled red in Jimmy’s hand. He dropped it in. I immediately hit the flush lever and slammed down the lid with alacrity.
We felt the explosion as well as heard it. The toilet lid flew up, and the stool’s contents bathed us generously.
We flew down the stairs, half-blinded by Saniflush, and discovered that the explosion had gone off about halfway down the wall-encased sewer pipe, at about overstuffed chair headrest height.
Wet plaster covered wet headrests and wet carpet. Pieces of sewer pipe littered the living room. Fortunately, with no one there, there were no fatalities.
I personally didn’t stick around to file a damage report. In fact, I was so scared that I forgot to open the screen door. I ran through the convent back yard, and sprinted for home, where I immediately got in bed and covered my head with my pillow.
Police would never think to look for me there.
I believe I hid out for about three days, and I never returned to Jimmy McKeever’s house. But all my life, I’ve kept a sharp eye out for Mr. McKeever, who I just know has been looking for me. He has a big stick in his hand, along with a roll of duct tape and a length of rope.
And now this report of the St. Paul toilet explosion comes along. If it can happen in Minnesota, it can happen here.
So I not only have to live in life’s shadows hiding from Mr. McKeever. I also now have to worry about exploding toilets and raw sewage “standing me straight up.”
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