“Pull your pants up,” Mr. Murphy screamed at us, his face purple with rage, as we tried to get our balance hanging our bare rear ends over the railing of the cable car taking us up the Swiss Alps. “Now, god damn it!” he yelled, swearing in front of us for the first time. “You all are miscreants who deserve to fall backwards out of this car to violent and painful deaths.”
It was our eighth grade class trip. Nine of us boys — friends as far back as any of us could remember — plus Mean Mr. Murphy, the strictest, angriest teacher at school; a grizzled and fried old man who detested the sight of us in our graphic t-shirts and cargo shorts, hated every molecule of our soft bodies. We’d joke about wars we fought in video games and he’d bark at us that we knew nothing of war and needed to shut our pansy mouths. He’d been in several wars. He’d done bad things, and bad things had been done to him. The medals from those wars clanked around his neck at all times, a constant reminder that he was tough and hardened and had no time for immature horseplay.
“I’ll kill each and every one of you myself if you don’t pull your pants up and get in line, you doughball fucks,” he said.
Most of us had always been terrified of Mean Mr. Murphy and we complied immediately, leaping down from the cable car rail, zipping our pants up, and apologizing for this juvenile idea to go to the bathroom over the edge, dropping turds like wet bombs into the plush white snow. But Davis, our beefy leader — lanky and heavy; face bumped with pimples and stiff hairs — stayed put, sitting on the hand rail with his ski pants pulled down to his knees, visibly straining to push a big one out.
“God damn it,” Mr. Murphy shrieked, tobacco spraying out of his brown teeth. He marched towards Davis, jammed a finger into his face. “I will push your useless body over this railing and feel no remorse for your death. I’ll say you slipped, and if any of your limp-dicked friends disagrees, he’ll be the next one hurled into savage oblivion.”
Davis bit his lip, squeezed his abs to try to get something out.
Mr. Murphy slapped Davis hard across the face and lunged at him. Davis’s face flashed real terror, but a loud pop fired above us — like a gunshot — and Mr. Murphy recoiled, scanning all around him for threats. The cable car suddenly dropped a foot, and we stopped moving. Dangling there three hundred feet up, we met danger for the first time.
A speaker crackled. “This is cable car dispatch: we have a category five emergency situation. Your car will fall and you will all die in one minute. But if you can drop just a pound and a half, we’ll be able to get you down. Start unloading whatever you can stand to lose over the railing immediately.”
Davis smirked, his exposed ass still drooping over the railing, mentally calculating ounces. “Hey, Mr. Murphy,” he said. “A pound and a half? How about all those medals around your neck?”
Mr. Murphy gasped, clutching his honors. “How dare you.”
“Oh, okay,” Davis said. “I guess we’ll all have to die then, because I’m not allowed to drop this ripe, fat turd.”
The rest of us began to understand Davis’s coup. Ryan pulled his pants down, and then Mason, and Andy, and Rob, and the rest of us. We all hoisted ourselves up on that ledge, asses in position.
“I guess this is where we all die,” Davis said. “Because, even though combined we contain at minimum two full pounds of excrement we’re ready to release, our teacher forbids it. And if we’re anything, we’re obedient. Especially to the commands of our wise leader, Mr. Murphy.”
Mr. Murphy turned his back. He gripped the rail opposite us, gazed out at the stunning vista, spitting over and over until he realized our battalion had seized a unique battlefield opportunity and outflanked him. We had him pinned.
Another bolt above us snapped and we fell five feet.
“God damn it,” Murphy said. “Do it.”
“Do what?” Davis said.
Murphy shook his head. “Go to the bathroom.”
“Please go to the bathroom.”
We held each other’s hands on the ice-cold rail as we pushed out turd after turd. Our eyes lit up at the sight, through the grated floor, of each bomb sinking so rapidly, and at the beautiful puff of airy snow when they made contact. We’d expected the stunt to be funny, but it was hysterical, the most hilarious thing any of us had ever seen. Beyond the humor, though, it was graceful and serene; the heavenly steam rising from the hot logs.
We finished defecating and urinating, and the cable car began moving. Mr. Murphy didn’t look at us for the rest of the ride. But as we drove over the pile we’d deposited so far down below, we saw an unmistakable smirk flicker on Murphy’s lips.
When we set foot on solid ground, Mean Mr. Murphy made us stand in a line before him. We expected to be slapped. But he went down one by one, removing his military medals and placing one over each of our heads, thanking us for our heroic service, for saving all of our lives and standing up to authority to do the right thing.
For the rest of the school year, Mr. Murphy was as furious and strict as ever with everyone else, but he gave us a pass. He liked us; maybe we reminded him of the buddies he’d had in the war who’d been slaughtered in front of him. He let us talk in class and cheat on tests and he even laughed when Davis pulled his pants down and dropped a massive stretch-limousine stinky onto his desk on the last day of school. Murphy volunteered to vouch for Davis at the disciplinary hearing, insisting it was an accident, and saved Davis from expulsion.
We stayed in touch for the rest of our lives, going over to visit him a couple of times a week in his retirement home. We’d help him eat, get him dressed, and threaten to pull our pants down and defecate on his floor. He’d always tell us not to do it, and then we’d do it, and Mean Mr. Murphy would smile, letting his guard down just for a minute. Only with us.