A new story from The Hero’s Journey for The Daily ZU – read the full story at www.thedailyzu.com. WARNING: Adult content, but excellent writing.

I’ve had some pretty dirty jobs in my life. There was that summer working in the back of a butcher shop, bagging chickens, separating necks from hearts and livers.  Try doing that hungover during a heatwave at 7 every morning. There was that time I worked as a grease monkey cleaning up a big mechanics’ garage. I remember picking cigarette butts out of the urinals and tossing out endless half-empty bottles of Michelob. I once sold cash registers door-to-door in my dad’s oversized sport coat with a gash on my face. But I don’t think anything compares to what I’ve had to do over the last few days.

It all started when my neighbor said that I should borrow his new electric log splitter, which I must admit works pretty damn well. It’s fun splitting wood. You take a round, stick on the splitter, press a couple buttons, and SNAP, CRACKLE, POP, instant firewood.

It’s fun and great and free heat, if you don’t leave it sit in a woodshed for 12 years. For if you do that, rodents might decide to turn your unused fuel into their own miniature, wooden version of Manhattan. They’ll build multistoried nests over the years between the unsplit logs. And, funny thing about the Rodentia, they make little distinction between bedroom and bathroom, between nursery and powder room, between living room and latrine. They’ll piss and shit on just about every surface. Squirrel stool, chipmunk chunks, marmot manure.

And they decorate their cute little apartments, rodents do. With bird feathers and string, with orange rope and gravel which they borrow from my driveway, and with leaves. Piles and piles of crisp, olive oak leaves jammed between the cords. And did I mention shit? Their own shit ain’t enough for them. They need to appoint their little warrens with all manner of different species of deuce: dog dung, coyote crap, bear BM.

As I pulled out petrified logs from the Jurassic, I excavated fowl feculence and foul feces, stool stolen from errant piles of exterior excrement. Little turds. Big sausages. Every excremental occurrence and conceivable shape of shite and size of scat from the order Mammalia was represented in this my shatted shed. A scatologist’s dream, my nightmare. ‘Twas ivory. ‘Twas ebony. It was a dozen shades of mousy bronze. Along with rich, deltaic ribbons of golden pee, it formed gorgeous, toffee-like mounds alternately gooey like chocolate turtles but hard as brickle. It wouldn’t come off the wood. I made a separate pile of rejection for unclean logs like that.

Mixed in with the atomizing leaf litter and bark dust, I shoveled the deliciously gluten-free granola-like substance with a coal shovel onto a nearby hill. Load after load I hauled, encountering wasps and wasp nests mortared to the wood like concrete. Out here, there is hanta virus, there is plague. So I wore a mask after that first long day, but still, the aerosolized sawdust wafted up from the splitter. On the hot, dry winds, the defecation was distributed into weaponized waste worthy of a Wuhan lab. I tried spraying the wood piles with bleach but the yellow, chlorinated droplets just blew back in my face. I tried Lysol.

I stood bereft with sunglasses and a mask and gloves and boots and a straw hat against the sun, all of which are now forever banished to the garage. There were black widows and brown recluse (widows and recluses should really get together, don’t you think?), wood ticks, and dozens of pleasurable splinters snaking their way through the gloves. Add a constantly slipping N95 mask bought for better reasons, the hottest week of the year, a nice slice along my wrist. and an aluminum broom handle actually bent in half by the inertial resistance of the bowel ejecta through which I waded, and you have a solidly crap-filled week.

What have I learned from this, besides the fact you can fall victim to even shittier jobs when you’re 58 than when you’re 18?

  • Wood splitters really do work. I found myself thinking up ways to use one in a macabre crime story.
  • Can I burn wood marbled with manure? I’ve heard that kids sometimes set bags of dog crap on fire at some neighbor’s front door. Maybe I won’t need any kindling.
  • Shit sticks to wood in insoluble ways.
  • Clean your woodshed once every year, or you’ll have to blog about it.
  • Rodents rule. People have merely evolved to provide them with lavatories.
  • Some days, you just gotta shovel shit.