Taking a Dump

Dump. It’s a simple word, isn’t it? Whether noun or verb, it’s wholly descriptive and the meaning is clear. Not sure? Look it up. But at some point in its otherwise inoffensive history, that meaning was extended (twice over) to include not only the ridding of a person, but also the expulsion of human waste. ‘Just gunna take a dump.’ Used so often it’s almost a catchcry, all who hear it understand the speaker’s intent. Glances are exchanged, a few brows furrow and the announcement is mentally filed under Ew! TMI! Is it a peculiarly Australian idiom? I don’t know. But having grown up here, it’s easy to appreciate the symbolism — when it comes to dumping, a person can be (and often is) accorded the same disdain with which one might regard a piece of shit.

We’ve all been there: the noisy playground filled with energy and spite, kids laughing and crying, rushing and huddling, pushing and shoving, bitching and arguing. And amid all that tumult a single voice still manages to be heard, from fenceline to dingy brick building, even carrying across playing fields and through closed doors to the inner sanctum of the toilet block: ‘You’re DUMPED!’

Oh, the humiliation! The noise mutes to a startled silence, before curiosity kick-starts a murmuring, a muttering, a windy whisper: ‘Dumped? Who’s dumped?’ And all heads crane to see. The Dumper, backed by a gang of supporters, is cross-armed, defiant and always triumphant; the Dumpee stands dejected and alone, the focus of pointing fingers and smirky smiles, before bursting into tears and running off to sob in a quiet corner. Yes, we’ve all been there. And we all know there’s no easy way to take a good dumping.

I was always the Dumpee. At least at school. Of course I learned my lessons well, and applied them in later years with all the gleeful aplomb of a master Dumper. But at school I suffered. Even now I can recall the ignominy of being rejected in fifth grade by Cyril. [No, that wasn’t his real name. Had it been his real name, no such ignominy would’ve transpired. It’s rare — though not impossible — for a Cyril to be hailed as the school stud.]

It goes without saying Cyril had a girlfriend: Ethel, the school babe. The two of them would saunter and strut together, lip-locked and holding hands. And it was fitting that they paraded their youthful (if somewhat overt) sexuality before us lesser beings while we sighed our approval in their wake; they did make a fabulous couple. As only fifth-graders can.

But one day there was a falling-out; a faint rumbling in the Heavens, and Ethel was cast down. Not dumped, per se, but put aside, ‘on hold’ if you like. Punished. Except, being merely mortal and just a little desperate to be adored, I wasn’t attuned to the playful antics of such demi-gods. So when Cyril, with a casual crook of his finger, a head flick and a lazy smile, summoned me over and told me I was ‘next’, I took him at his word. For four glorious days Cyril held my hand, locked his lips to mine instead of Ethel’s and I heard the approving sighs as we floated among the less fortunate. But Ethel didn’t sigh. Nor did her cohort. And on the fifth morning, when I bounded into the school playground with unleashed-puppy eagerness and saw her once again restored to her rightful place, I stared, miserable, while Ethel and Cyril and their hangers-on all sniggered.

‘Oh yeah,’ Cyril told me, with as much concern as he might’ve paid to an untied shoelace. ‘You’re dumped.’

There it was. I’d been rejected. Ejected. Dumped and wiped and flushed. Like shit.

Nope. Even then, aged ten, the symbolism wasn’t lost on me.

Jane Abbott   

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