When Uncan farted on the foot of the business manager of the National Folk Ballet of Yugoslavia, I realized for the first time in my life how maligned and ill-defined an object of the human experience the fart really is. Until then, I had lived my life believing the fart to be the one thing in life entirely void of redeeming qualities. But I was wrong, and discovering that I was wrong was a sobering disclosure of no small import.
Of course, when the curtain of ignorance rises on an enlightenment of this magnitude, it is the discover's responsibility to share it. First, I make no claim to an extraordinary intellect for making this discovery. I feel sure every reasoning being has from time to time contemplated the fart and arrived at conclusions not dissimilar to my own. Yet, we cannot ignore the unfortunate fact that few have felt compelled to write about their excogitations. If memory serves, Benjamin Franklin's views* on the fart are the only ones of real note ever recorded for posterity, not counting, of course, the uninteresting scientific scribbling of physiologists who insist upon calling intestinal gas "flatus." To the best of my knowledge, we have no physiological verb to describe the expulsion of flatus. We seem to be stuck with "fart!"
Now treatment of the fart as a social force is little in evidence throughout the annals of literature. And I must confess: subjects so deserving but so little attended have always offended my sense of justice. Therefore, I was not in the least surprised that after the Uncan affair I found myself sharing Dr. Franklin's compulsion, if not his erudition, to take up pen and witness for the honor of the fart.
Although it is my fondest hope that my narrative will inspire a new respect for the fart, I am painfully aware that it may turn out to be just a meaningless polemic on a rank subject, relegated to that shameful heap of literature that not only is no good, but, in the minds of readers everywhere, never should have been written in the first place. I cannot, however, allow myself to be deterred by these cowardly considerations. This treatise begs to be written, notwithstanding any prospects for personal achievement and notoriety for having done so. For I am a South Georgia Writing Project writer compelled to write!
Moreover, I am satisfied that the fart is the most consistently unexamined, universal phenomena in history. And even if this humble treatment of so worthy a subject attains no measure of achievement, it may, at the least, inspire others to produce something on the subject that does.
With all that said then, let us proceed by returning to our beginning when Uncan unashamedly gassed the Yugoslavian foot: ballet had been brought to our hometown of Waycross, Georgia, by the local Community Concert Association. Our community theater group, to which I belonged at the time, had been asked to provide some technical assistance to the touring folk dancers during their performance, an assignment that had been heartily embraced and, I must admit, hastily exploited as was our group's wont.
Never guilty of blinking opportunity for profitable social intercourse, much less the "absolutely marvelous" chance to rub elbows with fellow artists of such renown, the self-appointed matriarch of our group prevailed upon the nearly sixty Yugoslavians to report to her house following their performance for a cast party. And once arrived, everyone tried mightily to enjoy themselves despite the considerable awkwardness at bridging gaps between language, culture, and political persuasion.
Now it so happened that our hostess was the proud owner of a number of dogs of questionable births, one among them whose name was Uncan, pronounced Unk'an. How this delightful rogue came to be named may be of some interest in the present context, for, as we shall see presently, his designation is most appropriate.
I am told the dog had arrived on the premises some years before, ravished, brutally bloodied, and barely alive, to make his last stand among humans. Clearly, his choice of humans had been a good one. He was taken in, fed, cared for, and ultimately given a home and his name, Uncan.
The name was furnished by our hostess's husband, a Scot more than a little familiar with his native tongue. According to this distinguished gentleman (who is now deceased, God rest his soul), the word uncan is a derivation of the Scottish word unco, which means remarkable, extraordinary, strange, weird, uncanny and so forth, depending on the word's usage; applied to this dog, it meant all those things at once! But we are slipping into a digression of little to no relevance to this narrative. It is mentioned only to help dispel any doubt the reader may be harboring that this report is founded in truth. Let us now move ahead with the story.
As already established, the cast party was being held together by the thinnest of threads, traveling solely upon the strength of what common denominators could be discovered among the people of these two nations. The bonding was precarious and growing worse by the minute. Wherever one looked there was a marked effort to say and do the right things lest one be guilty of compromising the honor and integrity of one another's country. It soon became quite apparent that everyone had expended their cache of conversational confidence.
It was precisely at this moment--during this international affair in Waycross, Georgia-- that Uncan arrived at the feet of one Alexandar Fotiric, business manager of the National Folk Ballet of Yugoslavia, and farted! . . . It was a superb fart. Magnificent! Crisp and clean and to the point, it was a thoroughbred fart by any standard. It was a fart so arresting that the common practice among people everywhere of ignoring it was impossible. In point of fact, to have even tried ignoring it would have been, for artists, intolerably dishonest. First, it was audible enough for all in reasonably close proximity to hear. But its real signature followed its melodious thunder: a stench so commanding of even the dullest olfactory sense that no one in the entire house escaped.
But it was not so much the preeminence of Uncan's fart as it was its amalgamating affect upon those assembled that has so totally captured my fancy and inspired this record. For in the span of a moment, thanks to a wanton dog, all differences melded into similarities, and members of two very divergent nations realized that the one thing that links them in humanity, even more so than art, is the fart.
Following Uncan's serendipitous offering, for example, Yugoslavians and Americans alike suddenly found themselves no longer confronting barriers to their relationships. Quick and sudden as the fart itself, they found themselves on common ground, at one with each other in the human race, each tolerant, respectful, appreciative of the other. They were instantly at peace, and unmistakably identified with each other. The reason for this international transmutation was not multifaceted or complex\; it was so because each recognized Uncan's rendition for what it was: a fart! Nothing more. Nothing less. Consequently, each individual there, regardless of nationality, race, creed, or politics, came to terms with his or her own tacit confession--a lifetime of personal farting!
Hearing and smelling and seeing a simple dog's fart bring about this remarkable linkage between people with so little in common, apart from their art, has been a revelation of no small import. Revelations, as the reader may suspect, rarely come cheaply. The price I pay for this one is the incumbency of trying to influence the civilized people of this planet to recognize the potential of the fart for easing world tensions. I will not go so far as to suggest that the fart is a panacea for world peace, but as a common ground upon which all men stand it is virtually without equation. All that is missing is a common willingness to utilize it as a beginning basis for relationships. For who can deny, truthfully, that he or she does not experience an immediate alliance with a fellow being who has just introduced a fart into their affairs?
David B. Shields