The death of the DustBuster
Like most teens of my generation, I experimented with alcohol. My first experience with the “hair of the dog” was a slapstick event that led to the ruin of a perfectly good G.I. Joe thermos as well as a host of other objects, including my mother’s DustBuster.
Due to my inability to function in a “normal” school environment, it was eventually decided that I would attend a boarding school. When my parents observed marked improvement in my behavior and academic performance, they sent my brothers, Joe and Adam, there as well. The school was a short, hour-long drive from home, so my parents let us come home some weekends.
Our first encounter with hard liquor took place on one of those weekends.
It was Saturday night and we were up late, as usual, watching “Mr. Ed” on Nick at Nite. We got bored, which usually meant we would soon do something that was dangerous, stupid or a combination of the two.
I don’t exactly know how the subject came up, but we started talking about booze and a few of our relatives’ drunken antics we had observed at some family functions.
We decided to conduct a controlled experiment, like any good scientists. Joe and I would get drunk and mark the effects while Adam would be the sober control group.
We needed a container for the booze and a method of procurement. As a master thief, Adam would be our method. An old G.I. Joe thermos would serve as a container.
This would be both an indoor and outdoor experiment. The first batch of liquor was sour mash Kentucky bourbon. We took the thermos outside, into the woods behind the house. It was a cool, clear night. Joe and I perched on a concrete manhole, the access to our neighborhood’s drainage system.
I took the thermos he passed me, smelled its contents and immediately drew back with an involuntary shudder. I took a large quaff of bourbon and swallowed it quickly.
Everything burned. My nose, throat and chest were all instantly on fire. I began to choke and wheeze like a dying asthmatic. I nearly gagged, but managed to keep the liquid from coming back up. After a few moments, I regained my composure and decided to try again, only slower this time.
We passed the thermos back and forth for a while until we emptied it. Our tolerance for the harshness of the booze increased. We began to feel a combination of numbness and euphoria. I grew lightheaded and felt like I was three feet thick and bulletproof.
After stumbling around the woods in the dark, we decided it would be safer to take the party inside. We headed back into the house for round two.
Adam had emptied the bourbon bottle into the thermos on the first try, so he used other kinds of alcohol for the next fill-up. It turned out to be a kamikaze cocktail of several different types of booze.
We turned on the radio and sucked down another thermos of liquor. Soon, Joe felt inclined to dance around the room, nearly yelling, “F— the world, F— the world. I feel f—ing great, man.”
This went on for a few minutes, until he fell onto his bed, saying that the room was spinning. It wasn’t for me yet, but it was getting there.
Laying on his bed, Joe puked – a huge pile on his blankets and some on the floor. It was one of the nastiest things I have ever witnessed.
Adam tried to get me to help him clean up the puke. “Help me get the blankets off the bed and into the washing machine, and then find something to clean up the pile on the floor,” he said.
I did the best I could in my drunken state. We got the blankets into the washer and I set about looking for a way to clean up the puke in the floor.
I remembered my mom had gotten a machine called a DustBuster for Christmas. It was a small, hand-held device made by Black & Decker that operated like a vacuum cleaner.
I grabbed it off of its charger and went back to the bedroom. I was drunk, so I didn’t realize the DustBuster was only for dry messes, and began to suck my brother’s vomit into it. It clogged up. I didn’t think to empty it; I was so drunk, I just put it back on the charger.
I cleaned up the rest of the vomit with a bucket and some soapy water and let it dry overnight.
The next day found me with a pounding headache, a queasy stomach and cottonmouth. It found Joe lying beside the toilet, moaning that he was going to die and would never drink again.
My mother’s DustBuster was ruined; she found it smoking on the charger a couple of days later. It had baked the vomit inside of it.
I learned a few lessons about alcohol that night. First, you shouldn’t mix different kinds of it. Second, consuming mass quantities of it is not only stupid but dangerous. Third, you can’t suck up vomit with a DustBuster.