By Robert Racicot
Why do we need to dig up the dead?
That night, I noticed the specimen jar was larger than usual, about the size of a large mason jar with a metal screw top. Normally, my high school psychology teacher and theater director used smaller vial-sized containers to collect my urine. He had never once used one of those wide-top, plastic specimen cups before. I guess it should have been a clue that something was amiss. It never occurred to me how strange it was that I never provided my urine at a doctor’s office in the privacy of a bathroom with that rotating rusted metal carousel thing in the wall.
We always drove to isolated places along the many Army Corps dirt roads throughout Oxford. Collecting the urine was part of a study, he told me, and a doctor was involved with it, though I never met nor could ever locate him years later. A Dr. Shuman, Shubert, Orange Sherbet kind of name. My teacher told me the money he paid me, twenty bucks a specimen, was funded by a government grant for a critical study on drug abuse. Not my drug abuse; as a teenager, I partook in alcohol and marijuana. He told me my urine was needed for the control sample. I’m not totally sure, but I suspect that a control sample for a drug study should be clean of all drugs. Anyway, St. Roch’s catholic church loaned him a building on Main St. to set up a drug rehab place. I visited there several times, and it never seemed strange to me that there were no offices, no counselors, no doctors, no labs, only old couches where junkies could shoot up, hang out in a safe environment, and give their pee away.
Like a horned pout swallowing the worm and the hook in Carbuncle Pond, I was caught. It all sounded legitimate to me. He was very convincing when I first met him as a thirteen-year-old, naive, recently-christened pothead nerd. He was on a mission to save the drug addicts of the world, and I was a critical cog in the machine. Besides, twenty bucks was righteous money back in the 70s. It was better than scrubbing pots and pans at the local steakhouse for $2.35 an hour, and it was money that my parents didn’t know about that I could use to buy alcohol and marijuana. Back then, twenty bucks could get you a hefty size bag of mexi-dirt weed.
I realize now he did it all to maximize his time and exposure with the young males of the town to develop a closer relationship with them. He created and ran the Oxford Youth Center. He was allowed by the town to use the old building at Carbuncle Pond beach as a hangout for kids on the weekends. It was here that he first recruited me and my friends. He organized and chaperoned camping trips to Buffumville Dam Recreation Area in Charlton (which was another perfect event to collect pee), bus trips into Boston for Cat Stevens, concerts to see The Beach Boys, plays like Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar, and an amazing ten day trip to London and Paris.
But this night—the last time I ever provided a specimen for him—was different. We had driven down into the Buffumville Dam Recreation Area and parked next to a picnic table. (Back then, there wasn’t a gate.) His car’s headlights illuminated a stage setting: me with my pants and underwear draped around my ankles like a shackled death row inmate on his final walk, my skinny, white, wannabe-famous-actor’s ass projecting a shadowed silhouette across a backdrop of white pines, urinating into the glass jar. I remember peeing for a long time. I kept thinking, large or not, the jar was going to overflow. You tend to pee more when you are encouraged to hold your urine back, hold it until it hurts so bad it feels like bees are stinging the insides of your bladder.
This night, just when I was about to finally relieve the pain, he asked me to lean my butt against the picnic table and lean back. The specific dialogue is lost; in fact, I can’t even recall how his voice sounded. Thinking about it now, I hope I gave him a look of, Hey this isn’t usual, and he might have said, It’s fine. Don’t worry. I’m not going to hurt you, or something to that effect. But he did. The next thing I knew, his large hands were on my stomach—he was a heavy set man, mind you—and he thrust them fast and hard into my bladder like a strong sucker punch to the gut. Newton’s third law kicked in, and my body reacted to his force in the opposite direction. I stood up and before I could say anything more than, “Ugh,” I was peeing into the jar that he must have handed to me at some point. All I can remember after his move was standing there peeing for a long time, my stomach hurting, in shock.
Again, the dialogue fails me. He must have reassured me that what he had done was all part of the mission. When I finally finished, I handed him the jar and pulled up my underwear and pants. He held my specimen up in the light, his lips pursed while rubbing his fingers through his dark thick beard, like an alchemist admiring his latest transformed elixir.
“Aha, there’s sperm!” he proclaimed
My brain flooded with thoughts, the first being, You can get sperm this way. Having started masturbating at puberty, I thought there was only one way to obtain sperm. The thought that followed was, Why does he need my sperm? And then: Is my sperm part of the drug study? My gut hurts. I don’t like this.
The ride home was silent. He must have sensed my apprehension with this new experience and was afraid I was going to tell someone. I knew this because shortly after getting home, a classmate and fellow theater club member called to ask if I was alright and to tell me to keep it all a secret. I knew one thing for sure: I didn’t like what had happened. My stomach hurt whenever I peed for quite a while after that night.
The regular peeing events were nothing. In fact, school friends and I would go together for free beer and money for weed. He didn’t seem concerned that multiple students knew about his pee collection program. He must have figured he had a solid story, and I guess he did; he collected pee for two decades or more. Until now, I never told anyone about this sperm extraction experiment, though. That felt different. It hurt and it still bothers me. I can’t call myself a victim. This is very minor compared to the atrocities committed in our ever-growing psychopathic world, which extends all the way up to the president of the United States. What bothers me is that I was duped. Even he must have known it was pushing some boundaries. He was scared that I was going to tell someone who would cry foul, and our relationship ended that night. Later, he gave the lead part for the school play to someone else.
I left town after high school and didn’t come back for thirty-five years, but I kept in touch with a few of the Rocky Hill road gang. I learned that the man eventually left teaching (I suspect the school might have gotten wind of things and encouraged him to leave, covering it up neat and pretty) to become a very popular priest at St. John’s in Worcester. His parishioners loved him for his less dogmatic, freestyle, and pop-song-filled masses and relatable, meaningful homilies. I was told his Saturday night masses were packed and had an almost party-like atmosphere. The local paper did an article about his growing popularity. He became so popular that one of his subjects (We can’t be called “victims,” although I heard that years after I left, things got stranger and much worse than just pushing bladders to extract sperm), a close friend from the old neighborhood, decided he had heard enough and came forward with his story. Sure, he peed for him, but the guy had grabbed his penis while driving around Worcester looking for prostitutes. Well after that, the proverbial shit hit the fan.
The short of it is that dozens of his past students and theater club members came out of the woodwork like roaches when the lights go out. I suspect there were many more like me who didn’t want to admit to letting it happen. Eventually, the state police got involved. The funny thing is, zero evidence was presented in his defense; no documentation of a government grant, no copies of lab results from the multiple gallons of urine, and no witnesses came forward in his defense. “Dr. Sherbert” didn’t make an appearance. My teacher had created an elaborate hoax to collect pee, extract sperm and eventually molest some kids. He was removed from his congregation. I heard he became a drunk and died alone. It’s sad. A part of me felt sorry for him. But one lingering question will forever haunt me: What did he do with all the pee?
Why am I writing about this so many years later? I’ll be honest: I’m not sure. I guess it still bothers me enough that my brain is telling me to get rid of it, to tell someone. My career, my marriage and my three children kept me so busy I must have forgotten about it or pushed it in deeper. But moving back and walking my dog on the same trails where we peed for him has conjured it back to life.
Young or not, I wish I could have seen the clues right there in front of me. I wish I had had a better relationship with my parents to tell them the night it happened. So I guess there is a message here: Can we truly know people? Does everyone—even parents, friends, spouses, and certainly new people we meet—have hidden agendas? Do you have a hidden agenda in your relationships? Are relationships just another way to get what we need from someone and vise versa? Which brings us to a deeper question: Can you ever truly trust someone?
I tried to raise my kids to be on their guard, particularly with adults in positions of authority, and to look out for weird things if and when they happen, and if they do, to gather evidence and think scientifically. My son’s scout master was arrested for sex offenses against some young scouts years after we left Pittsfield. I saw red flags immediately after I found out that he was a forty-five-year-old man living alone way out in the most rural part of the city. He owned a fishing boat and would select a few chosen kids to go camping and fishing with him in Salem. One year, he asked my son to go along. I think that middle-school-age is old enough to understand these things, so rather than tell him he couldn’t go, I sat him down and warned him to be on the lookout for anything weird.
A last word of advice: When you have kids and they join a program like sports, dance, theater, or Scouts, go up to the coach, director, or leader and ask them which kid theirs is. If they don’t have a kid in the program, ask yourself why it is they are involved. What’s their real agenda? It might very well be legitimate—a sincere love for the activity—or it could be something else entirely.