Pit latrine detective

A neighbor drew Tavkhai’s attention with a piercing, loud whistle. This was not an ordinary neighbor- but a very wise one, who reminds Tavkhai of the things he would have never thought of on his own or would have never come up with. 

The neighbor said, “What is inside a pit latrine is not excreta but precious items, not a waste but valuable fertilizer. The Chinese use it as a fertilizer and produce a great harvest. You are a fool to give it away for free" in an intimidating and rebuking tone.

…Let me tell you about a mysterious case. Some years ago, a typical Mongolian household, that owned a ger, a yard, a dog, a kiosk and very likely even a Prius, suddenly vanished. Nobody has been able to solve the mystery of this case so far.

If the head of the household, Tavkhai, or someone else was missing, they would have been reported as missing and searched for. But the yard, the dog, the kiosk, the Prius, and even the piece of land disappeared.

According to police regulations, a missing item has to be registered under certain classification in order to commence a search. The police chief “X”, who served at the time, tried different ways to classify as “Missing Person” and “Stolen items”, but got stuck when he visited the incident scene. No such term as "vanished plot of land" or such practice as searching for a "vanished plot of land" ever existed.

The case was then filed into a cabinet with the label “Highly confidential”. Oddly enough, no one asked around or made inquiries for them.The case was simply forgotten until the intern, who told me this story, found it.

…It all started with the pit latrine filling up. The pit, dug a long time ago, maybe by Tavkhai’s great-grandparent, had an ample space. The people, who dug the pit, used the latrine till they all passed away. Tavkhai’s parents too passed away, before they knew that a pit latrine could eventually fill up.

Year after year no one was interested in where all the vegetables and fruits in the fields, even flocks of sheep, grazing in the meadows disappear. Nobody even bothered to think about where all the potful of meals and food that filled the fridge usually go.

Nonetheless, they all went into the latrine. Things that existed in the physical realmwhen the latrine was first dug, went into the latrine through the Tavkhais’ stomach and filled it up.

Tavkhai had heard from someone that a filled up latrine needed to be emptied. So he looked for a person, who would empty his latrine. A Mongolian man was born to defecate, not to clean it. Therefore, he needed a foreigner to handle the task. Evidently, he found a Chinese man as ill-famed as the Chinese are. Unlike Mongolians, the Chinese were very weird people to think that “A man must eat, must defecate and must clean up one’s feces”.

The Tavkhais hated the Chinese for it. They murmured to each other "How on earth can a man be born to clean up his own feces” with great disgust. They did not simply murmur about it, but taunted noisily with those around them.

I almost left out a key piece of information about the event. It happened in winter. The latrine contents froze and built up, forming a frozen tower where there should have been a hole. According to information, removed from the case files, it was reported that the last time Tavkhai used the latrine, instead of evacuating his bowels, he ended up with more loads into it. The inspector, who could not imagine how such a thing could happen, removed this information from the case files.

Then a Chinaman with a shovel came to dig the latrine. He brought along a donkey – not to have it help him dig, but use it for pulling a cart loaded with the frozen content of the latrine. The wage was agreed upon and made, then the work began.

As the digger started smashing down the frozen tower, Tavkhai had the strangest feeling towards it – almost like a sentiment – nonetheless, the unpleasant experience it had caused him. He felt a strange attachment to those things that he was eager to get rid of until now. Somehow,“of own flesh and blood” – the term he would only use to refer to his family member – came into his mind. Whatever the case may be, he barely held the feeling that the Chinese man was ruthlessly tearing down something that has a close connection with him.

At this very moment, a neighbor drew Tavkhai’s attention with a piercing, loud whistle. He was not an ordinary neighbor- but a very wise one, who reminded Tavkhai of the things he would have never thought of on his own or would have never come up with. The neighbor said, “What is inside a pit latrine is not excreta but resource, not a waste but valuable fertilizer. The Chinese use it as a fertilizer and produce a great harvest. You are a fool to give it away for free" in an intimidating and rebuking tone.

So Tavkhai walked nervously to the pit latrine digger and blurted out his idea of sharing the sludge equally between themselves. To his surprise, the Chinaman agreed. “Since we are sharing, we will dump it together”, said the Chinaman. But Tavkhai brushed aside his words. He felt lighthearted to think that he got to take half the sludge, something he was eager to get rid of, and couldn’t stop humming to himself a song that goes “…my heart is brimming with joy…”.

Later that day, when Tavkhai was laying on his bed, counting the roof poles of his ger, another great idea came to his mind. "Since he is cleaning up MY shit in MY yard, I could own a share of his shovel, cart and donkey, used to dig and carry the shit. After all, if it weren’t for my shit, he would have suffered a loss due to idle time. I do not simply evacuate my bowels, but I provide jobs for others as I do so. So I must be an employer. If I stopped evacuating my bowels, this poor Chinaman would have starved to death”. It was evidently a philosophical breakthrough. Tavkhai went to his neighbors and shared his thought. His neighbor admired Tavkhai’s wisdom and praised him, “soon you are going to be as wise as I am”.

So, Tavkhai went to see the Chinaman again. He listened to Tavkhai without saying anything and agreed again! Tavkhai couldn’t help but admire the good fortune that made him an owner of 50 percent of the sludge, plus 40 percent of the Chinaman’s shovel, cart, and donkey while getting rid of the sludge in his pit latrine."You were born under a lucky star. All you need to do is do as I say", advised the neighbor.By doing some mental calculations, Tavkhai figured out that his gains were more than double the amount he had paid to the pit latrine digger.

As the work progressed, the pit latrine digger called Tavkhai.

-Dear respectful comrade. Who am I to dare to clean the excrement of such a nobleman like Thee with an ordinary shovel. For this reason, I have bought “Beerburry” brand shovelhead. It is inappropriate to use a wooden shaft for a brand shovelhead, so I fitted “Lou Viton” brand shaft. As a co-owner of the shovel, would you please pay your share of cost.

Tavkhai hesitated as to whether it was worth digging a pit latrine with such costlytools, but kept quite as he remembered that he had no tool other than a fire poker. When he sought advice from his neighbor, the neighbor told him, "invest more money, if you want to get good returns”. So Tavkhai sold his Prius to pay for the price of a shovel to be used for digging his own pit latrine.

Subsequently, Tavkhai learned that he became the co-owner of an Arabian donkey and a Ferrari cart of a joint venture for pit latrine emptying. As Tavkhai’s small kiosk was not enough to cover the cost of this grand capital, he sold his ger and yard to cover his share of cost.

The pit latrine digger kept digging and heaping the frozen sludge onto a pile bigger than a house in Tavkhai’s yard. Though Tavkhai was left without a car, a kiosk and a yard, as a co-owner of his own excreta and tools to clean his waste, he still owned 50 percent of his valuable sludge.

One day his partner called Tavkhai and insisted, "Since you own half of this pile, you have to pay half the cost of disposal."

Tavkhai fumed. Although he did not know exactly what it was, he felt that something was wrong. When he looked back, he took all the right steps that were evidently profitable and he couldn’t grasp why they resulted in such futility.

Then the idea of scamming and kicking out his partner came to his mind. His neighbor’s advice this time was “This is the right moment to get rid of a foreign fraudster”. 

The Chinaman, pit latrine digger was expelled. Looking at Tavkhai, who sat reclining against the frozen pile of sludge, the wise neighbor was amazed at how prudently Tavkhai had acted, exclaiming, "The good thing is that you kept all your property to yourself. You were very close to losing such great wealth to foreigners''.

The valuable shovel had broken because Tavkhai failed to provide half the maintenance cost. The Arabian donkey, according to his partner’s words, had died of malnutrition. The Ferrari cart had suffered the same ill fate.

Even though Tavkhai was left without his yard, ger, kiosk and Prius, he spent the whole winter bragging, “It's a fortunate thing that I didn’t let a foreigner took away all the virtues, accumulated by my ancestors" with great content.

When the spring came, the frozen pile of sludge started melting and posing a great danger. People warned Tavkhai to move away, but he wouldn’t do so, saying, “Who knows, lest the cunning Chinaman comes back while I am away and take the whole thing."

The stink, coming from the place, where Tavkhai’s yard was located, was unbearable during spring and summer and diminished in the fall. But nobody saw Tavkhai. They say he drowned in his pit latrine sludge.

Today, the fertile plot of land, where Tavkhai’s ger had stood, is included in the wise neighbor’s yard. There is even a rumor that the neighbor teamed up with the pit latrine digger and built a greenhouse to grow vegetables, who knows?

However, it is true that the Tavkhais disappeared without a trace.