I am revolted. I am disgusted with myself and the water in which I live. The thought of me submerged in the unsterile water fills me with a sympathetic nausea for myself, but spewing a stream from my mouth would only further foul my watery home, though it might trigger a flush, flushing me away, which might be okay, since as I reach up I realize I overestimated the reach of my arm or underestimated the distance to the chain, which is far out of my reach, or perhaps the distances are yet growing but I am not. I look up. There are things up there, far away. I look down. The sludge growing at the bottom of the pot below me resembles a sea floor and like a sea floor it bears witness to wavy tendrils and a still current and the indistinguishableness of inanimate sediment and plant matter and animal life such as coral or anemone. With enough time or lightning or imagination or whatever is necessary for life to spring forth, shrimp, crabs, jellyfish, fish could grow there, perhaps salmon, which would give me something to eat, perhaps a sea lion, which would give me something to love, perhaps a mermaid which would give me a reason to be.
I have done so little for the women in this story, Reb and Antoinette and all the others who could have been, which is a disservice to them and a weakness in the story, and if I could bring them to life finally, give them life as mermaids in my toilet-cum-oceanic-breeding-ground, then perhaps I wouldn’t feel so bad. I could give them something to feel good about, make them feel good, be more generous with my love.
But I need to use the toilet, and eliminating on them would make me feel worse. I will not eliminate in my ocean. Especially when I am in it. I have been in the bathtub when a toddler has soiled the water, and I will not be a toddler. The ocean is mine, all I have, I in it is all I have, and I would rather flush it away, flush me away, than crap in it, but there is nowhere else to evacuate, to eliminate, to escape, the drain in the shower has squeezed shut and the shower and toilet are now one inextricable unit so I am in the shower on the toilet in the ocean and the drain is the toilet so the problem remains the same: I cannot flush the growth I sit on and swim in and write and consume the krill of, and something to write, my god how I long for something to write while I’m writing, someone to write, where is Palo, we had a life together, a salty one, perhaps he is now a saltwater fish, perhaps he is here somewhere, I am not a fish at all, I have no gills, and I know that’s an explanation and all an explanation is is an excuse and I know I don’t know that but the fact is I cannot breathe this water. I need to flush to get rid of me and the water and start over with new water, new water without sea lions or Rebs or Antoinettes, new water I can write on, new water I feel better soiling, new water I can breathe.
* * *
A bell tinkles. The man walks into an overlit store. Screams from the street spill in with him. The storeowner, a portly man dressed to the height of fashion, no, not to the height, but to what is popular and comforting and slightly eye-catching but that says above all I am a man of my time and place, perhaps a tweed jacket, perhaps a pinstripe suit, no he is not that wealthy, but perhaps rectangular glasses, perhaps khakis or pre-worn jeans or stone-washed jeans or carpenter style jeans though he is not a carpenter, and a synthetic fleece or wool sweater or v-neck sweater or plaid button-up shirt, depending on where and when he lives, depending on where you live, when you live, this is your story regardless of if you acquired it in a store. He wears what is popular depending on where and when you live. The portly storeowner is about to call the police. He cups his hands to his mouth to scream for the police, there being no phone in this town thank God, because the man is naked but for a grouse on his head and a raccoon on his loins and boots on his feet and that cannot be good for business, in his business are displayed fine assortments of sticks and stones and leaves and bark peelings and vials of sand and cups of fresh water and cups of salt water and seasonal arrangements of flower petals and sterilized seeds and in the frozen section blocks of snow, but soon after the bell tinkles and the man comes in the door out from the street, the windows fill with faces and in a sudden flash of instinct the storeowner believes he is incorrect. This man is good for business. Besides, he recognizes him, though he is not sure from where. The man might be a friend for all he knows, such as businessmen have friends, by which he means a colleague or associate or competitor, by which he means someone with whom he could do business, from whom he could make a profit, not predatorily, not capitalistically, but in both their best interests, communally, a profit with instead of a profit from, though he won’t be picky, he’ll take the latter if it comes to it, and really doesn’t have energy or time to spare to convert a from into a with. Instead of screaming for help, he says, How may I help you?
The man pours his hatsack of stones on the counter. The storeowner recognizes their ilk. The storeowner says, Ahh, it’s been so long, Pieta.
The man stares at him. His right eye perhaps twitches. He adjusts the hip straps of his loincloth, that is the tied raccoon legs. He says, Make this go faster.
The storeowner chuckles it off with his heft. He says, Sorry Palo, just a nickname I like to call you on stone days. A fond remembrance. But you’re right, I don’t think this is a stone day. You’ve changed since I saw you last.
What do you mean?
Something about your hair. You’re wearing it differently.
I’m wearing a dead bird.
That must be it. How may I help you today?
I don’t want to carry these stones anymore.
I don’t know why not.
They are heavy.
I can imagine. But I’m sorry to say that by disappearing for a time, your relationship with your customers has lapsed. There is no longer a demand for your stones. No market for them. I’m sure you understand. It’s all about maintaining your relationships. It’s all about maintaining your brand. Your stones are out of touch, out of style. It’s all about giving those who want what they want, or making them want what you give.
You wouldn’t have to give me much. Give me a few apple petals. Take them. Give me leaves.
I’m sorry Palo. I haven’t even leaves to spare. Now if you brought me sticks, it might be a different story. As you can see, my store bears and bares a dearth of sticks. And, Palo, a feeling in my heart tells me it is a stick day. I can’t take your stones Palo. This business is not about taking but about giving. Give and give and give, Palo, don’t take, and give a little harder. The customer will give in return.
I don’t have customers. I have to go home. Don’t give me anything. I want to give you my stones, and in return I want to drop a few stones.
You want to give me what you want to give me, again.
I’m here to see a man about a horse.
I’m not a horse trader or horse thief or horse breeder.
I’m here to drop my kids off at the pool.
What pool? Where are your kids? There is no pool that could hold them all.
I’m here to punch a grumpy.
I’m here to pull the chain.
Since when did you start talking in metaphor? Since when did you start talking?
I’m here to drop a few stones.
Ahh, you want to use my bathroom. My nice squat toilet with the footprints so you know where to put your feet to help you aim at the hole. The one with the channel for urine, the one with a simple and elegant flush action like a flashflood scouring a littered canyon.
Yes, that one.
Would you like to use my bidet?
If it’s not in use, but it is not essential.
Else there is always wastepaper.
Why I’m here is to not return to my wife and children so heavy, so full, so foul with the waste, the toxins, the foulness in me, to not need to defecate, desecrate, eliminate, foul the house, the air, the homecoming, as soon as I walk in the door, to cleanse, defoul, defowl, deflower, and define myself for love.
What you are here for is a premium service, and as you know, my store’s premium services cost. If you want me to give you the right to give your stones to my hole and forget about them and move on then you have to give me something I can give others so they can give me something of greater value in return. And nobody who comes to my store wants your stones, Palo.
Let me tell you a story, and I want you to think about how you can service this story. A man walks by a sea lion on the beach. The beach is the sea lion’s home. The sea lion is portly. The man needs to take a dump. He is also hungry. It has been since he knows not when. He is also cold, this not being a sandy equatorial tropical beach and he not having any clothes except a makeshift hat and what can barely be described as a makeshift shift, but only barely, as it is some sort of itchy stench oozing maggot riddled undergarment that shall remain vague to protect the identity of both the wearer and the undergarment, and for that matter for the preservation of innocence of he who listens and is witness. The sea lion has an outhouse, a fine outhouse constructed of driftwood and seaweed and wind. The man has used it before; they have done business before. The sea lion does not use it; he is a sea lion; he poops in the sea. The outhouse is for visitors to the beach, so they do not poop in the sea. Do not get all huffy about rights, about who has the right to poop in the sea, the fact is it is right for sea lions to poop in the sea because they are lions. It is not right for humans to poop in the sea because they are men. The man really has to go. The more he thinks about it the more he has to go. He has been going for a longtime without going. He has been trying to go without thinking about going to the bathroom, with a measure of success. And here is a socially and environmentally acceptable receptacle, one with which he is familiar, the sea lion’s outhouse. But the man passes it by without a second thought. Without a first thought. Why? Out of respect for the sea lion? Because he made some hotheaded vow in his desperate despair to never use anything resembling a toilet again? Because he is so hellbent on walking that he is unaware of his bodily functions? Because relieving himself in this scene of beauty would defile it? Because if he sat in this scene of beauty he might never stand and go on again? There is no why. There is not even a first thought. He goes on to the sea lion. In contrast, he thinks long and hard about whether or not to kill the sea lion. He has a hat full of stones, remember, perhaps I did not say it, remember it anyways. He knows how to use them. He has used them before. The sea lion’s skin would warm him. The sea lion’s ample meat would feed him. And the thing about the sea lion is he does not care. He knows his life is in danger, but he just lies there, satisfied. Or is it complacent? I have never understood the difference from one word to another. He has never understood the difference from one word to another. He makes his choice. He goes with his gut and swings his hat of rocks around his head to deliver it with the utmost momentum unto the sea lion’s skull, when he changes his mind, maybe just for change’s sake, which always rubs me wrong but a little chafe is unavoidable when you have walked for an unspecified longtime with a raccoon between your legs. Sea lions are meant to be satisfied and complacent, you see. He is a sea lion; he is king of the sea. He is a seal ion, and seals are so slick. Why slaughter the portly regality when it is so graceful in the water, slipping in and out, toying with the surface, killing fish? And if he kills him he has to gut and skin and eat him, and at some point during all that he will crap himself. He is so busy going, he does not have time to go. He has hurt people he loves, and they are the only people he wants to be with. He spares the sea lion and continues on with the sea on his left and arrives in town and feels an urge to arrive home as he left, empty-handed, and he comes into a store manned by a portly, smartly-dressed, and content storeowner redolent of terds and singing of decay when the entire purported reason for his shop is to save objects from erosion, rot, evaporation, melting, deflowering, etcetera, to see if he can relieve himself of his stones. Considering all that has and has not happened, as the proprietor of this establishment, this menagerie, this store, how do you feel, think, believe you can best service this story?
Are you going to kill me?
I will do what is in the best interest of my story.
You wouldn’t go so low as to kill an innocent man.
What you don’t understand is that you are not innocent. What you don’t understand is that I am already much lower than you understand, that killing you might be a step up, and that I have nothing to lose so it might be worth a stone.
It’s not in the best interest of the people. Look at all the people Palo, at the windows, watching. What will they think when you collapse my skull with a stone? What will they learn when my eyeball pops out of its socket from the internal pressure created by your blow? How will they grow and evolve and endure and continue on the path to being better individuals who create a better society by witnessing the destruction of my cranium and the small flecks of my brain smearing out and the disconcerting quantity of blood contained in the human body spilled and growing on the floor, very likely to cause a slip and fall mind you that could result in a lawsuit that would devastate this business, and how hair mats to a bloodied skull and how limp and lifeless and heavy and difficult to move is a dead body and then you crapping in my state-of-the-art squat toilet all because I tell you You do not have enough to give to be allowed to use my squat toilet because you have nothing to give that they, the people, want. Is it your goal to put all that on their shoulders?
This has taken too long. The honest to God truth is I don’t give a shit. I just want to go home. I should kill you because you are a leech and I believe you are detrimental to society but I don’t care about society and more than that you devalue life and diminish existence itself but I’m about as close as you can get to not caring about those either without being there, and it’d be good business for the story, some violence and blood to go with the sex, but the story can put its dick in its own asshole to plug its incessant drip. I give up on you. I’m going to go.
He does what he says. He goes. As the bell tinkles and the portly proprietor watches Palo’s taught hamstrings and the way the well-defined muscles in his back move as he walks and the strong right arm flexed in carrying the hat of stones, and the wings flapping gently with the bound of his step and the tail swaying between his legs and the clomp of his boots on the threshold, going, and the squeeze of his buttocks holding in ascetic self-denial, the storeowner’s knees buckle and give out. He loses and looses the remarkable self-control which defines him. Palo is gone. The storeowner does not make it to the bathroom before he goes to the bathroom.