I on the toilet gasping like a fish out of water reach down to pull myself out of the water by my hair but my hand touches a surface and discovers that contrary to its apparent elimination there yet exists a barrier between me and me in the water, a thin translucent papery plastic film that clings to my hand, invisible, only visible to touch. I probe, explore, touch what I can reach, which isn’t much. The outside of the toilet bowl, the soapless soap holder in the wall that used to be a shower wall though there is now no shower, the wall at my knees, my knees, the empty toilet paper dispenser, the vent register for warmforcedair under my feet, everything is wrapped in plastic wrap, no wonder I’ve been so cold besides not wearing pants. Where is my pencil or ink pen or quill or writing implement to puncture this film that would never take writing, I don’t even need the entire implement, just the point, which reminds me I have had no implement but my hands for some time, if I ever did. Everything is under the thinnest layer of synthesized polymers that hide and do not hide and I pull off the layer I am sitting on and the seat is double-wrapped for protection and I pull off another layer and the hole in my seat is triple-wrapped for preservation and I pull off another layer and the hole in the ring is quadruple-wrapped for quality and I pull off another layer and the center of the ring is quintuple-wrapped because all the space is is plastic wrap wrapped around plastic wrap and I rip off layer after layer to get at the thing below the space, the thing inside the bowl, which is me, it wants to breathe and be contaminated by air, but there is nothing there, it is plastic wrap wrapped around plastic wrap, you can see right through it for Christ’s sake to where I can’t breathe and I want to breathe but I am wrapped in all this plastic and I rend layer after layer but I can’t get to me, I can’t poke a hole through to my airhole and I want to breathe but I am sucking in plastic in a convulsion of lungs, a spasm of diaphragms, plastic wrap stretched tight over my body for quality over my mouth for preservation over my nose for protection over my eyes to keep out the flies over my ears so I can’t breathe and under every layer of plastic is wrapped another layer of plastic because I am plastic wrap wrapped in plastic wrap wrapped around nothing but plastic wrap wrapped around nothing but plastic wrap wrapped around nothing but plastic wrap wrapped around an airless cavity outside of which I cannot get in and inside of which I cannot get out and on both sides of which I cannot breathe.
* * *
Rice or bean shop. Nice raccoon, man.
I’d like some rice or beans.
Which is it?
What kind of day is it?
I’d like beans.
You’ve come to the right place. What’ve you got?
I don’t give beans for stones. I’ve got no use for stones.
Are you Palo? Christ man, how the hell have you been?
I don’t know.
That’s lovely, man. I’ve been holding my own too you know. Nothing to shake a stick at, but, you know. You’re on your way home. You’d like some beans. Now I know you’ve been gone a long time having sex with that French lady with the one room cabin, don’t look at me like that, everybody knows man, everybody has known. Christ we heard you two from here, exploring or whatever, like the French do, and those who didn’t hear read the book about it, though it made less sense than what we heard, even less sense than how what we heard made us feel in our hearts, but still, it got the gist across. And boy, has their been a marked increase in the occurrences of fidelity and a general bounty of Corinthian love since we witnessed your act, not the least of which have been enjoyed on my dinner table, but you should know how this works. You trade your stones for sticks you traded the previous day, then you trade your sticks for leaves, oak leaves precisely, which you trade for acorns which you trade for oak boards which you trade for oak barrels which you trade for oak barrels full of water and wine which you trade for raw rice which you trade to me for beans. This being a bean day. On rice days, the process is somewhat different.
You’ve lost weight.
And your wife?
I mean how is she?
Having a rough go.
Have they had food on the table?
They had to sell the table. Nice table. Does well for my wife and I, supports us nicely and wipes up easily for meals.
They sold it for rice and beans?
Don’t worry about the rice and beans. I’ve kept them in rice and beans. We’re good friends, even when you’re not here. I’ve had the royalty checks made out to me, such as they are, which isn’t much, which is why I asked nicely for the table. It seems to have boosted my fertility.
Thank you. I don’t know how you do it.
I don’t. Reb does it. What you were saying, about how I could shed these stones, that’s not going to happen. For starters, I don’t know when yesterday was, when today is, or when tomorrow will be.
Which means I did not trade sticks yesterday, which means I cannot trade stones today, which means I will not trade sticks tomorrow.
I’m sorry to hear that, Palo. As one entrepreneur to another, I suggest you start over with feathers. Or as a tailor.
But I do not in truth want beans. I want to use your bathroom.
Sure man, you don’t have to give me anything for that. It’s a public service. Pissoir out front. Neighbor kids’ll look at your back while you go and it smells like piss because it’s where the homeless piss, but it’s been upgraded with a frontal screen for modesty and a funnel for easy aim.
When I go home, I want to go home. I do not want to go to the bathroom.
Totally understand. You’re setting a good example.
Do you hear what I am saying?
Do you hear what I am not saying?
With all my being.
How do you do number two?
The deuce? I don’t. I don’t eat my product.
Oh. I have to go. Thank you Rob. Maybe I will see you tomorrow.