Man (walks in, squints, looks around, sits on a stool next to a shaggy dog, sighs): This free?
Dog (sets glass on bar, slowly looks over shoulder at man): You just sat on a stool.
Man (jumps to feet): Jesus! What?
Dog: Hurhurhur. (sips drink)
Man (sighs again, sits back down): Don’t, dude. It’s been a rough time, stool-wise.
Dog: Burst pipe?
Man (nods, signals to bartender “I’ll have what he’s having and bring another one for him, too”): That was just the start of the iceberg.
(Drinks arrive, dog nods, raises glass to man)
Man: I was sick all week. 38 degrees C, terrible stomach cramps. Felt like appendicitis, but right, if I know what appendicitis feels like, it can’t be appendicitis again, right. So, I’m not sure. Ate something bad, or a stomach bug, dunno. Maybe diverticulitis. Luckily I already have an initial appointment with my colonoscopy doctor, because my urologist recommended I see her after I told him the water in the toilet bowl was very often bright red, if you know what I mean.
Dog (shrugs): Huh.
Man: So, I asked my urologist, probably hemmorhoids right and he said, maybe, or it could be malignant too, maybe go have them take a look under the hood.
Man: So I called and made an appointment. Then, like, next day I notice the water in the toilet bowl is purple now.
Man: Only then did I notice that my wife had hung a purple toilet bowl freshener thing from the rim.
Dog: Hur hur.
Man: So I asked her, honey, were you using a red one last time and she said yeah.
Dog (smirks, sips drink): Red toilet bowl fresheners are sponsored by the colonoscopy industry, I betcha.
Man: Never got around to canceling. But after my thing this week now I’m glad I didn’t.
Exterior: Modest house. Camera zooms through wall into the
Interior: Combination living room/scientist’s lair. A two-headed man is seated on the sofa. Across the room, a door opens onto a kitchen, where something bubbles. Theremin music emits from an open laptop.
Right Head: I have an idea for a toilet story.
Left Head (glances up sharply from a psychology book): No.
Right Head: A funny toilet story.
Left Head: There are no funny toilet stories.
Right Head (chuckles): This one is.
Left Head: No.
Right Head: The punch line is…
Left Head: I don’t wanna hear it. Nobody does.
Right Head: Colonoscopy…
Left Head: I’m serious. How does your mind work?
Right Head: Colored toilet bowl freshener balls…
Left Head (Holding hands over ears) Lalalalala.
Right Head: What is your problem?
Left Head: You mean your problem. Toilet stories are never funny. They are cringy at best, and usually merely gross. No one is funny on the toilet. Not the Marx Brothers, not Mr. Bean, not Monty Python. And what do you think people visualize when you tell one? We are 61 years old. No one wants to imagine us on a toilet.
Right Head: Hm. Good point.
Left Head: And plus, your last blog post involved a burst sewer pipe.
Right Head: Hm.
(Silence. Left Head reopens book.)
Right Head: I’m still going in for the colonoscopy tho.
Left Head (Sighs. Recloses book, gazes up at ceiling)
So tomorrow being 24 December, which is when we open presents here (stockings on 25 12) we all went in to quarantine 10 days ago so the kids could safely come over for the holidays and I was the lucky one who got to drive to their place and pick them up and drill 2 holes into Gamma’s concrete wall so she could hang a thing on her wall and drive them out to our place, on the way back telling them about my speeding ticket, “right about here where the speed limit changes from 130 (kmh) to 100 and I am always a little late slowing down; there’s no radar box around here so I assume they were right up on the overpass there, where that police car is now with the radar gun sticking out the window…” (checks speedometer, which unsurprisingly reads 120 in the 100 zone) “oh, man…” and then more stories about all the other new radar box traps we have been blundering into lately to the point where we are going to apply for a subscription; meanwhile my wife Alpha has apparently drawn the short straw and has to stay home and deal with making corn bread stuffing for the turkey we postponed from our canceled Thanksgiving (alas, the farmer said, he gained no weight between Thanksgiving, when he got his reprieve, and now — would you, I thought, seeing your friends slaughtered and knowing it was only a matter of time?) and dealing with the water filter man who was coming to sterilize our water filter after all the you-know-what backed up into the room where it is, and maybe touched it, and maybe contaminated all our drinking water pipes or whatever, as well as the rotorooter men who were coming over to investigate what caused the backup. When I got home with the girls the water filter man was practically already gone (he was fully gone when we got back from getting our covid tests (negative) at the doctor), and the rotorooter men were far, far jollier than you would expect rotorooter men to be. Friendly, happy young men.
Apparently someone had been flushing damp wipe cloths? I am translating but that’s what they’re called here? Feuchttücher? Which we don’t flush and rarely use and when we do use them (usually to wipe up cat pee) we certainly don’t flush them, we put them in the garbage and if we did flush them we’d flush them singly, single solitary cloths one by one so they could travel through the pipes easily rather than clumping and stopping everything else to the point that you get the Christmas fireworks we did. Waterworks. Whatever.
Oh and another thing, said the happy rotorooter men, you have a burst pipe too.
The boss rotorooter man is going to come over and see if it needs to be fixed, or if it’s only a minor burst. Apparently there are burst sewer pipes that are a real big deal, and others you can live with.
Is it nice to have the kids over? Just as nice as we expected, and we had high expectations. Presents are wrapped, I’ll make some mashed potatoes for tomorrow later today, and mix up some baking powder biscuits (taking into account the fact that Austrian baking powder is weaker than American baking powder, so you need more if you’re using an American recipe, and I’m using a Betty Crocker recipe) to be baked tomorrow, and getting some sourdough and pre-dough started to sit overnight so I can… watch it rise too long and lose heart and start to sag while the turkey monopolizes the oven, then the biscuits… maybe I should think about this a little… maybe I’ll postpone the sourdough a day…
Happy holidays, anyway, to those who celebrate holidays.
(Lights come up)
(Living room, a woman is decorating a Christmas tree, radio plays Christmas songs. Cat sleeps on sofa)
Man (seated at table, repairing ornament): Fuck, I glued the bird to my finger.
(Fade to black)
Mopping raw sewage in his cellar, the wolf regretted ever leaving the forest.
From where had it come? Had the sewer line leading out of the house clogged, causing in-house sewage to somehow overflow into the furnace room, or had some external problem caused outside sewage to flow back into the house and overflow?
And why did it have to happen on a Saturday night, maximizing the time he would have to wait before a plumber could come?
He imagined scenes from plague horror movies where a janitor mops contaminated water and you see a single drop, in slow motion, splash up and get him in the lip, or the eyeball, and then in even more extreme closeup, how the bacteria, or viruses, enter his bloodstream, etc.
Everything is a question of perspective, he told himself.
Accepting his fate to the extent that he mopped up everything and resolved, once it had dried, to mop the room again with some sort of harsh disinfecting liquid, the wolf nevertheless washed his paws for a long time, then clipped his claws and washed his paws again. And then again.
Good thing about a pandemic, thought the wolf, is at least you have lots of disinfectant on hand.
Then he poured a glass of whiskey, closed his eyes, and thought of tundra, and forests, and prairie.
As I mentioned already on Facebook, we cancelled Thanksgiving due to the pandemic and will instead eat club sandwiches via skype with the children on Saturday. The turkey we had ordered from the organic farmer down the road got a last minute reprieve and, cynical and disillusioned after having said goodbye to life, is presently hitchhiking somewhere with a beach to smoke French cigarettes and write existentialist poetry. Don’t worry, we ordered another one for Christmas, assuming the lockdown is over by then, and in preparation will all self-quarantine 10 days before getting together bc you can’t be too careful.
Anyway the turkey mailed me his first poem this morning, excerpt attached below.
I saw the best fowl of my generation destroyed by farmers, gorged hysterical cackle,
dragging themselves through the angry yard at dawn looking for a trough of corn
angelfeathered hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and gobbling sat up clucking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water barns floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven on order before the holidays and saw the poultry angels staggering on barnyard roofs illuminated,
who passed through plucking sheds with now dead eyes hallucinating nothing, no more Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of carnivorism,
or those like me expelled from the slaughterhouse by some trick of pandemic and quarantine, left to wander
to cower unplucked in rooms in unfamiliar underwear, burning their poetry in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall…
What sphinx of cement and metal ax bashed off their heads and ate them up with sauce of cranberry and mashed yams?
Thanksgiving! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Turkeys screaming under the stairways! Turkeys gobblesobbing in flocks! Old poet turkeys pardoned and weeping in the parks!
Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving! Nightmare of Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving the loveless! Mental Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving the heavy judger of turkeys!
Thanksgiving the incomprehensible prison! Thanksgiving the crossbone soulless jailhouse and kitchen of sorrows! Thanksgiving whose heaping platters are judgment! Thanksgiving the vast stone of war! Thanksgiving the stunned governments!
Thanksgiving whose mind is pure machinery! Thanksgiving whose blood is running money! Thanksgiving whose fingers are ten armies! Thanksgiving whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Thanksgiving….
Have you ever caught yourself staring out the window, maybe your office window, watching someone younger than you get into their car up the street, or unloading groceries from their trunk, wishing for a little more peace, happiness, respect, joy, sex, love, agape, laughs, intimacy, happiness and peace in your relationship? Or perhaps, instead of giving mutual support you find yourself stuck (unstuck) inside a negative feedback loop itself unstuck (stuck) within a chronographic experiential time cycle in which you zoom around your life in circles, or figure eights, back and forth and around and around, experiencing the same pathetic, depressing conflicts over and over.
If that is the case, and for many of us it is, there is a good chance that you sometimes wonder why your relationships, and life in general, suck so bad while other people’s lives and relationships seem so awesome. And, statistically, you have at least three feet of shelf space in your home library devoted to self-help relationship books promising clarity about all the ways relationships fail, but look here’s the problem:
Smoothly functioning, harmonious relationships are only possible if one or more of the participants settle for less than they need, hold back, suffer in silence, give in all the time, or all of the above, or get even through indulging their bad habits.
While popular entertainment, and pretty much everything else about modern capitalist society seems desperate to convince people that people stay in love their whole life long and there’s something wrong with you if you feel differently, real relationships are more complicated than that.
Take John and Rebecca. John listens to 80s hair bands and plays air guitar. Rebecca farts before leaving elevators if she’s riding alone.
Or Max and Peter. Max bites his nails, Peter checks whether the front and back doors are locked about ten times every night before going to bed.
George can’t stop putting empty containers back into the refrigerator, no matter how much Jamie yells at him, while Jamie clips coupons and spends more on gas running to multiple stores to cash in the coupons than the coupons actually save.
Mike has a drinking problem and is addicted to internet porn. Martha is attending group therapy as part of a plea bargain following her arrest for shoplifting.
Home alone while her husband Donald is a coma following an opiate overdose, Gretchen steals packages delivered to her neighbors’ houses and stacks them in the spare bedroom and when it is full she drives them out to the desert and sets them on fire.