Through the Motions

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story about toilet trouble.

Submitted: January 17, 2008

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Submitted: January 17, 2008

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The problem had advanced. There were clear issues previous to that, but they went ignored under the cloak of denial. My mind settled on things I could deal with – due bills, our overdraft.

One day it became too much. It was painful to pass solids. I hadn't taken one of my stools and dissected it, being as wary of my own effluents as the next man. It remained just a colour that hinted at trouble. A substance that shouldn't have been there among the normal shades of brown. An intruder in my bowel.

I'd suffered bouts of constipation. Straining, my crack spread, a cheek either side of the bowl. In agony as I tried to force something vast and invisible through the eye of a needle.

Mary worried herself out of her mind as she listened at the bathroom door.

'Are you ok, honey?'

She only added to the frustration.

'No. No, I'm not ok.'.

And... Strain.

It continued at work, sitting at my desk, stomach audibly rumbling. Colleagues peered around my cubicle partition, wondering where the noises emanated from. I looked sheepishly back at them, pointing at my gut.

'Must've been something I ate'.

'Must've been' my boss remarked.

I got a couple of days off work after that.

I lazed on the couch on sick day number one. Eating toast with eggs, I remembered that white bread was bad for digestion. Eggs even worse. It struck me that I had to give myself the runs.

Before Mary got home, I ordered a prawn vindaloo, knowing that seafood had never agreed with me and that my colon wouldn't cope with the weight. Its defences would collapse and floodgates would open.

On sick day two I continued to eat in this way and the groaning in my stomach eventually stopped.

As I travelled into work, a new sensation in my bowel, air passing through liquid. Bubbles burst, sending painful drafts up my spine. I could barely walk as I entered my workstation, wary of expelling the air until I reached a toilet. Even if the gents' were deserted I had a feeling the sound would echo throughout the corridors of the office, down into reception but after half an hour I couldn't contain the fire down below.

I strode nonchalantly to the toilet. One false move and I would soil myself. To my relief, one cubicle was empty and the other had an 'Out of Order' sign tacked to it. I dropped my trousers and wiped the toilet seat, blew out a preparatory breath, steeled myself for the firebomb.

A deep and fulfilling backward yawn. My piece dilated. Hot, hot sludge propelled by litres of wet wind. Sweet relief, until the smell began to rise. Desperate to mask the stench, I reached and flushed, forgetting that my genitals would be dowsed in the water from the rim of the bowl. A small price to pay - the aroma began to drift, fading despite lingering. I wiped delicately and glanced at the tissue. Not a trace of the brown skidmark I would usually deposit. Instead, the disarming sight of the discolouration. The tissue was soaked in one colour – gritty like quicksand. The situation had taken a turn for the worse.

I didn't tell Mary at first, convincing myself that the problem may still right itself. Over a period of days I would eat only fruit and nuts. No carbohydrates at all. In time, my stools solidified, but now they were completely discoloured and a violent yellow.

Eventually, they became heavier. Soon, I was forcing out hardened fossils. I could bend over and retrieve my stools from the water below after no wiping and tap them against the cistern. I took one of these hunks of waste and placed it in a sandwich bag. The pain of excreting was too much, as though my duodenum was an untended factory churning out rejected duds. I called the Doctor.

He was sympathetic as he spoke of the rising number of stomach and bowel complaints he was treating.

'Do you need to use the bathroom at the moment? I can't send you to see a specialist until he's seen a sample' he said.

'I bought one with me'.

I fumbled in my pockets, checking that the vacuum seal was firmly shut.

He raised his spectacles to his forehead.

'If you'd like to come and see me tomorrow, first thing, I'll take youto a specialist myself. We'll get you scanned. Try not to lose sleep. We'll have some answers tomorrow'.

I lost sleep, inevitably. Rendered insomniac, I spent the night tossing around in my own sweat as I went through my as yet unwritten will. I wondered how my early death would affect Mary's mortgage payments. We hadn't found time or energy to start a life assurance scheme.

At the City Hospital, Doctor Stubbs greeted me at the door. I followed him to a small consultation room where he introduced me to Doctor Ball.

'Mr. Bull. Please - remove your shoes and lay down in that machine.

I positioned myself in its cove. A conveyer drew my body into the scanner. A light flashed, three times.

'You can get off now. Put your shoes back on. We'll return in a couple of minutes'.

They bustled to the adjoining room. My heart began to beat erratically. To be told of my impending slide into death in these conditions, it seemed too early. Mary and I deserved more time together. I couldn't die young. All those days of no food and too much lager, they'd allowed for mutations in my gut, symptomatic of an early death. I pictured mortgage demands piling on my unburied coffin, addressed to my widow.

The Doctors returned, smiling.

'Will I live?' I asked.

'I'm pleased to say that your gut looks healthy. The scans reveal no abnormalities.'

'So why is my poo so hard?'

'You'll live, Mr. Bull. You'll live very well'.

'What do you mean?'

'You're a picture of health.' Doctor Ball said.

'Myself and Doctor Stubbs have a proposition for you. The abnormality… if we, with your permission, study your tract and take you on the lecture circuit, write a thorough journal… we could do very well from this...'

'What's the deal?'

Doctor Ball removed his spectacles, about to reveal the story.

'Mr. Bull'.

I nodded.

'I sent your stool to be analysed by a friend. A jeweller.

'The substance you're passing is pure, unrefined gold' Doctor Stubbs explained.

'Gold...?'

'Gold'.

'Gold?' I asked again.

'Gold.'

We looked at one another, experiencing the first wave of understanding.

I rubbed my hands over my cold scalp, sweat pumping around my follicles.

'You're the goose laying golden eggs', Doctor Stubbs smiled.

I nodded, massaging my buttocks with my hands. The worry of the mortgage concern bolted from my brain while my gut rumbled, audibly.


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