Wednesday, March 12, 2008

And now for something completey different

Not that I wish to further offend my new bestest friends in the universe, but I'm going to go move along. To change the subject, cleanse the palette or whatever, here's an excerpt from the book. I don't know if I posted any of this before the reset. If so, try to pretend it's brand new.

The set-up is this takes place right after my lead character has failed to commit suicide. Mrs. Moody from upstairs has come to ask him to work on her toilet.

The tools for this kind of job are pretty self-explanatory.

Holding the big two-handed plunger in my hands like a riot club, I ride up with Mrs. Moody to her apartment on the 4th floor. The door opens and I follow. Julian Banks, the overly-dapper security guard who lives across the hall smiles as we pass him. He has an armload of groceries, but he’s still dressed for work. He has a job at the mall and keeps weird hours.

Mrs. Moody ignores Julian. The old southern woman won’t admit it, but she doesn’t appreciate having to live in close proximity to a big, black man.

Julian knows all about this, of course. He thinks it’s funny, particularly since his place is much nicer than hers.

“I wonder how she’d feel, if you told her I was gay?”

I’ve just don’t have the heart.

Julian nods at me in passing, grinning, while Mrs. Moody opens the door. It’s a big joke. More than he knows.

I roll my eyes.

This scene, too, has been played before.

She escorts me inside her strange old lady wonderland of tasteless knick-knacks, grainy framed photos of dead people, dated furniture wrapped in thick, milky plastic and odd, unplaceable smells that do nothing to mask or compliment the insistent aroma of cat piss.

Nero and Auggie wait by the door. I nod my usual greeting. Other than each of them being the size of fireplugs, they’re reasonably adorable. They follow the two of us to the bathroom. This should be a well-worn path, by now, but she leads me there each time as if it were the first, as if I couldn’t find it without an Indian guide.

The edge of the carpet outside just outside the open door is dark and damp. Close up, the smell chokes me. What do they actually put in diet cat food, motor oil?

Moody’s bathroom is a swamp with tasteful accents of maroon and lavender. The shower curtain and liner coordinate with the flower print wallpaper and the painted wood trim on the ceiling. A small framed black and white picture of two kittens wrestling with a ball of yarn hangs over the clothes hamper. These might be Nero and Augie from their thin and less gluttonous youth.

Above the maroon and white tiled floor, cat turds float on a skim of gasoline colored water. They sail around gravelly, gray archipelagos and a barrier reef of wadded toilet tissue. She must have tried to clean the mess herself before just giving up.

“I’ll leave you to it, then.”

She turns and walks back toward her living room and the inevitable roar of the long dead crowds found on the game show channel.

“Come on big money, big money. No whammies!”

Fuck you and your whammies.

Gingerly, I wade into the bath. The filthy water soaks through my shoes instantly. After this is over, I’ll want to scrub my feet with a wire brush. I’ll want to boil my socks in scalding water.


I’ve already thrown out all of my other clothes. This is it.

“You little bastards,” I mutter. “You did this on purpose.”

Nero and Auggie watch me with whatever passes for ill-tempered feline amusement. This is probably the high point of their day, aside from not having a heart attack when they wake up from their afternoon nap.

For half an hour, I violently stab, pound and pummel the sludgy mess caught in the pipes. Water, shit and grit splatters everywhere. I churn the toilet like I’m trying to turn the contents of the bowl into butter.

Finally, the clog clears. With a throaty belch, the bowl empties. The toxic sludge become the problem of the sewage treatment plant.

While the cats stare at me, I offer a deep bow to them. They’d probably clap if they could get their paws that close together.

Over the noise of the studio audience in the next room, Mrs. Moody hears or perhaps senses the passage is clear. By the time I’ve rinsed off the plunger in her bathtub, she’s at the door with a mop and bucket.

“I shouldn’t have to clean up after your mistake,” she tells me. “Those pipes should have been replaced by now.”

She pushes the mop and bucket onto me. As she’s leaving, the old lady mutters she’s deducting $25 from her rent for the inconvenience.

It's not like I care.

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