Peter John McLean
Blood-Vomit and the Sinking Bathroom (Fiction)
Part One: Blood-Vomit
Calvin wiped blood off of his lips but felt amazing. That invincible badass feeling that comes right after throwing up. I could be a bulimic, Calvin thought to himself, though he wished he’d stop throwing up so much blood.
He slowly waddled back out of the collapsing shit-storm excuse for a bathroom and into the much more recognizable kitchen, where his coffee and painkillers were. Fucking mornings.
He drank his quadruple strength French press coffee, a yirgacheffe single origin he bought at the farmer’s market, before he dropped in on his dealer, Gerard, to secure more codeine. He washed down a pill with more coffee and waited to feel a little less pain in his back and neck and head and legs and everywhere else. The coffee kicked in at the exact same moment as the codeine, and he felt a little better, a little more prepared to teach fourth grade.
Knut, Calvin’s belligerent and fast-growing kitten, marched into the room, looked around, and then loudly whined at Calvin. He wanted food.
“Sorry, Knut, food will have to wait. I don’t get paid until Friday,” Calvin said. It was Tuesday.
Calvin reached inside the pocket of his jeans, to check to see if he had any money left over, even though he already knew the answer. One single dollar bill, a maxed out credit card, and a debit card that, if used, would probably shriek some kind of alert to the cashier, demanding he destroy the card, capture the card holder, and force him to somehow pay back Wells Fargo.
Knut kept whining and eyeing Calvin.
Calvin rubbed his eyes slowly, wondering if he dared to try and shower in the warzone of a bathroom, the tiles peeling up in all directions, and the toilet sinking down forward and to the right-so much so that pooping and vomiting blood required Calvin to stand with his knees bent and his body poised at a weird angle to make sure most of it got in the bowl.
Fuck showering, he thought, and dug in his closet for anything that could pass as a clean button down shirt. His appearance at the elementary school was steadily deteriorating day after day.
Part Two: Crusty Eyed Children and Straight Shots of Tap Water
“Hi, mister Calvin!” Shouted Derrick, a greasy haired fourth grader with dandruff clouds floating on both his shoulders and a faded Power Rangers lunch box.
“Go grab me a glass of water,” Calvin told Derrick, who instantly rushed off to the classroom sink to fill a tiny plastic cup with water. Derrick returned with the ounce of water, Calvin slammed it, handed the plastic cup back to Derrick, “another.”
“Fucking decimal points,” Calvin muttered under his breath, while Derrick stumbled off to retrieve another shot of tap water. Fourth grade curriculum meant teaching these bastards about decimal points, something Calvin had never really figured out himself. Usually he just read the chapter the night before and figured out how to bullshit on the topic for the next day, but last night had dissipated in a codeine and blood-vomit marathon and he’d completely forgotten to teach himself about adding and subtracting decimals.
He would have called in sick if he hadn’t already used all of his sick days, vacation days, lied about having to bury his mother and his aunt, and was required to show up every single day or he’d lose his job.
Derrick returned with the shot of water, Calvin slammed it, handed it back, “another.” Derrick limped off again, clearly losing stamina, as more children were filing in. These were Calvin’s students, a bunch of wild haired malnourished vermin in hand-me-down clothes with crusty shit in their eyes.
“Hi mister Calvin,” slowly echoed through the classroom. For whatever reason, it was school policy that all of the kids acknowledge his presence upon entering the room. They also referred to all the teachers by their first names, with misters and misses added to them all.
“Hey kids, hope you’re all ready to learn about decimals,” Calvin said, stretching his face in what was supposed to imitate a smile. The kids all smiled back, already used to Calvin’s banged up drug addict exterior.
Calvin had no clue what to do. He had his teacher’s edition of the math book opened up on his desk, which thankfully had all of the answers conveniently included so he could cheat through class, make it look like he knew what the hell he was doing.
“So who here knows what a decimal is?” Calvin asked. The students looked back at him with the cold dead eyes of children who had orange flavored sugar water for breakfast, provided by the school to help them wash down the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread they also received.
The rest of the school day went pretty much like that.
Part Three: Fuck Pants
Back home, Calvin collapsed into his overstuffed couch, digging into the plastic baggy he had stashed in between the cushions, retrieving another tablet from the baggy. He popped the pill, washed it down with a swig of room temperature gin from the 750 ml bottle he had left on the coffee table.
He closed his eyes and just felt himself slow down. Knut had apparently given up on the revolt, as he napped in the open window, under the sun. How long can a cat go without eating? Calvin wondered. How long could he go without eating? There wasn’t any food in the fridge, but he could eat lunch with his kids and they never asked him to pay. He occasionally ate a shitty peanut butter sandwich and orange flavored sugar water as well, but in the morning his stomach could rarely handle anything except strong coffee and prescription painkillers.
He took another swig of gin and slowly stood up to pee. He stepped into the bathroom.
“Oh my god,” he said. The floor had sunk in completely, so that the tiles formed a valley. The toilet was on one side of the valley, now forcing someone to sit facing the ground to take a shit, or to just vomit in a forward motion in order to get all the blood-vomit properly in the bowl. How was this even possible? He wondered, though he couldn’t even figure out decimals so maybe it was.
He stood in the valley of broken tiles, careful to aim his flaccid penis directly inside the bowl, knowing that gravity was going to do everything it could to screw him over. He peed into the bowl, and it all dribbled out of the bowl and onto his pants and the floor.
“Fuck!” he cursed, realizing that all of the water that had been in the bowl had already poured out of the toilet and onto the floor before he had even tried to pee. If he had just opened his goddamn eyes it would have been obvious that all the water had already poured out of the toilet. He felt his stomach start to revolt, buckled over, and vomited pure blood all over himself, the few splatters of blood-vomit that miraculously made it into the toilet just dribbled back out like the urine. “Fucking decimals,” he muttered.
He took off his urine-stained pants and just left them on the floor of the bathroom tile valley, letting them soak up more urine and blood-vomit and toilet water and whatever else had gathered there. Fuck pants, he thought.
He went back into the living room to sit on his couch and angrily stew over the self-destruction of his bathroom. What was causing this shit? It started innocuously enough; he had wandered in after a night of codeine and staring at walls and realized the toilet would rock back and forth a little. Pretty soon the toilet was starting to gain a little life, some personality, a real temper; it leaned forward, it’s fat mouth grinning dumbly. Soon enough the floor was starting to bow, the tiles cracking and peeling up. Shit was getting weird.
Calvin sat on the couch, staring at the blank screen of his TV. It worked, but the cable was off and the VCR had Glory jammed inside it at some strange angle and wouldn’t come out and he didn’t have a DVD player. So he just stared at the blank screen.
“Wake up, asshole, you’re late for work,” Knut said in a deep voice, bumping against Calvin’s knee. The bump of a hungry kitten’s head into a knee was far from enough to pull Calvin from the clutches of his codeine coma, it was the baritone voice suddenly falling out of his cat’s mouth.
“You can talk?” Calvin asked, rubbing his eyes, and looking around the couch for his bottle of gin.
“That or the codeine is causing you to hallucinate,” the cat replied.
“Nah, it can’t be that. Because I would never think of that on my own,” Calvin said, and got up to make quadruple—fuck that—quintuple strength French press coffee. He poured the beans into his hand grinder and got to work, rotating the stupid crank around and around and around until his shoulder was on fire and his wrist was numb. He loaded the grounds into the French press, topped it with boiling water, counted to fifty, and plunged. Coffee.
“I can’t, little guy, I have no money,” Calvin muttered between gulps of hot coffee.
Calvin thought about this. He had spent all his money on essentials: locally roasted single origin coffee, bottom shelf gin, and codeine. Cat food, human food, and toilet paper had to wait.
“Well, does it make you feel any better that I’m not eating either? There isn’t any food for me here either you know.”
“You eat at school.”
Calvin sat down on the couch, his feet propped up on the coffee table, long yellow toenails pointing in different directions. I should shower, he thought, before remembering his bathroom vaguely resembled Detroit. He considered trying to bathe in his sink; it had two compartments, maybe he could squeeze his ass into one, put his feet in the other. If he loaded the sink up with dish soap he could maybe soak up some of the grease and bile collecting on his skin. Maybe tomorrow, he figured, I’m already late to work.
Pooped Pants, Professional Attire
Calvin sat and stared at the emaciated peanut butter and jelly sitting in front of him on his desk in his classroom. Better to eat alone in here than to eat with all the sniveling turds he was going to teach decimals to, better to eat here alone, with his indigestion and guilt. Poor Knut, Calvin thought, taking a bite of crumbling white bread and peanut butter. So dry.
Calvin got up to get himself a shot of tap water and heard the squeaks, rattles, and stampeding tennis shoes of a herd of fourth graders shuffling down the hall, into his classroom. Motherfucking decimal time.
“Who’s ready to learn about demisuls?”Calvin asked.
“Demisuls!” A couple of kids in the front row echoed back.
“I mean decimals,” Calvin corrected himself.
“Demsicles,” a chubby and pale slug of a student with greasy locks hanging from his misshapen skull, possibly named Tyson, muttered back.
And it was back to cheating straight out of the teacher’s edition book. Calvin drew up a couple of figures on the classroom: 1.09 – 1.02; 2.21 + 4.54, shit like that. He didn’t even want to imagine what it would be like when they charted them on a line. At least he could quickly check the answers, keep the number in his head, and then overcompensate by being a complete hard-ass when a student couldn’t figure it out.
Should’ve bought the teacher’s edition book, dummies.
“I need to go to the bathroom,” the slug, possibly named Tobias asked—seriously, what was his fucking name—and Calvin said, “yeah sure.”
Back to decimals. Calvin flipped to the next page in his teacher’s edition book. Sure enough, fucking number lines. For one thing, Calvin couldn’t draw a straight line to save his life. Even with a yardstick to guide him he didn’t have a chance. He also had no fundamental understanding of this bullshit decimal system and couldn’t figure out how a stupid line helped.
“Everyone put your heads down,” he said.
No resistance. Every head hit its desk.
Calvin sat down, kicked his feet up on the desk, and leaned back. Maybe they could all nap through the afternoon, take an exceptionally long recess, and then just call it a day.
Calvin closed his eyes and drifted off.
The smell of poop wafted up into Calvin’s nostrils, instantly waking him up.
“What the fuck!” Calvin shouted, jumping out of his swivel chair. It was Tyson. Or Tyler? Whatever his name was, the kid he’d let go to the bathroom earlier.
“Have you been in the bathroom this whole time?” Calvin looked up at the clock in his room; that was at least an hour ago. This had been a nice long nap.
“I had an accident.”
“Well tell me what happened.”
“Well, it started when I asked to go to the bathroom…” Tyson or Tyler (maybe Trent) started and then he explained the most horrific bathroom incident that Calvin had ever heard of. It started when he raised his hand, as he felt his anal sphincter collapsing under the weight of an incredible load of pure liquid poop. Being a fourth grader, his sphincter was weak and inexperienced, couldn’t withstand the force of all that weight, but luckily for him, Calvin was quick to say, “yeah sure” and send him on his way.
He stood up, ready to race to the bathroom where he could explode into a toilet in privacy, but standing up turned out to be the wrong move. If he could go back and do it all over again, he was pretty sure that sliding through the hallway, remaining seated in his chair was the safest method. Sure it was slower, but he could keep that sphincter nice and shut.
It didn’t stop there. He finally reached the toilet, threw his pants to his ankles, plopped up on the seat, and exploded again, and again, and again. And once more. He wasn’t sure what was going on. This had never happened before—which was too bad, as he proved completely tactically unprepared for such an event—and now he had to clean up the disaster. He wiped. This took at least ten minutes and almost the whole toilet paper roll. Cleaning up wet diarrhea isn’t easy, even harder when you have the manual dexterity of a fourth grader.
“I kept wiping but it just made all this sticky paper that stuck to my butt,” Tyrone or Tim or whatever his name was continued, explaining that there simply was too much wetness on his butt and legs to be consumed by the toilet paper. So he escalated to paper towels. He waddled out of the stall, his diarrhea-crusted jeans still around his ankles, and rushed to gather paper towels. He wiped himself with these—way more effective—and then felt a lot better. He was finally dry. He suited up and marched back out of the bathroom. Time to clean up the trail of poop tears.
So he went out into the hall and tried his best to wipe up the long stream of dried up poop in the hall, but unfortunately it had so much time to dry that it had coagulated pretty well. So he did the best he could, tossed the pile of paper towels, and returned to class.
“Jesus,” Calvin muttered, feeling the urge to throw up his peanut butter sandwich, and probably some blood.
Trayvon just stood there, looking at Calvin.
“So do you want to go home or something?”
“I like school.”
His dad must hit him or something, Calvin reasoned, nobody liked this shithole. He checked the clock. It was 1:45. The day was so damn close to over.
“Well everyone else is taking a nap. Do you want to join them?” Calvin asked. Tyrell still smelled terribly of dried up diarrhea. It was stained on his pants and shoes, not to mention the trail of poop tears in the hallway. But he had declined the opportunity to go home early.
“Okay,” Terrence said. He went to his desk and sat down. Amazingly, the kids sitting next to him weren’t woken by the smell of the rancid fecal matter splattered against his pants.
Calvin sat back down, longing for some codeine. Two tablets, as soon as he got home, he figured. That would take away all this pain in his back and shoulders, make him feel numb and ice cold and confident and funny. When he was home alone, high on drugs, doing nothing, he was the life of the party. He closed his eyes and went back to napping.
“Calvin. Can I have a word with you?” Fuck, Calvin thought, slowly opening his eyes.
Mr. Frank, the sanctimonious custom suit-wearing son of a bitch in charge of this whole racket, principal extraordinaire, putting the pal in principal, making Calvin wish their was a cunt in principal so he could offer an acerbic response.
“Yeah Frank, sure, why not,” Calvin leaned back in his chair, “what’s up?”
“It’s about your professionalism lately.” Isn’t it always.
“Did you shower today?”
“You look like shit, Calvin. Your hair is extremely greasy. It’s actually sticking to your forehead. And it’s stuck up in the back.”
“I know. I style it that way.”
“Calvin. You call off work all the time. You’ve already maxed out all your vacation days. It’s September. The school year is barely a month in.”
“I know. I got a great deal on flights. Had to take it.”
“Where’d you go?”
“And sick days too, Calvin.”
“Been sick a lot, Frank.”
“You look sick now.”
“Are you offering me more sick time? Because I would take it.” Calvin replied, wondering what the fuck purpose there was to this conversation.
“Don’t you think you’d be better situated at a different job?”
“I want my union rep.”
Frank stopped. There was nothing more he could say. Sure he could bitch about professionalism and attire and maxing out vacation days and not knowing the decimal system but it didn’t matter. They’d already hired him. The union would make damn sure he didn’t lose his job. All he had to do was show up.
“Just give some thought to what I said, okay Calvin?”
“Sure thing, Frank.”
Frank slowly floated out of the room in his fancy suit, looking back once with the pleading eyes of a man who was tired of letting drug addicts teach the decimal system, but Calvin had already shut his eyes again. He napped the rest of the school day.
The Last Part
Back at the house, Calvin rushed to the couch stash, to where his codeine and 750 mil bottle of gin were hidden. What a fucking day. Calvin doubted he had enough codeine to free his mind of images of Tommy, flooding his hand-me-down jeans with diarrhea, applying the full tactical knowledge of a fourth grader to its clean up, failing miserably, and then slithering back into the classroom smelling like an exploded colon.
You think you have your life together and then your body just goes and ruins everything.
He popped two tablets of codeine, washed them down with a swig of gin, and just sat there. Seriously. What a fucking day.
You again, Calvin thought, hating himself for silently wishing that Knut had already starved to death. Then he wouldn’t have to worry about feeding the stupid talking cat.
“Feed me,” Knut repeated, locking his little blue eyes with Calvin’s.
“I have no food.”
“Figure it out.”
This fucking cat, he thought. Calvin got up to pee, a little nervous to see what had happened with his bathroom. He walked through the kitchen to where the bathroom was and dear god, it was worse than Detroit.
The floor had completely collapsed. Calvin carefully leaned over the ledge to see into its cavernous depths, but it was so deep he could see no end. The tiles had split in the center, opening to reveal a gaping hole to nowhere. Where did it end? Had his house been built on a cave? Calvin looked across the chasm to his shower, which was actually still hanging on. Maybe if he had plank he could build a catwalk to the shower and wash up. Though if he slipped, he’d surely fall to his death.
And it was in that moment, while he was thinking about falling to his death, that a little thing bumped against his legs. Not hard, but it startled him and he reacted by jerking forward. He stumbled forward, swiveling around to try and grab something for support, but there was nothing. His legs slipped off the ledge and he realized he was completely unprepared to try and regain his balance. He fell forward into the pit, disappearing into the abyss.
“Asshole,” Knut said, as he watched Calvin fall.