“I don’t understand what position you’re sitting in that puts that many stains on the back of the toilet bowl,” my wife says, entering the kitchen in her robe.
“When I go, it’s all into the water.”
“You have no idea what you’re doing in the toilet, do you? You don’t even look?”
“It’s a disaster. You need help.”
“I need help? I’m sorry, but I go at the same times every day. I bet that puts me in the ninetieth percentile of bowel health. I’m all set.”
She closes the cabinet, stares at me.
She continues staring. Shakes her head. “Men.”
An old, dirty truck sits in our driveway when I return from work. Inside is a big, dirty man, passed out against the window.
“Who is that?” I ask my wife inside.
“He’s the best coach available.”
“You’re spraying it all over the back of the bowl, getting it up under the seat. It doesn’t make sense. He’ll help you.”
“I don’t need help.”
“He won an award in the 70s.”
“An award for shitting?”
The noise of kicked cans. A fist pounds on the front door. “We’s gotta train.”
I open it a crack. The man’s breath all sour poison.
“You’se the one wit’ the bad shits?”
I slam the door, lock it.
Before bed, I defecate. For the first time I’m doubting myself. Second-guessing my stance.
His voice, through the window. “Bring that left foot in, boy. I can’t see you, but I know you crooked.”
I shake my head. I push, hear the log slap the porcelain. No contact with water.
Fine. I straighten my stance, pull my left foot in. Push again.
I curl over to look between my legs. Maybe it is cleaner in there.
“How’d you do?” my wife says as I get into bed.
“Everything’s fine. I don’t need help.”
He’s asleep in his car when I back out of the driveway. But he stirs as I pass.
“Bet you done better last night, huh, boy?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Son, my dukes ain’t stick to no bowls. I’m a sharpshooter. Right down into the water, every time.”
“You want these clean dukes, boy! I know you want em!”
“I have to go to work. I have a real job.”
After lunch, I defecate at work. He’s not here to harass me. I’m able to do my business without any issue, and I vow to evict the man from my driveway.
“Who the hell destroyed the pot?” Tom says to the entire office at 1:15. “Whoever used the bowl last tore it apart. It’s disgusting in there. How is it possible to get that much diarrhea all over the back of the bowl, and even on the underside of the seat? It’s a crime scene. We ought to pull up the security camera footage of whoever did that and send it to the police. Jesus Christ.”
I lower my head. When put on the spot, I tell my colleagues I’ve been constipated for two weeks.
That night, I don’t defecate. I lay in bed beside my wife, silently passing gas.
She smells them. “Do you need to use the bathroom?”
I don’t speak.
“You have to go, but you’re scared. You’re aware now of how nasty your bowel movements often are.”
“There’s no shame in asking for help. He’s in the driveway.”
When my wife is asleep, I knock on his window. He startles awake, laughs in my face.
Coach joins me in the bathroom. He makes me take off all my clothes. I sit on the toilet in front of him. With his fat, callused fingers, he molds my feet, my knees, my shoulders. Like a sculptor.
He teaches me breathing techniques. He tells me how to how long to push, which muscles to squeeze.
It feels strange and unnatural. I revert back to my old tilt. When I push, nothing comes out. I’m in my head, psyching myself out. Coach slaps me across the face, turns his back on me.
“You ain’t cut out for this.”
He leaves, packing his things into his truck.
I chase after him. “Please.”
“You do as I say?”
He comes back inside, heads for the kitchen. He pushes almost all of our food into a trash bag.
“Until you right, none of this junk. You eat oatmeal. That’s it. Nothing spicy, nothing saucy.”
At work, I eat oatmeal from my thermos at my desk when my boss calls me into his office.
“You’re up for a promotion. But so is Tom. I’ll be tracking your performance closely before making my final decision.”
“I’d like to get to know you better. What do you say, dinner with my wife and me tonight at my house?”
“By the way, I am conducting an investigation into who’s been spraying the backs of the toilets with diarrhea. Whoever did it will be fired immediately. If you have any information regarding this crime, you must tell me.”
I pound on the truck window. “Coach, I need an emergency lesson.”
He doesn’t move.
I open the door, he spills out. He coughs chunks of blood into his hand. “I’m dying,” he says. “The cancer got me.”
“Oh, god. Cancer in your…?”
“Boy, the cancer’s in every molecule of me except my ass. It’s in my toes, my damn ribs, my eyes. But my cheeks, crack, and hole done be pristine, boy. They gon’ sell this ass at Whole Foods when I go.”
“Coach, stay with me. I need you.”
He coughs again and he dies.
When I’m done burying him in the backyard, it’s time for dinner at my boss’s house.
“Welcome,” my boss’s wife says, opening the door for us. “We’re excited to have you two over, and I hope you’ll enjoy the meal I’ve prepared of spicy sardine stew, laden with oil and rich sauce.”
“Do you have any plain oatmeal?”
“I heard you were funny. That’s very good.”
I sit beside my boss and there is no way to avoid the soup. I’ve had half my bowl when the sweats begin, then the stomach pangs.
I am going to defecate.
“Would you mind pointing me towards the restroom furthest from here? I need to make a phone call and don’t want to disturb you all with the noise.”
I race down the hall, lock the door.
There is no toilet brush. There is no bottle of bleach. Ten squares of toilet paper remain. Just enough for me. None for the bowl.
I remove all my clothes and sit how Coach taught me. Knees level, feet straight, shoulders back.
An angry brew of sloppy shit erupts.
It’s hot and it’s wet and it must be all over the place. It sounds wide, big, windy.
I know I’ve made a mess, and I begin crying.
But I hear Coach in my head. “Don’t give up yet, boy. You done got what you need. Just don’t give up.”
I sit up straight again. Another gush of red-hot brown.
I curl over to look.
A line-drive straight down into the water. No side-spray, no collateral damage. Immaculate.
I wipe and I flush, shaking with relief.
But then a noise from the door. A hand fidgeting with the knob, picking the lock.
My boss bursts in. “It reeks like hell in here. And why are you naked?”
He shoves me out of the way, lifts the toilet lid, sticks his head it. “It’s clean. Stinks, but clean.”
“You couldn’t have been the culprit at the office. You’re a good and honest man who fires crisp dukes into the water.”
“I’m a sharpshooter.”
“And you’re now our vice president.”
He holds his hand out and I shake it, naked.
At work, they pin the mess on Tom. They fire him and drag him out of the building in handcuffs. The more he screams that it wasn’t him, the guiltier he sounds.
I move my things into the big corner office with its own private bathroom.
I hang a photo of Coach in front of the toilet.
Before bed, I defecate. It’s clean and good, my form impeccable.
But there is no toilet paper.
A week ago, I wouldn’t have said a thing. Unable to ask for help, I would have suppressed my needs. Stepped into the shower or pulled my sweatpants back up, praying there wasn’t too much debris between my cheeks.
But Coach taught me more than how to sit on the toilet.
“Did you say something?”
“Can you help and get me some toilet paper?”
She opens the door, gags. “It smells so bad in here.”
“I know. But believe it or not, all the brown is underwater. The smell is just that powerful. None of the slop is on the porcelain.”
“You can look.”
“I don’t want to.”
“Coach really helped me. And I can’t thank you enough for hiring him.”
“Can you close the door? I’d like to honor Coach for about twenty more minutes.”
She gives me my privacy. Pints of feces spray from my ass directly into the water. “This one’s for you, Coach.”