“Your Ladyship, all we want is light and water: just clean water and plain daylight, better than any jewels, begging your pardon.”
And now, a word from our sponsors.
Have you been vomiting blood for three days straight?
Try Pepto! It won’t do shit.
Did you know?
I wrote this chapter completely nude.
“Prednisone” – for all your madness needs!
The enemy loomed above me; his all-seeing eye bathed the bathroom in an ominous glow. I panted, gasped and stared at the toilet where the violent heaving of black liquids had missed then splattered down the sides of the bowl. It looked like shit. Had blackened death shit come out of my mouth? Was my body working in reverse?
Hunched over the toilet, my ass on the edge of the tub, I breathed and spat residue into the bowl. I waited for my enemy to speak, to say something (anything!), but he remained silent and watchful.
Eventually I had the courage to speak, “What does it want?”
I whispered it to the floor, unable to look at the looming presence above me.
“The same thing as you.” Replied the dark lord, his voice calm and assured.
This genuinely puzzled me. Had my mom, hippie holistic healer, nurse and ultimate saleswoman of the planet, managed to sell the sickness in my gut, now manifest above me as the dark lord Sauron, a water filter? I mean, my mom was amazing but this was bordering on the insane.
“What the fuck are you talking about Nathan?” Asked Sara.
“You’re really starting to scare us.” Confirmed Bobby.
“Ok.” I said. “Don’t freak out. You guys are all freaking out.”
“Yeah, because you’re freaking us out!”
“Point taken. Sorry Sarah. Sorry Bobby.”
“Just tell us what the fuck you’re talking about.”
OK. Here goes.
One of the reasons I had been so healthy for so long was because I drank a lot of water, and the reason I drank a lot of water was because my body craved it and the reason my body craved it was because I drank the finest water known to man; dispensed on demand from the spigot of the glorious Multipure Drinking Water System. In addition to being a supplement nut and a nurse, my mom was also a top-tier saleswomen for a company that sold the best water filter on the planet. Top-tier nurse, top-tier Jesus witch, top tier water filter saleswoman. My mom was a top tier beast.
Not only was the Multipure inexpensive, it was certified at great cost by an independent testing agency to pull more harmful contaminants from the water than any other filter on the market. Its solid carbon block was comprised of three layers: a bone-white, paper, spongy coating to catch your fish guts, frog eyes and cattle feces; two inches of carbon; and a final tube of some miracle substance that could filter down to half a micron without breaking a sweat. All of this was packed into a cylinder then loaded into a stainless steel container so sexy DeLoreans got jealous. And could my mom sell those things.
If she saw someone (anyone!) at the grocery store with a gallon of water in their shopping cart she would say, “Did you know that for 7 cents a gallon you could have a point of use water filtration device that would pull all the contaminants from the water you drink while leaving the minerals in? You could use this water to cook with, clean with, wash your fruits, wash your veggies, and it could even be tied into the ice and water dispenser on your refrigerator so you’d have filtered water and ice on demand. You wouldn’t have to lug heavy bottles home from the store and you wouldn’t have to drink the trihalomethanes that water had leached from its plastic container!”
She said that!
At grocery stores!
And if the unfortunate hap tried to be polite, if he was anything but a dick, she would latch on. That’s why my sister and I called her “The Bulldog,” because once she bit down, she didn’t let go.
On weekends she loaded up a trailer full of equipment and headed out to various gun shows, trade shows and farmer’s markets to set up a booth. People came to the events and walked around looking at all the stuff and after a while they got thirsty. If they passed my mom’s booth, she offered them a cup of water. If they had a water bottle, she offered to let them fill it for free. There was even a little doggie dish in case you had a pet. If they accepted any of these offers, she would launch into her spiel about the body being made up of 70 percent water and how they put chlorine in our drinking water to kill living things and weren’t you a living thing? She would tell them about outbreaks of cryptosporidium and giardia, then warn about the dipole moment of water which made it very attractive so if you pulled the minerals out of your water through distillation, the water would pull the minerals out of you. She had a litany of clever slogans, and man could she tell it.
My mom was one of the top saleswomen at Multipure and it was a big company with distributors operating all over the world. The owners would check with her before making big decisions and fly her all over the globe on vacations to make sure she was happy.
In the basement – where she healed the sick – there were bookshelves filled with row upon row of supplements, strange machines of the witch’s craft, antique lamps made from brass fire extinguishers and a shelf filled to the ceiling with stacks of gleaming trophies – proof of her accomplishments as a Multipure super star.
A lifetime later I was sitting on the edge of my tub wondering if she had somehow sold a water filter to my sickness. In my fractured state anything seemed possible, especially once you had already accepted the reality that someone like my mom existed.
I breathed and panted and spat and waited for my enemy to pass judgment. Eventually I had the strength to speak. “What does it want?” We whispered to the floor.
“The same thing as you.” Replied the dark lord, his voice calm and assured.
“Delicious sips of cool, clear Multipure water?”
“No,” he replied. “To live.”
With those words he vanished. Lord Sauron, chief lieutenant of the Morgoth, seduced by Melkor, Lord of Gifts and he who forged the rings of power, returned to the guts from whence he came.
I contemplated his words as I wiped death shit from my feet with a T-shirt. I left the puddle on the floor and stumbled past green bile splatters and pink Pepto splatters and crawled into bed. I realized that I was Gollum and this room was Shelob’s lair. Sauron had abandoned me, I wasn’t even good enough to kill. But somewhere in the depths of this place someone loved me. Shelob, giant spider from the mists of time. Hadn’t Gandalf said that she was older than Sauron? Or did he just keep her as a pet? Either way, Sam had run her through with Sting. She was wounded and hiding, just like me. I could hear her breathing and it gave me comfort. She was alive and so was I. The Pepto hadn’t worked, but the Precious was still there. My Multipure MP400PC counter top model with adjustable hose and easy release valve sat on the sink and waited for me to unravel the mystery of my guts. Waited for me to find a way to drink some water. Was there a clue in his words? Had the dark lord given me an out? What did he mean when he said he wanted to live? It was an intriguing puzzle. I loved puzzles, and this one was special because I knew that if I didn’t figure it out, I was going to die.
“Thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinkses, Precious. Gollum. What’s wrong, my Precious? What’s happening? We’re throwing up, my Love. Oh yes we are. Nasty Sauronses is making us throw up our Precious. Gollum! Gollum!»
“What about more sipses?”
“We took the sipses, Precious, they were too big.”
“Tiny sipses, Precious, tiny sipses, can’t throw up. Tiny H’s, little O’s like chemistry, my love. They taught us, Precious, yes they did, a long time ago, when we weren’t sick, when we were well. Two H’s and one O, my Precious!”
“We can’t sip so small, too tiny, too small.”
“But we needs it, Precious, we needs it. We needs it to live, my Precious, we needs it to live. He’ll kill us, Precious. Tiny drops of Precious, Gollum
‘Makes it rain, my Precious?”
“The showers, Precious. Oh, yes, the showers, they makes it rain, they makes it rain all day.”
Then it hit me like a bolt from Heaven: The Multipure Aquashower!
At the stock shows and gun shows where my mom sold filters to Sauron and other attendees, the “closer” was an offer to be entered in a drawing. If your name was pulled, you won a free shower dechlorinator. Put your name and phone number on a piece of paper, put the paper in a box then be hounded for the rest of your life by my mom on her Monday Calling Nights. It was a pretty good deal, but here’s where it got funny.
My mom was one of the top saleswomen at Multipure. The selling technique with the free shower dechlorinator was Multipure’s idea and it worked really well, but my mom refused to award the Multipure Aquashower in those weekly drawings. Instead, she would give the winners a dechlorinator from a rival company. My mom owed allegiance to health and health alone, fuck you very much. She would tell potential customers that the dechlorinator Multipure made was crap and it was important to shower in good water because chlorine
Chlorine absorbed through the skin, did water absorb through the skin? How did the chlorine get in? Was it attached to the water through its dipole moment? It had to be, right? Remember when you’d spend all day in the pool and then had to get up all night to pee again and again? There was no way you swallowed all that water, there was just no way. That water got in through your skin and the chlorine rode the water and the water was being absorbed through your pores! Microscopic sips of our most valuable weapon! Tiny nano-bot destroyers – bringers of salvation!
This was the first time in the struggle when my mom’s dogged tenacity saved my life. It was indirect. Imagine if she had not embarrassed the shit out of adolescent Nathan and talked to every person in every god damned grocery store with a gallon of bottled water in their shopping cart. What if she hadn’t loaded up that trailer every weekend (after working a full week as a nurse who made good money) to go to trade shows in search of leads? Would I have thought to take a shower if I hadn’t heard my mom sell water filters over the phone to people every Monday night (and I mean every Monday night) for the entirety of my growing years? Probably not. But she had and like the subtle induction of H2O through osmosis (not reverse osmosis, those filters were crap!) her repetition had penetrated my brain. I now held the key to victory. I couldn’t throw up water if it wasn’t in my stomach. Fuck you Sauron. Check mate.
Decrepit Gollum wandered back to the bathroom. Past pink vomit, then green bile and finally into the bathroom where the shit-blood on the floor reeked like death. Miserably, he turned on the water and stood, trembling, waiting for it to warm. I didn’t even bother to close the curtain or step over the blood, the shower would wash it off. I didn’t adjust the temperature or tilt of the spray. Instead, I climbed inside and lay as flat as I could. The keychain-size Swiss Army knife was back, poking me from inside, but I didn’t care. It no longer seemed important.
I laid there for hours and days and centuries. Eons rolled into millennia that stretched and folded across space and time. Universes spread in boundless darkness where gods were born and love and life had not yet been defined. I lay there for eternity (Poetic Numbering System).
The pain came and went but I didn’t care. It didn’t matter. I was finally touching my Precious and it felt good. Really good. The heat and trembling pressure-tap-spray soothed my aching guts. I still hurt like hell, but a softer hell, with slightly less wretched demons. I laid in that hot shower until I couldn’t take it any more, then cooled the water down until I was shivering, only to warm it up again. I repeated the process for a million scientific years.
I thought about the open curtain and how a fine mist must be diluting and spreading the death shit I’d thrown up across the floor. I didn’t care about the mess, but I was intrigued by the idea that this death shit might actually be shit. It didn’t taste like shit (not that I have, not that I would) but could it be some sort of pre-shit? As in something coming back up, which hadn’t travelled far enough to get really stinky? Was there a blockage somewhere inside me making it so nothing could get through?
I began to probe my tender guts with shaky fingers and found that there were indeed spots that were tighter than others. What’s more, when the knife-like pain began to build, I could press on these spots and release the pain before it became a bowie knife ripping its way out of me. Great Scott, Batman! We could control the gurgles! I sat there happily absorbing water and rubbing my tummy like Winnie the Pooh after a honey date with Christopher Robin.
Maybe there was a blockage. Didn’t laxatives cure constipation? I knew what laxatives were because of a story my mom used to tell. It was about her when she was in grade school.
My mom grew up on The Diamond C cattle ranch near Killdeer, North Dakota, and her class was a particularly precocious bunch. According to her, they ran off multiple teachers in the same year with antics and hijinks that would land you in prison today. The thing was, these antics and hijinks weren’t relegated to frazzled teachers, those little hicks would mess with each other as well. Apparently, there was a particularly runty nerd in the class who was fat and slow and loved chocolate. One day someone brought in a box of chocolate Ex-Lax and gave it to him as a gesture of good will. I guess the bathroom was right next door to the classroom and the kid spent the entire day in there flushing the toilet again and again. With each flush, the class erupted in laughter. Their latest teacher never figured out what was going on.
I loved that story and as soon as I was old enough to afford a box, I bought some chocolate Ex-Lax and hid it in my room. In our house there was no greater evil than sugar, so naturally my sister and I craved candy. One day I came to her with a few squares of Ex-Lax, “Want some chocolate?”
She looked at me suspiciously, “Where’d you get chocolate?” She knew that if I happened upon one of my mom’s hidden stashes of sweets, I sure as hell wasn’t going to give her any until she’d made my bed and fluffed my pillows.
“I bought it.” I said proudly. “Want some?” My sister was super smart and could already read. She knew the Ex-Lax story as well as I did, so I offered her the squares upside-down so she couldn’t see the tops where the brand name was stamped.
The little scamp took the chocolate and wolfed it down, then went into my room in search of more. She rifled through my desk until she found the box of Ex-Lax and immediately realized what had happened. She ran to my mom and told on me.
“Where did you get chocolate Ex-Lax?” My mom asked in an angry tone.
“I bought it.”
“How did you get to Safeway?”
“I rode my bike.”
“Give it to me.”
I handed her what was left of the Ex-Lax. She looked at me, then Noelle, and began to laugh. Noelle started laughing too, so I joined in. “How many of these did you give her?” She managed to get out between laughs. Her jolly belly shook with lilting heaves.
“Three,” I replied.
“Alright,” she said through siren sobs of mirthful tears, “looks like you’re eating three, kid!” She broke off three squares and made me eat them. I was fine with that. It was almost like eating candy.
I shut off the water, splashed through runny death shit, walked past the green bile, then the pink Pepto splatters (at least I hadn’t gotten any on the painting I was making for baby Hannah) and sat down at my computer for some research. The screen still glowed Pepto pink. I should have been repulsed, that stuff had wrecked me, but looking at the screen was strangely soothing. I was a graphic designer who had been no-call, no-showing to work for the past four days. This booksperience started as a Facebook post to let my boss know why I hadn’t been in, but under the influence of sleep deprivation and Steroid Madness it had grown into something more.
I stared at the screen and smiled. Those Pepto guys really had it figured out. Pink was my second least favorite color next to Orange and that stuff had just released Sauron from my guts, but I still found the glow soothing. That was damned good marketing if you asked me.
I tabbed over to a new page and googled Ex-Lax. I discovered that it was indeed a laxative, the strongest you could get without a prescription!
The phone rang, shattering three days of moaning silence. What new tragedy was about to befall my sickly body? I was too weak to walk over so I crab-waddled my wheely desk chair to the place on the floor where my phone had been charging for the last three days.
It was my mom, the terrifying Craterhoof Behemoth of healing. My guts gurgled with hatred and disrespect. How did she know something was wrong? I had only said “hello.”
“Nathan, what’s wrong?”
I didn’t have the energy to come up with a lie. I was too spent. Too thin. Too thirsty. “I’m sick.” I said, hoping she couldn’t hear the quaver in my voice.
“I’m in Paonia with Gus (name changed to protect the identity of the dead) and I don’t get off until 9 tonight. I have three doctor’s visits scheduled for your grandparents in the next two days, but I’m going to reschedule them. Hopefully we can get them in on the weekend, but either way I’ll cancel my hotel for the night, drive back to Junction, let’s see, that’ll get me in around 11. I’ll pack, get some sleep and head over the mountains in the morning.”
“I don’t think that’s necessary, mom. I really don’t.”
“Not an option.”
“See you tomorrow.”
“No mom, I really don’t think that—“
She hung up the phone.
Fuck. Shit. Cunt.
She was coming. The Lion-Hearted-Bull-Dog-Of-A-Thousand-Paradoxes was coming and there was nothing I could do about it. She would load her SUV with the giant green briefcase of testing supplements and boxes upon boxes of actual supplements. There would be coolers full of things that needed to be kept cold and hot oils that smelled pretty but didn’t work. She would enter my lair, throw open the blinds, and then poke, prod and half-a-Jesus-on-the-cross the shit out of me. She would prescribe plastic baggies filled with supplements as well as endless shock treatments from her many devices. There would be foot baths, Epson salts, ginger, garlic and – it was too much to bear.
I looked at the computer screen. The Ex-Lax website waited patiently.
Allow 6 – 12 hours to work.
Alright, Luke, the target area is only two meters wide. It’s a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port. The shaft leads directly to the reactor system. A precise hit will start a chain reaction, which should destroy the station, but if you miss, there’ll be hell to pay.
Ex-Lax, don’t fail me now.
to be continued
These are the songs that begin and end the podcast. Mwah!
This song was written and performed by Jordan and recorded by me! Hear that high falsetto in the background? It’s not a girl, it is in fact yours truly. Bam!
The Pelican Song
This song was written, recorded and performed by your pitiful protagonist. It’s a track from my first album, Aristotle’s Mirror, which was my first attempt at home recording. Enjoy!