The Boy…and the toilet: The beginning

I’m going to start this out with an apology.

I apologize if I offend you or your delicate nature with the scatological tale that will follow.  If you’re a sensitive type that doesn’t like to read about poo, do not read further (and don’t read this blog either!).  You have been warned.

Still with me?  Lovely, on with the tale.

There’s two things I know about my son, the Boy, beyond a shadow of a doubt.

The first is, the kid needs to eat more fibre.  As the Shat (yes, pun intended) says, he needs to make fibre his friend.

The second is, his sphincter can expand enough to permit the easy and unimpeded ingress and egress of a very large cat.

These things I know.  Through the rest of this sad and sorry tale (numbers one and two…and yes, pun intended again), you will come to know how I managed to learn these particular salient facts about my son’s digestive and waste-elimination systems.

We’re going back a few years now, but there was a time in our house where it seemed that every time my wife or I wanted to use the toilet, we had to first complete a skill-testing task.  That is, we had to plunge the toilet.

The Boy, it seems, would go in, do what he needed to do (which, apparently was to excrete a pipe-blocking plug of poo), flush, ignore the plaintive cries of a toilet in pain, vainly trying to do its one and only function only to fail.  Spectacularly.  In epic fashion.

Which leaves someone to come behind and try and ram the offending mess down the throat of the protesting toilet.  Sometimes that was the Wife, more often me.  The Wife blamed “poor upper body strength” to get her out of it.

Then, after years of this, two things happened in reasonably quick succession.

The first was the time the Wife plunged for an abnormally long time–like, a solid ten minutes–and, running like a symphony that builds upon itself as it goes on, her curses and epithets became louder and more vociferous against the steady ka-POOSH-thok! ka-POOSH-thok! ka-POOSH-thok! of the dome-shaped old-style plunger.  Finally, she tagged me in and I continued the marathon for another fifteen or so minutes, adding a more basso profundo element to this symphony of shit.

Along the way, I really had to exert some serious downward pressure.  The water was a swampy brown mess of shredded toilet paper and remnants (and I know you know what I mean by “remnants”).  And as I exerted my manly will upon the plunger, Newton’s Third Law of Motion was illustrated in all its dripping glory.  That law states that every action is met with an equal and opposite reaction (or words to that effect), which, in terms of downward force applied to a swampy brown mess of shredded toilet paper and remnants means a substantial portion of said swampy mess will be pushed in an equal and opposite upward force.

In layman’s terms, I pushed on the plunger and the shitty water gooshed into my face.  Puts a whole new spin on “shitfaced”, doesn’t it?

So, this first of two significant events did not leave me pleased.  Not in the least.

The second thing that happened occurred when we were visiting the Wife’s brother (heretofore mentioned as The Brother-in-Law).  At some point during our visit, I had need of the facilities and, as much as it pains me to admit this, this time it was me that plugged the damn toilet.

There’s nothing with quite the same depth of feeling as coming into a room packed with family and asking where their plunger is.

Regardless, I wasn’t going to leave a swampy parting gift for the Brother-in-Law.  Maybe if he was a dick or something, but he’s actually a super nice guy.  He pointed me to the plunger…

…and the man changed my world.

His plunger was not the nasty dome-shaped unit I’d grown to despise to my very soul.  No, this was a newer, space-aged design that incorporated an accordion-style business end.

And when I applied it to the job at hand, my GOD!  Two pushes and it cut through the plug like a hot knife through butter.  This thing was brilliant!  I knew, in that moment, how Thor felt when wielding his mighty hammer Mjolnir.  Now I was playing with power!

I came back into the room a happy man and sung the plunger’s praises to the Wife.   The Brother-in-Law, as per his custom, smirked in his bemused fashion and, with understated enthusiasm, stated, “Oh yeah.  Works great.”

I immediately set upon a plan to track down the nearest Wal-Mart and buy one of these babies.  And, before we got home that day, I had the power of the space-age plunger in hand.  In fact, I almost welcomed the next plugged toilet.

Tomorrow…the continuation of The Boy…and the toilet.

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Gift wrapping, “chillingly close” & suspense

As I wrapped the last of the Christmas gifts yesterday…okay, full disclosure, as I wrapped all of the Christmas gifts yesterday, I started thinking about…writing.

How does that work? you may wonder.  How are those things connected?

Funny you should ask.

As I struggled and fought (and mostly lost) against covering up my purchases with brightly-coloured paper, doing my best to disguise the easily-guessed items (an example would be a DVD…I mean, come on, even in wrapping paper, it’s either a DVD or a video game), I thought about suspense.

I mention this in my Creative Writing course, and I think it’s an appropriate example.

Why do we wrap Christmas gifts?  Or birthday gifts?  Why do we go to all the trouble of doing elaborate shenanigans to fog, mystify or throw off the guesses of the gift receiver?

Suspense, that’s why.

What fun would it be on Christmas morning (and yes, I’m an open-your-presents-Christmas-morning-not-Christmas-Eve kinda guy) to have your spouse reach under the tree, grab a plainly visible watch out and hand it to you.  “I got you a watch.”

Then you reach under the tree and hand her the plainly visible and easily discernable Ginsu knife set.  “I got you the Ginsu knife set,” you say.

Pretty freaking boring, right?

Instead, we thrive on the anticipation of it all, the mystery, and yes, even the trepidation.  Is Grandma going to get me yet another pair of slippers this year?

Looking up suspense, I got three basic definitions:

  1. The condition of being physically suspended.
  2. The state or quality of being undecided, uncertain, or doubtful, or; Pleasurable excitement and anticipation regarding an outcome, such as the ending of a mystery novel.
  3. Anxiety or apprehension resulting from an uncertain, undecided, or mysterious situation.

I think, unless your Christmas morning is way different from mine, that we can toss out the first one.  I may become physically suspended while hanging the Christmas lights on the house, but I haven’t yet experienced that during gift giving.

So looking at the two parts of the second definition and the third one–which, really, is just the second one with a more negative tone–you start to understand the reason for wrapping gifts.  It’s the pleasurable excitement and anticipation regarding an outcome.  Or, in the case of Grandma’s slipper gifts, anxiety or apprehension resulting from an uncertain, or doubtful situation.  And maybe the same feeling if her dentures tend to slip while she’s giving you a kiss or something (yes, there’s a reason I write horror).

Anyway, that pleasurable excitement, or even that apprehension we feel, well, that’s the fun part, isn’t it?  It’s the reason we also go on rollercoasters, go watch thrillers and horror movies, and look around at who else is shopping at the local Wal-Mart.

And it’s also why we read.  If there’s no suspense, or very little, then it’s just not a fun ride.

This is why I don’t like to watch romantic comedies.  Anything starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts and her three hundred teeth hold no suspense for me.  Why?  Because, no matter what happens in the first one hour and 45 minutes, I know, in that last 15 minutes, they’re going to get together and live happily ever after.

Yawn.

I constantly rant against the horrid writing of Dan Brown.  No, really.  Want a taste?  Okay, just remember you asked for it.

A voice spoke, chillingly close. “Do not move.”

On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly.

Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils.

Okay, let’s count the errors in these roughly 60 words, shall we?

  1. Voices don’t speak.  Characters do.
  2. A voice that’s “chillingly close” isn’t fifteen feet away.  It’s whispering in your ear.
  3. If the curator froze, how can he turn his head.
  4. Pretty impressive that he could pick out those pink irises with dark red pupils of a friggin’ silhouette.

Okay, so, established, shitty writer.  But the one thing I’ll give him (about the only thing I’ll give him) is that he was a master at setting up a situation, then leaving you hanging at the end of virtually every chapter of The Da Vinci Code.  I’ll admit I didn’t give a flying crap about how it came out, because he totally lost me by the first chapter (I only kept reading because I’d been told by so many people how good it was…lying bastards), and I didn’t like the characters and their pretty much non-existent motivations, but when he set up a situation, he was good at leaving you hanging.

Maybe that’s why everyone bought the book.  Because the only other explanation is that everyone is simply lemmings and once the stampede starts, you’re along for the ride, even if it takes you off that cliff.

Think of your absolute favourite movie, book, or episode of a television show.  Now think about why that was your favourite.  Sure, you probably loved the characters.  You likely fell in love with the story as well.  Maybe location, or personal interest in some aspect of it held your attention as well.

But I bet there’s this absolutely nagging sense of Oh! My! God! I need to find out what happens!

That’s suspense, baby.

It’s crucial.

And it’s found in all the best movies, books, events, television shows…and gifts.

As opposed to the aforementioned Richard Gere/Julia Roberts rom-com, which is just a poorly wrapped DVD or video game that can be guessed at from twenty paces.

Sorry, forty paces.  Twenty paces would be “chillingly close.”