Written for NPR's 9th "Three Minute Fiction" contest.
|The whole thing was rotten. A wet heap that piled in and on itself, leaving white flecks of paper hanging in the water like a snow globe.
“It’s all that extra ply,” he said. He tried to sound confident.
The man standing behind him tilted his head almost imperceptibly. He was wearing a black suit and stood very still.
“Ply, Mr. President?”
“Yeah. The plies. Folks get too fancy—add in a bunch of extra plies when the most you need is one or two…”
He trailed off, focusing into the toilet bowl again. Water dribbled down its sides and lapped through his cotton socks. He was in his bathrobe with the Presidential seal. He was carrying a plumber’s helper.
“That’s your problem right there,” he said, hefting the wooden handle of the plunger and splattering himself in the process.
“Dammit…” he muttered. He hadn’t expected that. He gripped the plunger with both hands and tested the weight. It felt good. The handle was rough, but not uncomfortable—like it could give him callouses if he used it enough. He liked that.
“Mr. President, this really isn’t necessary. We have people who can do this for you.”
The President ignored the man in the black suit and pushed the rubber end of the plunger deep into the drooping bolus of tissue and water. It seemed to be collapsing in on itself. That was a good sign, wasn’t it?
He gave the handle a cursory shove, feeling a change in the pressure of the air trapped somewhere beneath the water’s surface. He pushed again, this time with more gusto. The bowl emitted a quick, wet, fart in reply. It was a friendly enough sound, but he could tell the pressure had shifted again.
Why couldn’t he do this?
If those bozos on TV could see him now, they’d have a good laugh. Especially that jackass with the late night show. The one with the hair. He couldn’t stop seeing the headline:
PRESIDENT CAN’T UNCLOG TOILET: OUT OF TOUCH WITH AMERICA?
Just last week, that sleazy talk show host had run a hand through his massive coif of hair and called him an idiot.
Right there, to his face!
Well, not really his face: the television wasn’t the president’s face.
But he might as well have.
The President imagined that host, and how good it would feel to slosh some of this scummy water on his perfect, full-bodied locks. The plunger was coming up and down in quicker and quicker successions now, making the idiotic stutter of a howler monkey with each completion. The talk show host’s face was blurry and scrunched up as his hair began to sag and fall. Copious product melted into toilet water and stung his smug, beady little eyes.
And just as the President’s fantasy reached critical mass, he was jolted out of his reverie by a sudden whooshing belch that seemed to fill the small space of his bathroom. It rang in his ears for a moment before he looked back down into the toilet bowl.
The soaked tissue—the rotten mass—was gone. The overfull toilet rumbled down to a manageable level, and the President whooped like a six year old.
“I did it!” he shouted at the man in the black suit. He was actually raising his fists in triumph over his head.
“I did it!”
The man in the black suit glanced at the bowl with tired eyes and then looked back to the President.
“You’re an inspiration, sir,” he said.