Gun. Shit. Baby. Stories Levi B. Sanchez
ÂŠ 2010 Levi B. Sanchez
Wheelchair Party #3
The Family Tradition Puke-estra There's no such thing as a table for one. The sight of a lone man invites all eyes in the dining room to reach around corners and follow harsh angles to rest in the seat across from him. Knowing this, I ate alone most evenings during the winter of 2001. It started off as a convenience thing. The Family Tradition is basically the only restaurant in Harrisville and my cooking resume includes little more than eggs and soup. Spurred by my boredom with eggs and soup, I walked 3 blocks and waited to be seated. “Just you tonight, honey?” “Yes, ma'am, just me.” “We've got a place for you right over by the window.”
I ordered water and looked over the menu, feeling eyes make long journeys to my table. I saw old people and teenage couples over the top of the laminated paper. I was glad to have something to keep my eyes and hands occupied, and stared long at the items even after I'd chosen the cheapest meal that sounded good. “I'm Dawn, and I'll be your server the rest of the night, what can we get for you?” “The chicken quesedilla looks good, minus onions and tomatoes.” “Just chicken and cheese?” “Yeah, I'm a plain sort of guy.” “Alright, I'll get that in for you.”
I'm not sure when the thought occurred to me exactly. It'd be romantic to say it came to me in a fit of genius waiting for my chicken quesedilla, but it's more likely that I thought it up in the not quite wakeful hours of one of those nameless winter mornings. I can't even really claim it as any sort of
personal genius, because anyone that's seen the movie Stand by Me is familiar with the concept. If one person vomits in a public, there's a very good chance that another person will vomit. The chain could stop there, or it could go on ad infinitum until the puke-estra is complete; staccato, high-pitched exhalations mixed with low, slow guttural offerings. Point and counterpoint.
“Here's that chicken and cheese, honey. Let me know if you need anything else.” “Thank you.”
More eyes glanced as Dawn deposited my slightly burned meal on the Formica table. I was grateful for an acceptable means of passing the time, biting into the pizza sliced Americanized quesedilla, sliver by sliver, and probably smiling dumbly to myself.
Now if I were a method actor called upon to vomit on command, I wouldn't get too many callbacks. For whatever reason, I was blessed with a strong stomach. With the exception of the seasonal stomach flu that used to visit me as a child and a couple drunken nights when the combination of some bizarre food craving and alcohol turned my stomach, my vomit output is nothing to write home about. Even when Michael Harrison, a kid who claimed to love roller coasters, yet couldn't keep down the donuts Ms. Fitzgerald brought in for class or when Chris Koenig ate paper in Mrs. Zanheiser's science class and vomitted a pale yellow gruel into the trash can, I remained unphased. If I was going to stand up and raise the baton for the Family Tradition puke-estra, I'd need to dig deep.
I finished my meal and paid at the counter, leaving half the total of the bill as a tip on the table, mostly out of guilt and absent-mindedness. Walking home in the Pennsylvania night cold, I remembered another grammar school teacher that would help me put my plan into action. Mrs. Phillips, a teacher I very nearly hated at the age of eleven, was a teacher whose reputation preceded her. Being
assigned to her class was more or less the academic equivalent of the death sentence: she was mean, gave a lot of homework, and frequently canceled recess. Among her personal affronts to my fifth grade pride, she drew attention to my inability to summon up ten dollars to â€œsubscribeâ€? to the Weekly Reader, a poorly constructed glossy magazine distributed by Scholastic. She also condescended to buy me a crappy book when I returned from the annual book fair in the library empty-handed.
Despite her mortal teacher sins, Mrs. Phillips left me with one important legacy, Ipecac syrup. During a lecture about first aid, she sidled over to one of the Taco Bell colored cabinets and produced a small, brown bottle that looked, to my little mind, an awful lot like a vial of poison in old cartoons and movies. Sure enough, this bottle contained something archaic, yet it was supposedly the antidote to anything toxic our silly fifth grade mouths might ingest. If, for example, one of us were to accidentally swallow rubber cement or, by an even longer shot, some cleaning fluid, we were to tell Mrs. Phillips, whereupon she would administer the Ipecac to rid our tiny stomachs of the poison. So for all the traumas and slights I endured during that year, I was rewarded with a magic potion that would make my plan possible.
After some internet research and calls to drug stores, I realized that Ipecac syrup wasn't exactly the easiest medicine to obtain. In my desperation, I even thought of looking up Mrs. Phillips and asking for that surely spoiled bottle, before I found a website that sold the elixir for a mere three dollars a bottle. I was disappointed to learn it could take two to six weeks to reach me, as the website was operated by a small, organic store in Colorado, but I assured myself that the wait would only make the puke-estra all the more glorious.
The impending weeks were filled with snow and fear of the apocalypse, though I'm not exactly sure why I feared the end of the world. Something about the news each morning seemed to imbue the
winter weeks with an urgent sense of the decline of civilization. I even bought a survival manual from a used book shop in town, reading stories of victims who survived plane crashes on frozen mountain tops and shipwrecks in shark-infested tropical waters. I experimented with various shelters in the woods behind the graveyard in the public park and tried lighting fires from rocks that looked like flint but never sparked.
The small brown package on my doorstep was about the only thing that could have lifted me from this self-induced mania, and I anxiously cut open the box with a multi-tool I'd recently bought, one that every good survivor was supposed to have and which I kept on me at all times. The bottle looked a little more up-to-date than Mrs. Phillips’s, but I was sure it would produce the same storied effect. I read the label carefully, and despite the warnings of possible complications such as seizures, pneumonia, and even death, I steeled my resolve to use it the following day.
Walking to the Family Tradition with that vile in my pocket made me feel like a criminal, and the orange-grey twilit sky didn't help matters. I started questioning why I was going through with this whole thing in the first place, but my steady footfalls in the snow never stopped. Dawn was behind the counter and smiled a small-town “I recognize you” smile before sitting me at the same table by the window.
“Just the chicken and cheese today, dear?” “You know, I think I'll take a look at what else you've got on the menu. I could use a change of pace.” “Well, our special is the Salisbury steak, and I'm sure you'll find a few other meals that suit you if you look around. I'll be back in a couple minutes.”
Now, while I normally have a hard time with menus, sifting through foods that contain vegetables/sauces that disagree with my palette, on this particular evening I was freed by the assurance that whatever it was that I ordered would soon be on the floor or table; depending on my trajectory and aim. So I decided to be adventurous and splurge on liver and onions, a meal that would normally induce a Mr. Yuck cringe. Waiting for Dawn to come back to take my order, I surveyed the dining room, finding a familiar lot of customers, mostly old single men, a family or two, and some teenage couples. The number of vacant tables was a little disconcerting, but the greater the number of musicians in an orchestra doesn't necessarily guarantee a beautiful performance.
“Did you find something other than chicken and cheese?” “Yeah, I think I'll take the liver and onion plate.” “That sounds a little fancy for a plain young man like yourself,” Dawn capped off this wit with a waitress wink, one well practiced and quite devoid of meaning. I got a little nervous and couldn't think of an adequate rebuttal, so I ventured a short laugh to buy me time and replied, “I guess so.” “I'll get that in for you.”
Making a face at my social ineptitude as Dawn headed toward the kitchen, I fingered the bottle in my pocket and wondered when it might most effectively be employed. Should I eat half my meal, sip the bottle and continue eating until the desired effect occurred, or rather sneak a measured dose while I waited for my food? I decided the former was the safer bet and took to sizing up my musicians. The old men assured the bass notes I’d need, while the teenage girls were sure to provide the upper registers. To their backward/forward/side glances, I issued a corny smile, teeth and all. They might have guessed I was a maniac or soft-minded dolt like the “crack jumper,” a man who wore nothing but denim and avoided cracks with awkward leaps. They’d soon realize my revered position.
“Here it is, one plate of liver and onions. Let me know if I can get you anything else or if you want me to take it back to the kitchen to replace it with something a little more suitable to your plain tastes,” again the wink. “Thank you, Dawn,” again the idiotic laugh and smile.
If the smell was any indication of the taste, I wasn’t sure I’d need the Ipecac. I fundamentally hate onions, and the idea of eating an animal’s waste-filtration organ was equally repulsive. Anything for my work. I used the half-sharp steak knife to divide the liver into bite-sized portions and pushed the pieces into two piles; one for pre sip, one for post. Surprised by the texture of that foul meat, but not by the taste, I started in on the first pile. It was tough going from the start, but I used my childhood defense mechanism of internally holding my nose to keep most of the taste out while I piled bite after bite into my still-smiling mouth.
As the pile got smaller, my anxiety to get on with the whole process brought my hand to the bottle in the pocket of my jeans. I kept it out of view of the sometimes prying eyes of my musicians and waited for an opportune moment to lean over and drink from my blessed cup. It came with a burst of fresh recruits from the local high school basketball team who loudly entered the lobby and proceeded to shove each other and tell jokes. While the room’s attention was diverted, I poured out a capful of Ipecac and swallowed the sour mixture. I wasn’t exactly clear on just how long it would take to kick in, but I re-capped and pocketed the bottle and finished the remains of my first pile, stopping briefly to take a drink of water before I started in on the second.
As the basketball team was seated conveniently close, my stomach and esophagus began to buck in my gut. The moment was soon at hand. I looked around the dining room as couples quietly
chatted and old men sat back and rested after clearing their plates. One strong whiff of my plate was enough to further goad my insides, and I sounded the first note; more of a quarter-note hiccup than the resounding call-to-arms I’d hoped for. I don’t think anyone even noticed. But in another second I turned to the floor and let out a longer burst of teeth-mashed liver and slithering coils of onions.
“Oh shit,” this from the closest basketball player who happened to be facing me.
People from around the dining room began turning around in their seats, turning all the way around, and staring at my still-puking hunched-over self. Hands reached for mouths and more exclamations of disbelief were emitted before a tenor vomit chord struck at an adjacent table. Soon low notes and high notes of differing duration rolled through the air as we collectively vomited, sometimes on the table, but mostly on the floor. Dawn and the other two waitresses, as well as most of the kitchen staff ran out into the middle of the beautiful chaos, aghast and guilt-faced. Had they forgotten to wash their hands after they used the restroom or left the meat out too long? They had not, and I would have assured them of this if I could stop retching. I was glad to see that Dawn wasn’t joining in. She deserved some comfort in this dire hour of waitress hell.
Life or Death with Shit in Your Pants So, what's it gonna be? Your life or the chastity of the newborn babe?
I really do have a gun to your head, and this isn't a slumber party game where you embarrassingly admit secrets in the truth-serum prologue to sleep. This is real. The short barrel of a .38 is kissing you on the cerebellum. If you choose death, you will certainly shit your pants, as the cerebellum regulates all automatic functions. Wouldn't it be a shame to be found with a hole in your head and shit in your pants? Sure your family and friends would always refer to it as your “unfortunate death,” but they'd know in the space beneath their diaphragm that you left this world a mess at both ends.
You're probably wondering where I got the baby. Is it illegal for a man who thinks to put a gun to a stranger’s head to have a child? No he isn't mine. The story is long, and I don't feel like telling it. All that concerns you is the reality of that wriggling football of pink skin in the backpack. Yes, I carried the baby in a backpack. I'm not exactly concerned with his comfort at the moment, as you can probably guess. I think he's about seven months old, but a baby's age isn't as easy to tell as a chopped-down tree. In summary, he is an infant. A little, nervous bundle of used-to-be joy.
The next question you'll probably be asking yourself is exactly why I want you to commit a sex act on an infant child whom I carried in a backpack. For this, I can give you no answer. You might call it a sort of experiment. Its implications are wide-reaching and its aims unclear. But, I assure you, it is important. Why else would I have a gun to your head? Guns make things important.
Before you make your decision, I want to talk a little more about the second option. We've already gone over the whole death and shit-in-your-pants option. This other, messianic option means life, but it comes at a cost. You will live with the knowledge that you willingly, yes even despite the gun-to-your-head you will have done it willingly, sucked an infant child's dick. Now, you might be one of those people that can easily slough off guilt. You can ask your therapist or anyone you trust enough, â€œWhat else could I do, he had a gun to my head?â€? with an appropriate shrugging of shoulders and maybe a tear of shame.
But if you happen to be a person ridden by guilt like that jockey that rode Seabiscuit, then this option will crush you. You might be able to make it through a couple hours of consciousness without thinking of your horrible crime, but it'll come back to you. It most certainly will, no matter what type of mental manipulations you try to maneuver. At the end of the day you will be a baby-dick-sucker. Is that something you can live with? Really, the flashbulb memory of your mouth wrapped around a babycarrot dick, is that something you can stomach? Even in the face of death, is that something you can be OK with?
And think of his life. He might be blessed with the non-existent memory of most newborns, or he might remember the act quite vividly. It's hard to tell with a soft-shelled infant brain. At very least you can be assured whoever's care he'll be placed in, they'll know what happened this day. Whether or not the horrendous weight of this act weighs enough on their conscience to reveal it to the child is up for grabs. When is an appropriate time in a child's development to tell him he was molested in infancy?
Of course you're crying. That's natural in this sort of situation. The movies have given you the perfect model of behavior. But you need to get away from that. You need to act from your soul, from your true person. Otherwise the experiment is bunk, worthless. Please, try to separate yourself from the
Phonebooth model. Colin Ferrel won't do you any good here. It has to be your own decision, not a mediated cop out. Are you ready?
Good, neither am I. I don't think I could pull the trigger if I had a .38 to my own cerebellum. I'm not sure why I'm backing down in the most crucial of moments in this important experiment. This act is the pinnacle of my life of otherwise nothingness. This is what will get me in the papers, even if only as an anonymous psychopath. I'd prefer to be known as an eminent sociologist conducting the most important of studies, if unethical by standard operating procedure. Even Kinsey was thought bold, as much of a convenient example as he is.
Is this my first act of criminal deviancy? It's funny you ask. I've always cultivated a spirit of deviance in me that's flown under the radar. Elementary school teachers might have curiously noted macabre drawings, but it never reached the principal's-office authority that might have landed me in state-run psychotherapy. It's really funny you ask that, because even my own mother didn't identify the antisocial tendencies of staying in my room and cherishing the skulls of dead birds our slew of cats left in the bushes.
But this is really too much of me. This isn't about me. You've diverted me from my purpose, our purpose. This isn't tied to any one person, as much as you or I would like to imagine. This is for humanity. Really, we must be getting on with it. Are you ready to make a decision?
Levi B. Sanchez was born but hasnâ€™t died.
Gun. Shit. Baby. was printed in an edition of 100 in May 2010