Head In The Toilet

We’re sitting around the office staring at each other. That is, when we’re not peaking around the corner at the plumber snaking the drain of our toilet. What exactly will he find down there, blocking up the system? I hope it’s some sort of exotic snake, a cobra perhaps. To think I might’ve been that close to death each time I sat down to go about my business. It probably won’t seem as thrilling a few decades hence, in my dotage, when such occasions are always a question of life or death.

On the other hand, Cityslikr knows what’s clogging the pipes and when he’s not looking at me or the plumber, he tries out one of those George Smitherman glares toward Acaphlegmic who lies on the couch across the room from us, smirking up at the ceiling, eyes closed, humming something that approximates a tune. He is high and Cityslikr believes he is the cause of the clog. Every time Acaphlegmic is startled awake (a frequent occurrence), he darts into the bathroom and flushes what can only be his stash down the toilet. Every time. It’s like he has no memory of any previous occasion that he does it. Which is probably the case.

A certain pall has descended down around the office since Wednesday’s night mayoral debate. This one seems to have taken it out of Cityslikr. He is unable to shrug it off, get past it and look ahead. The future’s too bleak to be looking forward to.

“One of these assholes is going to win,” he said to no one in particular. He kept wondering aloud why Sarah Thomson insisted on calling Deputy Mayor Pantalone, ‘Joey’.

“Who’s she playing to with that shit?” he demanded to know. “Who the fuck is she playing to!?”

Acaphlegmic just laughed, putting Cityslikr that much more on edge.

They have a complicated relationship, these two. Cityslikr admires what he imagines Acaphlegmic once was and detests what he’s become. Acaphlegmic admires nothing about Cityslikr, imagining he and his ilk are all that has gone wrong in the world these days. Borrowing a moniker from Hunter S. Thompson, Acaphlegmic refers to Cityslikr as part of that ‘Generation of Swine’. Cityslikr tolerates such ridicule as he, deep down, might well agree with that assessment.

“How have we let this happen?” he asks, as if he was reading my mind. The plumber pops his head out of the bathroom to answer the question, assuming I guess that Cityslikr was asking about the clog but is waved off and turns back to the task at hand. Acaphlegmic lets out another snort of bemusement.

“I mean, seriously. We didn’t do anything wrong this time. We let the bastards have their way. We bowed down at the feet of their Milton Friedman statue.”

“Gave them enough rope, what?” Acaphelgmic interjected, using that strange upper class British accent he sometimes affects for no apparent reason whatsoever. He then breaks out into a verse of The Clash’s song, Tommy Gun.

Cityslikr stares over at him, malevolence changed to dismay. The plumber joins in, singing along with Acaphlegmic from the bathroom.

Tommy Gun, you’ll be dead when the war is won.

Tommy Gun, but did you have to gun down everyone.

I can see it’s kill or be killed, [garbled, garbled, garbled] something, something…

Whatever you want you’re gonna get it!

As the song muddles on with even some startling attempts at harmonization, Cityslikr turns his attention full in my direction. He calls the front running mayoral candidates ‘henchmen’, sent in to bring down the hammer, the final blow on any remnants of the laughably called ‘welfare state’ that the city’s been trying to desperately maintain for the last 7 years.

“And when it’s all gone, guess who’s going to get the blame?” he asks. “Us. The city. Because of our alleged fiscal irresponsibility.”

He refers to Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone’s run as little more than a bone thrown our way. To make us feel like we’re not actively participating in the dismantling of the last vestiges of Trudeau’s Just Society. To assuage whatever guilt we might be feeling. To mollify us.

Before he goes any further, Acaphlegmic bolts up from the couch and onto his feet and begins reciting.

“And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.”

Ahh, Acaphlegmic certainly did love his Hunter S. Thompson. It never failed to amaze me how easily the words tripped off his tongue, how deeply imbedded in his memory they must be. How many times had he read the book? I mean, the man sometimes has trouble remembering his own address. Where did he summon this from?“So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

Recital over, Acaphlegmic sat back down on the couch, spent. But wait, he wasn’t done just yet.

“The greatest decade in the history of mankind is coming to an end and as Presuming Ed here has so consistently pointed out, we have failed to paint it black.”

Although sometimes, he did get his cultural references all entangled, much like his neuronal memory, I imagine. It is this kind of cheap sentiment, the ‘60s veneration, that drove Cityslikr nuts. The disgusted look on his face registered as much.

“Alright, which one of you boys has been playing with dolls again?”

This came from the plumber as he emerged from the bathroom holding a horribly disfigured dolls head. It was big enough that some force would’ve been necessary to push down into the drain. Cityslikr threw up his hands to such a degree of raging disbelief that I’d almost think he’d finally had it with Acaphlegmic and the break between them would actually happen this time. That is, if I hadn’t seen it a few times before but never, ever over a situation that involved a doll’s head being shoved down a toilet. This was new and there was no way of judging if it actually might be the final straw.

But the tension was broken when Acaphlegmic stood up and walked toward the plumber, never taking his eyes off the doll’s head. As he came close, he reached out his hands, cupped together. The plumber was probably much more freaked out about the situation than we were but he’d never witnessed Acaphlegmic in action before. We were used to it although this was particularly odd.

Acaphlegmic accepted the doll’s head from the plumber who just turned back and started assembling his tools. Quickly. For about a minute, Acaphlegmic stood, staring down at the doll’s head in his hands before he turned and walked slowly and carefully back to the couch, his hands still out in front of him. He sat down, still transfixed by what the plumber had just retrieved from the toilet.

Cityslikr and I exchanged looks. Were we witnessing a real life Citizen Kane moment? Charles Foster Kane finally reunited with his Rosebud. The rediscovery of lost innocence and all that. I mean, it was too perfect, almost scripted.

“You found my bong, man.”

And the magic was gone. Once again, Cityslikr threw his hands up and stormed away from the desk toward the door, heading out for a drink no doubt. As he left, we heard a familiar refrain.

“Fucking hippies.”

I had to agree with my colleague’s sentiment. It is little wonder that the future looks so bleak if this is what’s become of the past. We may’ve thought we’d won but lost whatever ground we had gained when we stopped fighting and got all caught up celebrating at the victory parade.

The day was not a total loss, however. At least, we’d be able to use our toilet again.

novelistically submitted by Urban Sophisticat