DARBY LARSONI sat on the toilet, reading The Grapes of Wrath. I was somewhere near the middle or end, the point where the family stops their car on top of a hill, and looks out over the glorious California Valley. I finished shitting, and put the book on the counter. As I stood up, I looked in the toilet. Instead of shit, there was a framed picture floating in the water. I reached in to pull it out, but hesitated before touching it. What the hell was going on here? Where was my shit at? What was this picture doing here? Was it just an illusion? If I reached in to grab it, would it turn back into shit and get all squishy in my hand?
It looked like a perfectly real picture with a light, wooded frame. Oil and canvas. The picture was of a valley, from high on a hill. Green farmland, and in the right corner, an old car, parked facing the valley. Four or five figures stood looking down into the beautiful land before them.
I closed my eyes, and pulled it out. It still felt like a picture. What was going on here? I took a towel off the wall and started patting it down. I held it and examined it. The grapes of wrath? Too fucking weird.
So I hung it in my bathroom.
That night, I had to shit again from eating too many hot dogs and chili and beer. I decided I would try a little experiment, keeping in mind what happened the last time I took a shit. I went to my "special drawer," found one of those "special books," and took it with me to the toilet. I did my dooky while reading porn.
I stood up and looked in the toilet without pulling my pants up because I was so excited about what I would find. I held up the sopping wet, framed, 8-by-10 photograph of the most beautiful naked woman I had ever seen, doing one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. I almost shed a tear standing there, in my bathroom, my pants around my ankles, because of the beauty of this photograph. Could there ever be anything more heavenly than this glorious angel spreading herself, drenched in maple syrup, with a shiny spoon catching drops of golden goo as they fell from her erect nipples? I was bulging with anticipation.
A few days later, after I had gotten all that smut out of my system, I spent some time contemplating my situation. I mean, really, what was going on here? Why did I have this ability? Was there a physiological reason for this? Did I have some sort of stray neuron that meandered out of my cerebrum and made its way down my spinal cord to finally gain control of my colon? Should I at least see a doctor? Would a colonoscopy clear this up?
Was it magic? Was I some sort of strange comic book superhero? Should I stitch together a latex suit like Catwoman, except with a big hole cut out for my asshole, and go find people who need to decorate their houses, and ask them if they'd like to go out and have a burrito, and what their favorite book was?
Did I have to be reading a book for this to work? I didn't think I'd ever taken a shit without reading something. Did people do that?
And what was up with my rectum? I mean, Christ, it must be some sort of world record to be able to dilate your asshole that wide. It never really hurt when I shit. I must have had the world's most elastic asshole.
I wondered what other things I might do with this ability. I had to do something. Something important.
For a week, I prepped myself, getting ready for my big experiment. I went to the library for books that would depict interesting things. Stuff by Dickens and Fitzgerald and Hawthorne. I thought I'd give sci-fi books a try, maybe Arther C. Clarke and Douglas Adams. I picked up Gravity's Rainbow, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and Lord of the Rings, and countless others.
Part of my big experiment was to get so good at this, that I would be able to shit not just a picture but something real. Something tangible. Something from a piece of fiction that I could hold; the dreams of authors everywhere, since the beginning of the written word, since the Bible itself, everyone who hoped they could someday see and touch that wonderful thing from their favorite stories, all coming to fruition, right here, in my toilet. The possibilities were endless. The unanswerable questions, suddenly answerable. Just how big was James's giant peach? Was Jesus black or white? I would soon know the answers to everything!
For a week, I did nothing but read and eat cheese enchiladas. I read book after book, trying to find an object that might have some historical significance. Every time I tried to shit, there would just be a picture there, depicting some event that I happened to be reading about.
And then I found one. A perfect subject for my first serious test case. Arguably, the most significant inanimate object in the history of literature, Hawthorne's masterpiece, Hester Prynne's mystic symbol, the scarlet letter itself. I sat on the toilet and read:
"But there lay the embroidered letter, glittering like a lost jewel, which some ill-fated wanderer might pick up, and thenceforth be haunted by strange phantoms of guilt, sinkings of the heart, and unaccountable misfortune."
And then, it fell out of my rectum. I took it out of the toilet and set it on the counter, still soaked. Here it was. The scarlet letter. I mean, the scarlet letter! Right here. I carefully picked it up and held it. It looked very old and frail, and the redness had worn down from old fiber threading. I looked at myself in the mirror. I let the letter touch my chest, but something maybe me throw it on the ground in that instant. Freaky. I decided not to try that again. I picked the letter up, put it back on the counter, and left. I didn't have time to deal with this now. I had bigger fish to fry.
That fish, in actuality, wasn't a fish. It was a whale named Moby Dick.