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American Dream Serialization (Early Chapters)
Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Maurice Stoker
Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Tom Bradley
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: American Dream Title Page by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 1 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 2 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 3 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 4 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 5 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 6 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 7 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 8 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 9 by Jim Chaffee
01-01-2015
Modern Tragedy, or Parodies of Ourselves by Robert Castle
01-11-2014
Totally Enchanté, Dahling by Thor Garcia
01-04-2014
Hastini by Rudy Ravindra
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 5 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
01-01-2014
Unexpected Pastures by Kim Farleigh
10-01-2013
Nonviolence by Jim Courter
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 4 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
07-01-2013
The Poet Laureate of Greenville by Al Po
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part VI by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 3 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
04-01-2013
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part V by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part IV by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 2 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
01-01-2013
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part I by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part II by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part III by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 1 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
10-01-2012
DADDY KNOWS WORST: Clown Cowers as Father Flounders! by Thor Garcia
RESURRECTON: Excerpt from Breakfast at Midnight by Louis Armand
Review of The Volcker Virus (Donald Strauss) by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
01-07-2012
Little Red Light by Suvi Mahonen and Luke Waldrip
TEXECUTION: Klown Konfab as Killer Kroaked! by Thor Garcia
Miranda's Poop by Jimmy Grist
Paul Fabulan by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
01-04-2012
Operation Scumbag by Thor Garcia
Take-Out Dick by Holly Day
Patience by Ward Webb
The Moon Hides Behind a Cloud by Barrie Darke
The Golden Limo of Slipback City by Ken Valenti
01-01-2012
Chapter from The Infinite Atrocity by Kane X. Faucher
Support the Troops By Giving Them Posthumous Boners by Tom Bradley
01-10-2011
When Good Pistols Do Bad Things by Kurt Mueller
Corporate Strategies by Bruce Douglas Reeves
The Dead Sea by Kim Farleigh
The Perfect Knot by Ernest Alanki
Girlish by Bob Bartholomew
01-07-2011
The Little Ganges by Joshua Willey
The Invisible World: René Magritte by Nick Bertelson
Honk for Jesus by Mitchell Waldman
01-04-2011
Red's Dead by Eli Richardson
The Memphis Showdown by Gabriel Ricard
Someday Man by John Grochalski
01-01-2011
I Was a Teenage Rent-a-Frankenstein by Tom Bradley
Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Fred Bubbers
10-01-2010
Believe in These Men by Adam Greenfield
The Magnus Effect by Robert Edward Sullivan
Performance Piece by Jim Chaffee
07-01-2010
Injustice for All by D. E. Fredd
The Polysyllogistic Curse by Gary J. Shipley
How It's Done by Anjoli Roy
Ghost Dance by Connor Caddigan
Two in a Van by Pavlo Kravchenko
04-01-2010
Uncreated Creatures by Connor Caddigan
Invisible by Anjoli Roy
One of Us by Sonia Ramos Rossi
Storyteller by Alan McCormick
01-01-2010
Idolatry by Robert Smith
P H I L E M A T O P H I L I A by Traci Chee
They Do! by Al Po
Full TEX Archive
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Miranda's Poop

By Jimmy Grist

Miranda's existential crisis peaked when she stood to flush the toilet and saw that she had pooped a question mark.

She snapped a picture on her phone, then pulled up her pants and left the house.

"But who is anybody?" Janelle asked. Upside-down, she looked uvular. Miranda's feet poked at the ceiling and her hair poured into her friend's carpet. "You act like everyone else has access to this dictionary-of-the-self, and the Miranda entry's whited out."

"But it's worse than that," said Miranda, and the words spiraled down inside her and popped out as if she were a gumball machine. "It's like I'm forced into the oppressor's boarding school, and I get caned for speaking Mirandanese. My very corpus is calling out in these interrogative protests, begging for some identity."

Janelle held up Miranda's phone.

"What do you know about where this was produced?"

"I know I put a whole lot of marshmallows in there."

"I'm not talking about your crap factory. I'm talking about your phone. Fricking Foxconn City, where young Chinese adults live fifteen to a dorm room and work assembly lines one-hundred hours a week."

"One crisis at a time. Please."

Janelle looked again at the picture.

"I still think it looks like a clothes hanger."

"This is my problem: it's like I'm the only one who sees through these eyes." Miranda used both hands to pry her eyelids open.

"There are websites for this, you know. People rate them. Call it something clever, like The Riddler, and you could be in the top ten." Janelle turned the phone sideways and traced the screen with a pinky. "How did you create that bend?"

"Ethiopian foOH MY GOD." Miranda rolled off the couch and stood upright, ruddy. "I've got it. If my body knows the question, maybe my body also knows the answer."

"So…we're done? Existential mystery solved?"

"No. We will recreate the exact conditions of this gastrointestinal event."

"We? You don't need my help to play Ouija board with your digestive tract."

"Two augurs are better than one."

"Two who?"

"Augury was an old form of divination based on interpreting birds' flight patterns. It's the root of the word auspicious. Kind of."

"Uh huh." Janelle set the phone aside. "Did it ever consider their droppings?"

"Aaand I'll buy you lunch."

"I have been wanting to try Ethiopian."

Miranda unrolled a wide strip of bread that felt like memory foam.

"This is injera," she said, tearing some off. "It is fork, spoon, tong, and napkin." She pinched some savory carrotmash in a pocket of the bread and held it up. "Basically, you're eating a plate of unsealed dumplings."

"Well, you can eat all the brown stuff." Janelle sipped Coke from a bottle printed in Ethiopian script. She didn't notice its brownness.

"I have to keep the same proportions as yesterday," said Miranda. "That means some of the orange, some of the lentils, some of the chickpeas, some of that gunk . . ." She stuffed another handful into her mouth. "Amd at duh emd, dey brimg you a copfee-flabored mimt."

"Maybe I should get dessert or something." Janelle rotated the plastic table tent.

"Ged duh beam pie," Miranda said, and swallowed.

"Baklava it is."

When the server took away the plates, Janelle drained her Coke and Miranda examined the check.

"See that loop right there, on the label?" Janelle said. "See how it appears once before the hyphen and once after the hyphen? That little candy cane means ko, as in koka-kola. I'll bet you fifty bucks."

"That little ko looks like my question mark."

"Shutup. It so doesn't."

"Am I the kind of person who tips?" Miranda wondered out loud.

"Yes."

"But how much? Am I generous? Stingy? Moderate? Do I decide based on the quality of service? And if so, how forgiving am I?"

"How much did you tip last night?" Janelle was rolling the empty bottle, but stopped. "You did tip last night, right?"

"A tip was left, if that's what you mean."

Janelle leaned forward, her face a scrutinizing scrunch, then leaned back again.

"You were here on a date," she said.

"Pfft. I mean — pfft. It was just an…engagement."

"If you're trying to make your date sound less formal, I don't think engagement is the best word. Who was it?"

"I dunno."

"Dokay."

"Some guy! Look, it didn't go very well."

"But who is he?"

"This isn't about figuring out who he is. It's about figuring out who me is."

"Okay." Janelle looked around the restaurant. One poster near them displayed the Amharic alphabet. "So how'd you meet him?"

Miranda played with her napkin.

"He's on Cupid's Quiver."

"Dot com? You're on Cupid's Quiver?"

Miranda shrugged. Her voice got lower.

"There's plenty of arrows in Cupid's Quiver."

"God, it sounds like some STI that gives you the shakes."

"Well obviously that isn't the metaphor they had in mind, Janelle."

"Did you nock him in your bowstring?"

"Jeeeez, come on. He worked at a Guitar Center—"

"Are you still deadset on rockstars?"

"—but he was a manager, which is like the least rockstar position. And get this: he wore a tie."

"What's wrong with ties?"

"Seriously? I hate ties. It's like, Look how long my schlong is."

"What? Ties are classy!"

"And it's hanging right there, from his neck, in everybody's face. Like—bam."

"You need help."

"I do. I need help paying for this."

"Okay, Ms. Eat-Everything."

"Come on, your bill was like six dollars. That vegetarian platter was twenty."

"I'll buy you lunch, she says. Ethiopian cuisine, she says. I get phyllo dough and Coke." Janelle unclamped her pocketbook and gave Miranda an endlessly folded bill.

"Five bucks?"

"I barely ate any of that! You know, I'm learning more and more about who you are. It's fascinating."

"Fine, it's okay. Honest Abe can explain to the server why her tip is just forty cents."

After dinner the night before, Miranda had been to an opera. To emulate the experience on a Sunday afternoon, she and Janelle drove to an upper-crust shopping district and sought out a sidewalk performer. They found a heavyset woman almost twice their age, dressed like a three-year-old, sitting earmuffed in a canvas chair and bweadling into a saxophone.

"Go ask her," Miranda said.

"You ask her. I'm not the one on a dukie quest."

The saxophonist played "At Last" like Etta James with a funnel in her mouth.

"You are on this dukie quest. You are my Samwise."

"Then she is our Sméagol. She'll show you the way if you give her a fish."

"You catch any?"

Janelle sighed, produced a superfolded dollar, and handed it over.

Miranda went forward, waved, and pointed to the money as she dropped it into the open saxophone case. The woman kept playing and Miranda kept waving until she stopped. She looked like a girl Miranda had made fun of in school—or she at least had the same skeptical, Frosty-the-Snowman face.

"Do you know anything from Carmen?"

The woman glared long enough for it to be awkward and then plugged back into her saxophone. She started a slow, tooty rendition of the habanera. Miranda returned to Janelle's side.

"What is that?"

"Love is a rebellious bird."

"No, I mean it. This sounds awful."

"It's just the loneliness of the unaccompanied saxophone."

"Is it working?" She looked at Miranda's stomach. "You cookin?"

"Yeah, I got a food baby. But that opera was about four hours long."

Janelle looked at her watch. Janelle wore a watch.

"We're gonna need more singles," she said.

"I don't even think she's earned this one."

"Here's a question," Janelle said from the ground, not thirty minutes later. "Why didn't you go through this sooner?"

"You mean my existential crisis?" Miranda asked from the roof.

"Sure."

"I've thought about that, and I think I was too busy existing. Now, I'm in early adulthood. I have reliable income. I'm settling. And it's like, What's going on? And I'm like, Not a lot. And that's it." Miranda shrugged.

"So, what? Because you're out of school you just sit around taking solace in the concept of heat death, imagining a time when every speck of the universe is stretched so damn far apart that movement ceases to exist and isolation reigns supreme?"

"I mean, I don't know much about astrology, but sure. See, I'm like France after World War II: I made it through the blitz, but can I stand against the onset of ennui?"

"Your turd says no." Janelle walked to Miranda's mailbox, looked inside, and shut it. "Nother question: who do you want to be?"

"When they asked me that in first grade, you know what I said?"

"A scatographer."

"I drew it on my namebanner. They hung up all year long on the wall by our backpacks: MIRANDA wants to be a FIREMAN."

"You poor thing."

"They called me Mir-MAN-da. There was a freaking Amanda in the class and they called me Mirmanda."

"So, firehoses. Is this part of why you hate ties?"

"Don't make me talk about ties again."

"You didn't answer the question. You told me who you wanted to be, but I asked present-tense."

"I dunno. I've still got a year on my parents' health insurance. Plenty of time to sort this crap out."

"That is…not a figure of speech."

"Unless I jump," Miranda said, measuring the distance with her eyes.

One squirrel chased another around a tree.

"If you jump, you're probably going to roll your ankle."

"Not if I jump on my head." She tapped said head.

"Get down. You're messing up the recreation conditions."

"No, it's okay. I was up here last night."

"But it was dark out?"

"Yewp."

Janelle tossed her a pair of sunglasses.

"Okay. Ready to put this thing out?"

"Not quite. There was one other thing after he dropped me off," Miranda said. They were inside now, warming their hands against cups of Sleepytime tea. "I went to my room and masturbated."

Janelle threw her hands up.

"I would really appreciate a little more indirectness next time."

"What do you mean?"

"Use a fricking euphemism!"

"Oh, okay. Didn't mean to upset you. Sorry if s-e-x makes me d-e-f-e-c—"

"Wow. You come over to find out who you are and I'm the one who ends up back at your house, learning waaay too much about you."

"I'm not trying to be perverse, okay? I have a test."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"After a date, I always masturbleasure myself. If I think of the guy, I'll do a second date. If I think of something else…"

"Something else?"

"Maybe another guy. Maybe, like, getting my hair washed."

"I don't know—what to respond to that with how."

"I try to keep it clean."

"Your hair."

"My fantasizing. If I end up thinking of the guy, I don't think of having sex with the guy. I might think of, like, Hmm. What would it be like if we were life partners?"

"What?"

"We're on the couch, watching a movie, with a big glass bowl of popcorn. And the bowl is all warm, with some heft to it, and the popcorn is soft, and the inside of the bowl is slick with butter. Maybe there's a baby monitor in his breast pocket. And then he says exactly what I'm thinking: something like This is the best corn that's ever been popped. Let's add some marshmallows. And by about then I've usually made a big mess and it's quittin time."

"Holy God. You really need a boyfriend. Or a girlfriend. Someone."

"Then why don't you introduce me to your other friends?"

"Nevermind."

Miranda poured out the rest of her tea.

"You know, I didn't bring you here to ridicule me," she said.

"I think you did, though. I bet it's part of who you are."

Miranda looked at her feet and tapped the one.

"I think you're probably right. I should probably go to the master bedroom."

"Ugh. It's still weird in code." Janelle looked around the dining room. "I'll just…"

"You could wait in the living room."

"I'll just go for a walk."

When Janelle knocked on the front door twenty-five minutes later, Miranda yelled for her to let herself in.

"Are you finished?"

"Just come in."

"Tell me you're finished."

"Yeah, I'm Finnish. Open the door."

Miranda stood at the bathroom door. Her hair was a little mussed. Most of the lights were on and the place smelled like a movie theater lobby.

"Did you already deliver?" Janelle asked.

"No. I wanted you to see."

"I saw the picture on your phone."

"No," said Miranda. "Things have changed."

She led Janelle into the bathroom. The toilet lid was down, but more worrisome: the shower curtain was drawn.

"I've always liked this tile," said Janelle. Miranda ignored her.

"You're going to think I'm crazy."

Janelle ignored her.

"Behold."

Miranda lifted the toilet lid. A nebulous storm of feces-stew filled the bowl, a human decomposition displaying various stages of dissolution. Gone was the original, curious punctuation, now broken down into a smattering of small asteroids, knobs of erosion arranged into an assy archipelago. Janelle could not see to the depths of the foggy brownness.

"Study it," Miranda whispered, "as I have studied it. Peer deep into its heart, as I have peered, and find me there."

Janelle moved to leave, but Miranda put a hand on her shoulder and reined her in. They stood side-by-side. Janelle plugged her nose and looked down.

"Don't you see?" Miranda asked. "The question resolved itself, and so can I! With time, its rigid form was permeated and gave way to something freer. My body asked me who I was, but the answer is this ill-defined slurry. Even when I sit around and do nothing, all day, my continued existence shapes this very clay—and the clay unshapes itself. This clay, a shapeshifter. This is me. This is my byproduct. This is who I am, distilled."

Janelle held her nose and stared into the umber broth.

"Oh my God, where is the toilet paper."

"I'm not asking you to look for the toilet paper. The toilet paper isn't me. I'm not just being crazy right now. I'm not just being moony Miranda."

"You totally are, though. That's the point."

"But there is no point; that's the point! The only difference is that now, I'm okay with it!"

"Do you still have to take a dump?"

"I don't have to do anything!" she squealed, and spun in a happy circle.

"Okay."

Janelle reached out and poked the handle. Fluursh. The filth poured down into the earth astride a purifying vortex, swooping and a-ripple, leaving in its fudgy wake a porcelain immaculate.

"Did you see me?" Miranda asked.

"Yeah," said Janelle. "You looked shitfaced."

guts

© Jimmy Grist 2012