A Sort of Parable

Simon was sitting on the downstairs toilet, swinging his feet. He was four. He had finished but continued to sit there anyhow, staring at the wall. Nothing in particular was going through his mind. Were he to get up he would just find somewhere else to sit and daydream. The bathroom was comfortable enough. In his later years he would look back at moments like these as the height of happiness.

The walls were papered a soft yellow with alternating blue and brown patterns of vines and flowers, running vertically. Through the window at his right and its lace curtain the small room filled with diffuse sunlight. In church once he counted to a thousand. He would have gone further but the preacher started speaking of the Tower of Babel and he imagined men climbing it to storm heaven with guns and knives. He started counting the flowers on the wall. But the bathroom was more interesting than church, so that soon grew boring. He decided to name everything he heard. There were crows in the tree outside; a car drove past; a lawn mower failed to start up, again and again; some kid was taunting another one in the street; his mother was banging things in the kitchen. Then the air-conditioning unit by the window kicked on drowning everything else out and ending his game. But he still did not feel like getting up.

Sometimes thoughts came to Simon and he could not identify their origin. Thus inexplicably he remembered it was bad to cross one’s eyes. He wondered why. So he crossed them to better understand. The world was immediately multiplied, but blurry. The garden-like rows of flowers on the wall turned profuse, like a jungle. A chill ran through him. He wanted to see exactly and clearly where the two images split apart. He crossed his eyes slowly and uncrossed them, over and over again, concentrating. Soon his eyes hurt, but he kept trying to understand.

Then a strange thing happened. As he uncrossed his eyes and the the columns of flowers and vines on the wall merged with their doubles, they didn’t quite meet. Everything else was clear and singular, but a transparent image of them hovered an inch from the wall. His eyes felt uncrossed. He blinked. It was still there. He dug his fists into his eyes. Then it was gone. Again he crossed and uncrossed his eyes slowly and, as the designs came back into focus, their ghosts floated above them. He put out his hand to touch it and his fingertips sank past the image to the wall. This was the greatest thing he had ever seen. He felt like his mother said he should feel while in church: his hair stood on end. He wondered if he wasn’t supposed to cross his eyes because if it was done right things’ spirits became visible. This was a real discovery.

Then his mother knocked at the door.

“Simon, what are you doing in there?” she said.


“Then come out before you leave behind more than you meant to.” As Simon was pulling his pants up his mother added, “it’s stinky out here, turn the fan on to clear it out.”

He flipped the wall switch and looked up at the vent in the ceiling. Then he looked down at the toilet bowl. Would it really clear out? How? He imagined his solid turd ascending from the murky water and vanishing into the ceiling through the vent. That would be incredible. This was turning into an afternoon of revelations. He took a seat on the floor to watch it happen.

Twenty minutes passed. His father knocked on the door.

“What are you doing, waiting until you have to go again?” he said. “Lunch is ready.”

Simon opened the door.

“I’m watching to see my poop disappear.”

“Well, the harder you watch for something the longer it takes to happen,” his father said. “Come and eat lunch. It will make more poop.”

He picked up the child and carried him into the kitchen.

Not until after dinner did Simon remember to look again. He peered in, diastole of hope in his heart — but it still rested there, quietly swathed in toilet paper like a corpse in a death-shroud ceramically entombed. He would have preferred that it was risen, but it was not to be.

He flushed it down.

~ by Peter on June 1, 2008.

7 Responses to “A Sort of Parable”

  1. Ironically, my name is Simon. 🙂

  2. I wonder if most kids might have this pre-cognitive gift… perhaps that would explain the quasi-stupors I remember from my own childhood.

    No… probably not… it probably had more to do with running full speed into the clothesline pole.

  3. Haha, or the jumping off of rooves, if I remember correctly.

  4. Yea, that too… Damn, I fear the stupors are becoming less and less quasi.

  5. There is a kind of chilly mystery lurking behind this small tale. Vision and visions. The writing is perfect as usual and the story has a kind of eeriness to it that is hard to pin down. Perhaps the people storming heaven, duality and then up and down with the turd. A parable but for me, just what the truth behind the story is remains just out of sight. Intriguing, fascinating, I am sure this story will lurk in my mind for quite a while, sideways and then up and down, ladder to storm heaven, hmmm, and as I say, beautifully crafted prose, as always.

  6. Only you could make a boy watching his poop seem so intelligent.

  7. Perfect and lovely; a very smooth prose. I cannot tell you how much I relate to that little fella’!
    It was almost as if I was reading a description of my usual day written by someone else. But usually my days transpire in much the same fashion in my room, not my bathroom.

    Believe it or not (and I’m not just making this up), I have done exactly the same experiment – crossing and uncrossing my eyes – when I was young!
    But that’s not the exciting part. What’s interesting is that I did it again just last night, and today I’m here reading this.


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