It’s the weekend, and we’re having a sleepover at Ernie’s—but shh! Don’t tell our parents.
“Why’s your bathroom so scungy?” Theo asks, coming back into Ernie’s bedroom and looking for something to dry his hands on.
“I’m calling my grams’ bluff,” Ernie replies.
Eva frowns. “What? Why?”
“She’s always trying to get me to clean the entire bathroom all by myself. Free child labor. It’s like, she and Gramps piss and shit and floss their dentures in there, too! Why should I have to clean up after everyone?”
“Um, because they took you in after your parents died—”
“—and are putting a roof over your head, food in your big fat mouth.”
“Well, aren’t you the insightful little tart.”
Beside me, Theo sits cross-legged on his sleeping bag. He still looks mighty concerned about his wet hands, and is holding them out in front of him like he just got his nails done. I also notice that he’s the only one wearing socks at this point, even though he’s otherwise dressed down for the night like the rest of us. I think he’s definitely the most offended by the mess in Ernie’s bedroom. Conversely, I’m the least offended simply because, coming from my little corner of my parents’ living room, having a whole bedroom to ourselves is like being in some kind of heaven. A shag-carpeted, wood-paneled, crumb-infested, piles-of-laundry-everywhere kind of heaven.
“Anyway,” Ernie continues, “before Theo defeated my grams and turned her into a cardboard cutout, she used to say that if I didn’t clean the toilet as part of my chores, a poop monster would climb out of the bowl and shit in my mouth.”
“She did not say that,” Eva insists.
“Well, she used lamer language, but the gist of it was still there.” Ernie shakes his head, pops a handful of Little Debbie into his mouth. “Stupid Grams. How dumb does she think I am? Any shit monster pops out of my toilet, I’m taming that bitch and making it my pet monster.”
“I thought your pet monster was a Suck-u-bot 5000,” Theo says.
“There’s no rule that says you can’t have multiple pet monsters, dumbass.”
“Or that pet monsters even exist,” I point out.
Theo looks thoughtful. “Most fairy tales and urban myths are based at least in part on real things.” He takes out his phone.
“What are you doing?” asks Eva.
“A Web search for ‘poop monster.’ So far it’s just pictures of babies…and a book called Dookie by some dude named Jesse Gordon.”
(I’m not sure why, but for a split second the four of us deadpan an imaginary camera.)
Ernie shifts on his belly. “That’s lovely. Bug eyes, dear, please pass the Toblerone.”
“The one you’re sitting on.”
Eva frowns, irked that unsuspecting chocolate has been tucked under her thigh this whole time. She passes it to Ernie, checks beneath her butt and other leg just in case there are stragglers.
“Fecal golem,” Theo says.
We all look at him.
“Your poop monster, Ernie. It’s actually called a fecal golem.”
“Where did you read that?” I ask.
“Dookie. I bought the book and did a keyword search combined with some speed-reading.”
Ernie’s jaw drops. “You paid for literature?”
“It was only ninety-nine cents.”
“Only ninety-nine cents? Fuck you, Jesse Gordon!”
(Strange. Another deadpan.)
Theo goes on. “The book mentions that a golem in general is ‘a creature ordained from out of innate material or an inanimate object. Usually mud, or clay, or, rarely, human feces.’”
“You speed-read all that?”
“The book’s only, like, twenty pages long and written for third-graders.”
“Do y’all realize what this means?” Ernie looks at me and Eva expectantly.
“That Theo’s nerdism has reached new width?” I offer.
“Heights,” Theo says, starting to correct me—
“No!” Ernie shouts. “It means we could actually, conceivably, scientifically summon our very own pet monster!”
“Why would anyone want a poop monster as a pet?” I ask.
“Why wouldn’t anyone want a poop monster? Think about it. People spend all their time locking their doors, securing their windows, installing fancy security cameras, but nobody gives a shit about their pipes. The world’s pipes are basically wide open. Your ordinary burglars, vandals, angry ex-husbands, and rapists have to pick a lock or break a window to get inside your house. Meanwhile, a poop monster is just a flush away from anyone and everyone in town. I mean, who doesn’t have a toilet in their home in this day and age? Besides Janny Boy here?”
I frown at him. “My toilet’s cleaner than yours, leviathan.”
Ernie ignores me, turns to Theo. “How do we summon the poop monster?”
Theo does some more speed-reading. “The characters in the book do it by puking into a bowl of crap while listening to Mass Dismemberment’s Golem album.”
“That’s the grossest thing I’ve ever heard,” Eva sighs.
“You’re the grossest thing you’ve ever heard,” Ernie tells her.
“That doesn’t even make sense!”
“You don’t even make sense!”
He snickers. “That’s what she said in bed last night—”
“Guys, I found the album,” I say.
About to go at it with Ernie, Eva instead blinks at me. “Golem?”
“Yeah.” I hold up my phone for everyone to see, pass it to Theo, who passes it to Ernie, who passes it to Eva, who passes it back to me again. No one speaks. We just look at each other, an obvious suggestion hanging unasked in the silence.
Ernie eventually puts it into words: “I totally dare one of you to summon a fecal golem.”
Eva wrinkles up her nose. “I am not puking into a bowl full of crap.”
“Neither am I,” Theo agrees.
They fist-bump, then look at me.
“I’ll do it,” I say, shrugging.
“Yes!” Ernie wobbles into a vaguely upright position, holds out his hand for me to high-five. “Three cheers for the dirty Czech!”
“Guys, no—no.” Theo waves his hands desperately in the air. “We are not pooping and puking into a toilet bowl just because the Internet says we should.”
The four of us are in the bathroom and standing around the unflushed toilet. Ernie’s just finished taking a massive dump (before you ask, we waited outside for that part), and is obviously appreciating the sheer amount of waste material his bowels have produced. I have to admit, as gross as the whole thing is, I’m kind of impressed that he was able to go on cue like that.
Theo pulls his shirt up over his mouth and nose.
Her phone’s camera pointed squarely at the toilet, Eva gives me a thumbs-up. “Ready.”
“Strut your stuff, closet jock.” Ernie pats me on the back.
I kneel uncertainly in front of the toilet and load up the first track from Golem on my phone. I clear my throat, roll my tongue around inside my mouth. “How do I…?”
“You’ve got to stick your finger down your throat,” Theo says.
Ernie shakes his head. “Dork, it has to be someone else’s finger, or it won’t work.”
“That doesn’t sound right—”
“Try thinking of the fattest girl you know naked.”
“Do you have any ipecac?” Eva asks.
“No, no. You’re overcomplicating things. Just drink a whole gallon of milk while doing a handstand over the toilet.”
Is it just me, or are their suggestions getting worse? “I’m trying the finger thing,” I say, and lean forward, jam half my hand down my throat for good measure—a little too good, I’m guessing, because suddenly I’m spewing chunk like no one’s business, onto the seat, into the bowl, down most of my forearm. When I’m through, I grab a wad of toilet paper, dab at my mouth, peer into the toilet, which is a smelly, grotesque mess. But otherwise about as magical as, well, an unflushed toilet.
“Huh.” Ernie grabs my phone, aims the speaker inside the bowl. “Are you sure you actually puked?”
“Yeah,” I reply.
“Like, it wasn’t, er, pre-puke or something?”
I glare up at him, teary-eyed, snot dribbling down my upper lip. “I most definitely threw up.”
Theo shrugs. “Maybe we should flush.”
“In due time, junior,” Ernie grunts.
“No, I mean in the book, the characters are always trying to flush the toilet when things, er, go wrong.”
Ernie yanks the handle.
The tank starts to empty.
I scuffle back from the toilet along with everyone else.
It starts to overflow…and that’s it. No magic, no monsters. Just poop-water spilling over the sides of the bowl and splashing loudly onto the floor.
Theo yelps and dives clumsily into the bathtub.
Mass Dismemberment’s lead singer yells something unintelligible at the top of his lungs..
“It didn’t work,” Ernie murmurs, dumbfounded, as the bathroom floods lazily.
“That’s because this is real life,” Eva says, scowling at him from behind her phone.
“I really thought it would work…”
I sigh. Normal kids our age experiment with sex or drugs.
We experiment with poop.
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