It had begun, as so many unpleasant things do, with a great rumbling. That, had been while she was flopped on the couch, watching Project Runway. This unsavory sound was followed by a deep, internal burbling sensation – ominous, at best – and what felt, oddly, like a small person playing the maracas inside of her stomach.
“I’ll go lay down,” she thought.
This line of thinking was defeated, of course, by the fact that she was already lying down. Lying down, surprisingly, rarely solves anything. And indigestion, it turns out, is one of the many problems for which lying down does nothing. She pictured herself posed elegantly across a fainting couch, like a lady – and not dressed in sweats and an old t-shirt on her regular couch, which she presently was.
Perhaps, she reasoned, fainting couches had some sort of special curative properties – magical healing fabric, maybe? But she doubted it. Her own couch did nothing for her.
In short order, she’d gone from sprawled across the couch to the cold comfort of the toilet bowl, in that pose that so familiarly evoked prayer, heaving up everything she’d eaten that day… and what felt like a month beforehand.
She could swear she saw a penny she’d swallowed when she was six.
Good food can be hauntingly beautiful – ask someone about their favorite meal and what ask they grow misty-eyed, reminiscing about flavors and crunch and creaminess. But bad meals, too, can leave their mark.
A single piece of unremarkable-looking chicken, for example, can lead you to the cold embrace of lady toilet, causing you to remember said chicken for days and weeks after the unfortunate fowl.
Eventually, the heaving stopped. She swallowed some antique Pepto-Bismol, went to sleep and hoped for the best.
Stay hydrated, her coworkers told her.
Undoubtedly good advice. Fluids came up much easier when she hurled again. And again when she came home, because very few people can concentrate on work when someone is half-puking next to them.
Cautiously, she drank more water and lay back down on the couch.
“Stay in there, please?”
She gingerly poked at her belly, hoping for stasis, if not peace.
‘God,’ she thought. ‘When did my stomach become the conflict in the middle east?’
She lay on the couch for another fifteen minutes, until the rage within could not be contained, and then hauled herself back to the bathroom, to puke up… Well… water, right? Because there wasn’t anything else that could possibly be in there, was there?
Because nothing else could possibly be in there, could it?
Bleary-eyed, she gazed at the swirling contents of the toilet bowl. You’re not supposed to look at your own vomit. The same way you’re not really supposed to look at your own poop…. But … well, at the moment, it didn’t seem as though any other view was forthcoming.
Except…. What the hell was that?
A small black thing, floating in all the liquid that looked like… not possible, right? … But it looked like… Well, it looked like a tiny flashlight.
Carefully, she stuck two fingertips into the bowl and, pincer like, fished it out.
It was tiny. It was about the size of the first joint of her pinky finger… but it was undoubtedly a flashlight. She damn near blinded herself as she accidentally pressed the itty-bitty button and sent a spike of light right into her eye.
How the hell had she gotten a flashlight in her stomach?
She’d only just had time to set the tiny flashlight on the edge of the sink before that same, swirling feeling overtook her again and she leaned over the toilet once more.
Finally, the heaving stopped. She caught her breath and opened her eyes – to see a tiny, little man floating in the toilet. He was wearing bright blue flippers and Hawaiian-patterned swim trunks. His long, white beard hung soggily across his white t-shirt covered belly. The shiny black goggles over his eyes gave him a vaguely bug-like appearance as he looked up at her.
And he was very annoyed.
“What’d you do that for?” he cried, splashing around in the toilet bowl. “I was having a right luau.”
She leaned back to avoid being splashed by vomity toilet water as he kicked around.
For a few moments, she found she couldn’t speak. When she did, her voice was rough.
“What the hell are you?” she asked.
“I am an aqua-groot,” he said, planting his hands on his hips. Well, he planted his hands on his hips for a second – after flailing in the water for a moment, he had to keep swimming. “And I was having a perfectly good vacation, until you spat me out.”
“Spat you out?”
“Well… what would you call it?”
“I… You….You were having a vacation inside my stomach?”
“Yes,” he said. “And it was a nice one, too, until yooou decided to interrupt it. Nice warm pool water. All-you-can-eat buffet… You should consider dieting, by the way. All that pizza can’t be good for you.”
“All the … pizza? What about the hydrochloric acid?”
“Pfft,” the little man answered. “Not a problem. I wear SPF 8000 and I reapply regularly. Acid’s nothing but a pleasant tingle at this point.”
“You….” She turned bright red. “HOW DID YOU GET INTO MY STOMACH?”
“Calm down, love,” he said. “Not like I was doing any harm.”
“You were making me sick!”
“Well… yes,” he said. “There’s that. But it’s a small price to pay, I think.”
“HOW DID YOU GET INTO MY STOMACH?” she yelled again.
“You really do need to learn to control your temper,” the little man scolded. “Maybe it’s all that spicy food you eat. Not good for the disposition.”
She glared at him.
“Fine, fine,” he said. “I got in the same way all those spiders do. I just walked in while you were sleeping. The peristalsis was actually quite nice. Like a massage.”
“You crawled in through my mouth?”
“Well… yes,” he said. “It’s much nicer than the other end. Trust me.”
“You … you went in my stomach, for a vacation?”
“Wow,” he said. “You’re really slow today. Yes. Vacation. D’you want me to spell it?”
“No… I…. If that was a vacation, how bad is the place you normally live?” she asked.
“Oooh, it’s horrible,” he said. “I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. I’m never going back.”
“Where did you live?”
“In Donald Trump’s brain.” He shuddered. “It was awful.”
He looked up at her and pulled the goggles off of his eyes, pale circles against his reddened face.
“It was toxic,” he said. “It messes with you, you know? Eventually, that poison – it starts to seep into your veins.”
He shook his head, haunted eyes gazing up at her.
“I’m never going back,” he said.
Poor little guy. He must’ve jumped ship when she was covering the rally the other day. She couldn’t imagine the nightmare he’d lived through.
She looked at the sad-eyed little man floating in the toilet in front of her.
“Well, then,” she said. “Good luck.”
“Good luck with what?”
“Finding a new home.”
The little man looked at her quizzically.
She smiled at him.
And then she flushed.
I know it’s a weird one … And that it makes practically no sense. Honestly, I just had a bad case of food poisoning this week. And I really just wanted there to be some reason for it, other than some bad chicken. So I thought of one.
So… strange and possibly a little crazy, but there you go.