When Benny comes back from the bathroom, he tosses a box on the table and asks, “What the hell are these?” I figure he’s found tampons or something. This is the kind of thing that drives Melissa crazy—when they go through her stuff and do stupid shit like write “COLTS SUCK” across the mirror with her lipstick. There’s a lot of damage control that needs to be done when we get together, but since this might be our last time, I’m not going to worry about it. The blue and yellow cardboard box has “PIDDLERS” in red script across its sides. Stevie picks it up. “Obviously, they’re … ” he squints and pulls it closer to his face, a sign he’s drunk or getting old or both, “… toilet targets.”
Melissa had bought them for Jake after learning everyone else his age at the day care was out of diapers already. She also got a cartful of other crap including a practice toilet, encouragement stickers, cartoon videos, and books like Everybody Poops, I Can Go Potty, and Goodbye Diapers! The sudden intense focus only made him neurotic and angry. He began yelling more, throwing things, and, for the first time, biting, a development that required a long meeting with the center’s staff and director.
“So they’re a product,” Connor says, scrutinizing the box, “specifically designed, advertised, and sold to be pissed on.”
“And people buy them.”
“Here they are.”
“It’s no wonder making money in this world is a fucking mystery to me.”
“What happens when you hit one,” Stevie asks, “Does it explode or something?”
“Do you really want something to explode while you’ve got your dick in your hands?”
Adam opens the box. “These aren’t targets. They’re just pieces of foam.”
“What do you want them to be?”
“Circles. Or animals. Or something.”
“They’re a missed marketing opportunity. That’s what they are. Make them for adults. You could have Obama, Bush, Clinton, Cheney. You could personalize them. Exes. Bosses. Bands you hate.”
I go and get the plastic toilet from Melissa’s office. She had encouraged Jake to sit there while she worked so that he would “get comfortable with it.” I had pretended to sit on it once. Jake had laughed and clapped his hands; she hadn’t.
“Check this out,” I say placing it on the table like a holiday centerpiece.
“Oooooooooo,” everyone says.
“No, wait.” I pour beer into it. After a moment, the potty gives a cheer, makes a flushing sound, and then sings, “Good Job! Good Job!”
Benny pounds the table. “Son-of-a-bitch. That is awesome! If I ever get my bar, I’m putting these in. I’d put one in my house right now if Home Depot sold them. Can you program it to play different songs?”
“Fuck ringtones. People should have piss tones.”
Adam asks, “Did it work?”
“He’s still in diapers.”
“I don’t blame him. Those are convenient as hell.”
Bennie shakes his head. “I tried wearing Depends on New Year’s Eve a couple years ago. They’re not as good as the ads claim.”
“You know what you do,” Connor says, “You take off the diaper, and when he goes on the floor, you shove his face in it.”
“Works for dogs.”
“I used to wet my bed, and my folks made me lie in it and sleep in it the next night.”
“Did that work?”
“I stopped after a couple years.”
Stevie takes out his wallet. “I’ve got ten bucks that says I can hit one of those things.”
“From how far.”
I scoop the pieces into the box, and pick up the toilet. “Come on.” I lead everyone outside. As I’m positioning the potty in the driveway, the motion-sensor light on the garage kicks on. It glints off the pond. That fucking pond which, as usual, she decided on without asking me. Fair enough. She makes the money; she makes the decisions. Except we never got the right fish for it. We put the test fish in, and they did so well that we never bothered with the others. That’s what I feel like sometimes. The test fish that lasted. The temporary relationship that has refused to die, but she can’t be bothered to replace. I bet she’d leave me with this transfer if she could. It was pathetic that I was just trailing behind like fucking Lloyd Dobler. That I was willing to abandon my hometown and friends. Except it’s not like that, I know, it’s not. It just feels like it is.
I change direction, and they follow me to the water’s edge.
“I can’t see shit,” someone says.
“Hold on,” I get the keys for the van that, to be fair, I don’t think either one of us wanted but it was #1 in Consumer Reports Best Buy. There’s a scraping sound as I drive it through the rose bushes. Something else I’ll have to make up to her later, or try to, which usually is just as good. At least we both pretend it is.
I get the van far enough into the yard for the headlights to shine on the water. I open the box, and sprinkle the foam shapes onto the pond.
“Gentlemen, choose your targets.”
Adam and Bennie unzip, but Stevie and Connor drop their pants all the way to their ankles. They stand with their legs wide apart, like they’re straddling something. Like colossals. No, that’s not right. Colossums? What was it? What were they? What are we?
“All right, piddlers,” I say, “Let’s see what you can do.”
About the Author: A faculty member at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Joseph Mills has published four collections of poetry with Press 53. More information about him is available at www.josephrobertmills.com.
Story Song: "Mardy Bum" by the Arctic Foxes