BY LEE KLEIN
“You’re full of shit,” said my mother. “All you’re doing is demonstrating the scatological indolence of a hesitant generation.”
“What do you mean scatological indolence,” I replied while filling a kettle with water.
“It’s like this: you walk the dog. The dog shits. You pick it up. If you don’t, it gets into the water supply and pollutes everything.”
“Mom. I’m not full of shit. I think picking up after the dog with a plastic bag wastes the bag. You’re saying dog shit gets into the water supply and pollutes. But wasting plastic bags picking up shit pollutes. Anyways all sorts of shit have always gotten into our bodies through the water supply. This is how we’ve achieved one of the greatest civilizations in history. I read somewhere that fecal contamination of the water indirectly helped us get to the moon,” I said, returning an unsoiled New York Times blue delivery bag to a much larger clear plastic bag bloated with reusable, destined-for-picking- up-dog-shit plastic bags.
“It’s the law. You have to pick up shit. What should we do then? Use fresh linen for every pile? Wash, bleach, dry, starch, and iron after every walk?”
Late October. Getting dark earlier everyday. Drizzling and cool for the first time. Dad sitting down to an evening of viewing selections from his storehouse of taped sitcoms and made-for-cable movies. Outside the neighborhood’s filled with lynched scarecrows and white napkins hanging from tree limbs. You can see your breath for the first time. I’ve just come in from walking the dog. My mom’s been pestering me. Asking if Hades shat. If I picked it up. Where he shat. I make up unbelievable locations like in the jack-o-lantern on the Thurston’s front porch. We talk shit.
“Civilization is all about picking up after your pet’s shit,” my mother continued. “You’re just lazy. You’re saying we should all catch our dog’s urine in used 2-liter bottles before it hits our precious lawns only because you don’t want to bend down and pick-up Hades’ shit.”
“Yes. Your point? Urine browns a lawn right-up and most of the people worrying about shit aren’t worried about its polluting qualities—but the aesthetics of it. It’s fine for a dog to lift its leg or squat and piss all over the shrubs but once it bends its tail and lets it all loose it’s suddenly a nuisance. I say we send a memo to the neighborhood proposing that all dog urine be bottled before impact—or maybe we could get veterinarians to install little pet catheters,” I argued while turning the heat up under the kettle for some after-dinner tea.
“All you’re doing is reducing to absurdity the civic virtue of picking up after your dog. Not only is it unsightly and polluting and bad for lawns—but you also step in it. If it’s not picked up, then some kid’s going to run and slip in shit,” returned my mother while settling down to watch the tape of The Big Hit Comedy that my dad and dog were preparing to watch.
“You say some kid’s going to run and slip in shit but I say, mom, how many times did I scrape shit off my shoe? Hundreds. Shit-scraping-off-shoes is one of the fundamental threads of our national fabric. The global quilt is built on this stroke of bad luck. It’s like snapping a shoelace. It makes you aware of every step, of every yank of the lace, for awhile, until your heightened sense of awareness—thanks to stepping in shit—plummets with every step until you finally get what you deserve: you step in shit!”
“See: you’re full of shit. Now you’re pulling this conversation into some bullshit Zen awareness-of-each-step thing. Like STEPPING IN SHIT is divinely distributed to all those getting complacent. If that’s so, Daddy should step in shit everyday. You’re saying it’s like the master smacking a club over a disciple’s shoulders as he’s sitting perfectly still and meditative? Wakes you up? Calls attention to now like any sudden annoyance? Bullshit. It’s just shit,” said my mother pretending to leaf through the TV Guide.
“Bullshit’s all shit. I say shit on all this shit-picking shit! The people who got the Shit Ordinance passed are full of shit. They have personalized license plates on their cheap-as-shitass BMW that say NANTUKT. Mom I mean: they live in New Jersey. Probably too much seagull shit at the shore. They have to go to the shit-free beaches of Nantucket. I bet they’d be the first to get the pet catheter. They’ll probably dome in their house to keep bird shit off their lawn. They probably wear latex gloves to wipe their asses,” I mellifluously asserted as I watched my water not even start to boil.
“Enough! Maybe you should go upstairs before I beat the living shit out of you! You little shit!” my mother screamed mock-hysterically. Hades jumped. My dad sat quiet. A commercial surged and cut out as he switched channels.
“C’mon say it! Say it! Mom! I dare you! Call me a son of a bitch!”
And before I could trick her into indirectly insulting herself, my dad
pressed play and the opening bass licks of The Big Hit Comedy incited a
great sshhhh! And so I hushed my clammerings, went upstairs, and
formed the entirety of this vignette while relieving myself of dinner—confident
that at some point in my movements, the water boiled, they had to hit pause,
and the continuity of their sit-com was sadly blown to bits.
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