“The Five-Foot-Long Poop” by Jeff Sanger
Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.
This week, Jeff Sanger recounts the aftermath of his son’s birth.
My second child, my son, was born in 2007. My wife and his older sister and I welcomed him home with all the excitement and joy you can imagine, but his arrival was accompanied by something else. Something dark. And brown.
I remember it being cold for May, but that time of year you never know what the hell you’re going to get in Pittsburgh. I had been taking care of my eighteen-month-old daughter solo for a few days because my wife had remained in the hospital for recovery after her C-section. I remember holding my daughter in my lap as I rocked the old glider that got progressively more rickety and noisy with each kid. I remember how delicately I slid my fingers out from beneath her small body once I had her in her crib, back when we believed in cribs. She was still nursing, and if she were to wake up suddenly without Mom there . . . well, let’s just say it wouldn’t be pretty. I’d already established early on that getting slumber-interrupted little ones back to sleep was not my forte. I excelled in the messier domains, like playing Godzilla vs. princesses with foam blocks, changing diapers, and blazing a path for my ever-expanding family through Costco.
When my wife first reported having an upset stomach, I chocked it up to the excitement of the hospital discharge and the reality that we would now be living as a family of four. However, her discomfort only seemed to increase as they night went on. By evening she hadn’t been able to eat and was getting increasingly uncomfortable. It was then she informed me that she had not . . . insert your own adolescent nomenclature here. Over the years I’ve come to prefer the simple yet still descriptively palindromic poop. She had not pooped since she had been at the hospital.
“Really?” I inquired, looking down at my legs hanging off the side of the bed. “That’s, like, three days.”
“I tried to once, but I can’t.”
“Well, that’s why your stomach hurts,” meta–Dr. Sanger professed. “We should call your OB.”
We did and were routed to an on-call physician with a Pakistani accent who informed us it was common for new mothers to be constipated if they’d been given pain meds postnatally. He said my wife should take a stool softener, or that he could call in a prescription for a suppository. I asked her which route—literally—she wanted to go down, to which she responded, “Neither.”
Anyone who knows my wife will tell you she doesn’t just believe in instant gratification—she expects it. In her defense, her complexion had turned quite pale by the time I hung up the phone. She was clearly uncomfortable.
“I can’t wait that long,” she said. “We have to do something now.”
“I can run down to the pharmacy and be back in, like, fifteen minutes.”
“No, we have to do something right now,” she repeated. She began to pace our bedroom frantically.
“What do you want me to do?”
“I don’t know. I don’t feel good,” she pleaded. “You have to do something.”
By then I had begun to worry in earnest. “Maybe I should take you back to the hospital.”
“I could call the paramedics.”
When I first suggested a hot bath, I was thinking only of how it might relax her enough that she’d let me go to the pharmacy for the medicine. It wasn’t until after she had lowered herself in that I realized the warm water might have other effects. After I got her settled I went to tend to my son, who had woken up in his bassinet and was crying. I gave a halfhearted effort at soothing before I brought him into the bathroom and announced, “I think he wants to nurse.”
“Are you serious right now?” my wife said.
“Well, I just . . .”
“I cannot nurse anyone right now. Oh my God. Something’s happening.”
As I looked on with both trepidation and relief, the floodgates were opened, and the poop unfurled into the shallow water. As the years have progressed the poop has grown in both girth and length each time I tell the story. I hesitate to put it in print for the simple fact it will put a cap on any further exaggeration. The reality is, however, it was stunning . . . and seriously at least three feet long.
JEFF SANGER lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and teaches English at Glendale Community College. His play, Crazy, was produced for the Pittsburgh New Works Festival in 2011. His novel, Schizo, is available on Amazon. He sometimes blogs about his adventures with his wife, Amy, and their three wonderful children. His eldest, Ava, was two at the time this story took place. His son, Sullivan, had just been born. His youngest, Juniper, had not yet been conceived.
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Mar 17, 2015
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