Grocery Bag Blues (and Browns)

By Garrett Calcaterra

I've always lobbied my bosses to make the day after St. Patrick's Day a holiday. It just makes sense: everyone is hungover and worthless after drinking green beer and Irish car bombs into the wee hours of the night, so why not give them the day off? Makes sense to me, but not to bosses, apparently, because they never go for it. In fact, they seem to find sadistic pleasure in making employees work even harder the day after St. Patty's. Case in point…

A couple of years back I was working as a building inspector of sorts, and got sent out to inspect this home in the California high desert out past Victorville. It was a new home in one of these brand new housing developments that are sprouting up in the middle of nowhere beyond the Los Angeles basin because people can't afford to buy houses anywhere else. It was about a two and a half hour drive from my office and I had to be there by 8 am, which meant I had to be on the road by 5:30 in the morning. The day after St. Patrick's day.

I was not happy, and—thinking I was somehow punishing my bosses, I guess?—I got plastered the night before. I drank Guinness and Bushmills whiskey with a fervor that would have made the stoutest Irish drunkard proud. I didn't even make it past 10 pm before passing out. I didn't vomit, but in a mystery that has still yet to be solved, someone urinated on my work cellphone during the course of the night while I was incoherent. The forefront theory is that I myself pissed on the phone as an act of rebellion, but I certainly have no recollection of doing so and am not entirely convinced.

Regardless, when my alarm went off at 5 the next morning, I felt like certified, Grade A, ass. I didn't bother showering or even brushing my teeth; I merely changed out of my beer-stained shirt, shook off my piss-sodden cellphone, hopped in my car, and hit the road. I was fairly well famished, yet at the same time a little woozy and there's not a lot of quickie breakfast options at that time of the morning, so I stopped at a 7-Eleven. I wasn't thinking clearly, because it seemed at the moment a perfectly good idea to buy a package of little chocolate donuts and a bottle of V8 fruit juice for breakfast. The attendant tossed them in a plastic grocery bag with a wad of napkins for me, and off I went.

Off I went through Riverside, and up into the mountains on Interstate 15, munching my little chocolate donuts and sipping my juice like a fool. I blew by Victorville and exited onto some two-lane highway. It was desolate. There was nothing but tumbleweeds and an occasional ramshackle home.

Twenty miles out from I-15, the toxic concoction brewing in my belly grumbled, like a long dormant volcano suddenly awakened and about to blow its top. Half-digested bratwurst, sauerkraut, Irish whiskey, and beer, had churned with the little chocolate donuts and fruit juice into a violent exothermic reaction. A surge of loose, fiery stools pounded against my sphincter. I gasped. I started to sweat. I put the gas pedal to the wood, hoping to make the last ten or so miles to my destination before crapping myself.

It was touch and go for a while, but finally I crested a hill and before me was this brand new community of homes, nestled in the desert like an oasis. I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing I could hold out for another minute and make it to a gas station. As I approached, however, I realized the town was still too new. There were hundreds of tract houses already constructed, and a new mall that was under construction, but nothing was complete—nothing was open yet.

I swore. I gave my sphincter a few encouraging words, and tore ass through the empty town to the home I was supposed to inspect. I didn't like crapping at client's homes, but I didn't have much choice this time—I could already feel myself starting to crown—and besides, I knew the owners wouldn't be there because they had given me the code for the lockbox. I skidded to a halt in the driveway and fast-waddled to the front door and inside. The bathroom was thankfully right off the entryway, but when I kicked up the toilet seat cover I saw there was no water in the toilet.


The plumbing had yet to be inspected, of course, so the water wasn't turned on yet. I knew I couldn't crap in the dry bowl and just leave it there. The owners would find it and I'd get fired. I sobbed a little and spun in a circle trying to think what to do. My butt hole quivered. I dashed to the backyard thinking to crap outside and bury it, but the landscaping had already been completed with a well-manicured lawn. Again, foiled.

The torrent of turds were coming. I knew I had about fifteen seconds to impact, and somehow I suddenly became very calm. I recalled my morning's travel: my stumbling through the dark to my car, the streetlights blurry in my eyes, the greenish tint of the fluorescent lights in the 7-Eleven, the trip through the desert, the little town glittering like fool's gold in the distance, and those goddamned little chocolate donuts—those little chocolate laxatives and the fruit juice in their stupid 7-Eleven grocery bag. The grocery bag! Of course.

I bolted back to my car, grabbed the grocery bag and napkins. I hustled back into the bathroom, dropped my pants, spread the bag handles over the toilet seat, sat down, and let loose.

It was the Mt. St. Helens of bowel movements. Small towns outside Seattle and Portland felt the ground tremor. Tears welled up in the eyes of children in Iowa because of the stinging fumes. Russian satellite images detected the smoke plume from space.

I gasped. I filled the bag up, and when it was all done—when I had patted my undercarriage dry with the wad of 7-Eleven napkins—I have to say, I felt pretty damn good. I'd come through when it counted, made due with the resources at hand, and everything came out just fine. I was pleased with myself (and a little hungry again), but not so much so as to forget why I was in the predicament in the first place: my stupid boss sending me out the day after St. Patty's.

I tied the grocery bag up and contemplated it. Do you suppose I'll get fired if I put this on my boss's desk?

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