Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Attack of the Killer Appendix by Maui Holcomb

A sound editor for a schlock horror movie production company returns to work after getting married, and tries not to lose his wedding ring; by Maui Holcomb.

"Crap!"

"What happened, honey?"

"My ring."

I fished around in the garbage disposal among the egg scraps and cantaloupe slime.

"Again?"

"Too dry here."

My wedding band needed resizing. Fingers must have been swollen with sweat when I'd been measured a few weeks earlier. We'd been hitched in Florida and spent a week in Bermuda, and the ring held fast through all that humidity, but in the 48 hours since returning to L.A. it had attempted escape four times. I'd taken to pressing my thumb to it when on the move.

I brushed against it in the muck and pulled free. Rinsed it off. My bride appeared and encircled my waist, whispering.

"Leave it home - I won't mind."

"Are you kidding me?" I turned to face her and held up my bejeweled hand. "I mind. Besides, people might want to see it."

"So, take it in your pocket."

"No. I want to wear it."

She grinned. "Aw."

"Don't worry. I'll be careful."



Turned out the ring got little attention. I had just started editing at a schlock movie company, cheap horror and sci-fi flicks. My marriage scared the young guys I worked with into either furtive silence or wisecracks, and the older editors fell into two camps: wistfully virginal or bitterly divorced. The only people who asked about my week away were the receptionist and the female accountants. My boss handed me a hard-drive containing the latest project.

"Glad you're back. We gotta fly on this."

So I spent the morning building sound effects for Attack of the Killer Appendix, flipping through CDs in search of a suitable primeval presence for the pissed-off intestinal tract organ. Having spent its entire existence in snug, wet darkness before being left inside a mistakenly-live CT scanner and inflicted with a night's worth of radiation, the emancipated appendix shied from the light, slithering through the shadows of Hollywood in search of victims to lure into dark alleys, where they suffered a sudden case of strangulation. Then it shoved its proboscis down their throat to suck up the contents of their gut. After millennia of uselessness, Appendix relished its newfound vitality, already scheming to spread its good fortune to the rest of its kind. But... Hollywood was a loud, foul, wide-open place, and before long the creature sensed the vague tug of nostalgia, felt drawn towards the aspiring actress from whose torso it had been ripped, who even now brandished her sexy new scar at her bonehead boyfriend. Could Appendix return to her? How could it fully enjoy its new life when it yearned to curl up underneath her cecum? Quite the existential conflict.

Anyway, the sound effects needed to be good, really distinctive and disgusting, because the appendix puppet created for the movie had turned out kind of lame.

At noon we walked up the boulevard for burritos. I kept my thumb firmly against my ring (being right-handed, just seemed really polite, my left always in my lap). When talk got around to where I'd been and what I'd been up to, the guys were most interested in the honeymoon.

"Went to Cabo for mine," said Jack, a graphics guy and one of the bitterly-divorced. He shoveled black beans under his walrus moustache and jabbed his fork at me.

"Enjoy it while you can, my friend."

Wayne, a rather manic picture editor, snorted.

"Yeah, that's what you want to say to him, Jack. He's still glowing."

Jack shrugged.

"When my brother married in Oshkosh he went to the Holiday Inn for two whole nights," Wayne went on. "They were back shelving at the Sam's Club Monday morning."



A few hours later, as I struggled to stay focused listening to slimy sounds, my chorizo and bean burrito, or maybe the morning's conjugal eggs, began to percolate through the final stages of the intestinal journey. I try to avoid using the can at work, particularly at a sixty-year-old Hollywood building filled with greasy movie people, so I shifted in my seat and inserted another CD, hoping the urge would pass. Couldn't stop sipping coffee, though, and before long I felt something pushing at the back door.

I whipped off the headphones and stood, glancing out the window. A pigeon on the ledge sidled out of sight. I stepped out of the office and hurried up the hall. Still an hour before quitting time. Most of the doors stood open and my fellow editors tapped away, eyes glazed over.

The bathroom door creaked open. Tiled floor, one rickety stall, a smudged window half-open for a view of rooftops marching south through the haze. Fairly clean, just a bit rancid from the day's use, spent paper towels spilling out of the trash basket, faucet dripping. I shut the door of the stall and got down to business. I'll spare you the details; suffice it to say that Casa Romero can mix a mean sauce, and my ass basically exploded as soon as I hit the seat. I hunched over and waited for the queasiness to subside. Took myself back to rum punch on the beach, watching her emerge from the surf.

Rolled out a healthy amount of TP, stood and cleaned up. Swung one arm back to flush as I hiked up my pants and realized too late I'd forgotten to secure my ring finger; felt the symbol of my vows slide free. A single porcelain PING, and I waited for it to bounce and roll along the floor. Silence. I hazarded a sidelong glance in the bowl. No sign of anything out of the ordinary, no ripples. Had to be on the floor. I just hadn't heard it over the clothing rustle. Searched all around the piss-stained bowl, peered under the side of the stall. Lay flat on the sticky floor and searched for any disturbance to the contour of the tiles. Nothing. I stood up.

The door swung open with a BANG and someone marched up to the urinal, yawning, as I stared down at my fetid excrement. I think it was the weird, older editor; he hummed as he went, oblivious. As soon as he left I searched for a mop, a plunger, a stick propping the window. Not a thing. And I couldn't leave the bathroom to search because anyone could come in and flush. Sure, it might get caught in the trap, but what if it didn't? I didn't feel comfortable yet warning my new co-workers of my predicament. My wife's loving face hovered in my mind's eye. So trusting and proud.

No way around it. I had to reach in. My stomach heaved as I rolled up my sleeve. It very well could have been the most disgusting dump I'd ever taken. No tidy logs to maneuver around, just a solid mass of pure floating hell, garnished with a smattering of oozy yellowish pellets.

Clenching my teeth, I carefully pierced the layer of shit, pushed my arm below the surface, and felt at the very bottom with a single outstretched finger. The first hard object I encountered squished - Don't think about it! - and I started to panic - had I just pushed it further? But then the unmistakably smooth ring. I pinched it between thumb and forefinger and brought it up.

Then something grabbed my wrist! Something like the gooey tentacle of a renegade digestive organ. I lost my balance, scrabbled at the slippery edge of the bowl, and fell headfirst into the filth. It tugged me straight down the suddenly widening pipe and, and, but no, that's not the kind of story this is. Don't get me wrong - I love stories like that, where reality swerves, and suddenly you're in the depths of the Hollywood sewer system talking to a rat with a peg-leg or something. If that had happened I'd be glad to tell that story. But it didn't. No, I pulled my hand out. Looked askance at the ring as it surfaced, with, unlike my arm, not a drop of filth stuck to it. Still smooth and golden, the etching untarnished. I scrubbed it just the same, scowling in disgust, along with every inch of my hand and arm, with near-scalding water and half the soap in the dispenser. My stomach lurched as drops of gunk disappeared down the drain.

When I finally left the john and returned to my desk, the ring deep in my pocket, nobody seemed to have noticed. Half hour to quitting time. Someone in the break room knocked billiard balls across the felt.

In the years ahead I would change a thousand diapers, see a lot of poop of all kinds squeezed out of my kids. Sitting at my desk as Appendix emptied another maiden, I didn't know that, but I did have an inkling that as much as the vows and the honeymoon, the shared apartment and time together, this was married life: pushing through the crap to find the gold on the other side. You were afraid I was going there, weren't you?

5 comments:

  1. quite the most original story I´ve read for a long time. to be honest I didn´t know where you were going, but it was worth the journey!
    great last paragraph!

    Michael McCarthy

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  2. Hilarious! The descriptive venture to the bathroom had me rolling! Yet, when the reader arrives at the profound last paragraph (as Michael already pointed out) it really tugs at the heart!
    What a great read.

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  3. loved the "fake-twist" near the end!

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    Replies
    1. also the foreshadowing of how the story starts with "'Crap!'" ha

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  4. Funny story (though intentionally disgusting..) Nice ending!

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