Thursday night was George's first time in charge. We thought we should do something to make his evening in the high command less labor intensive but memorable. He was doing a fine job. Greeting customers at the front door with a friendly hello as they walked in. The night was going smooth, perhaps a little too smooth.
"George," I said pulling him aside.
"Ah come on," George protested, noting I had been bugging him with trivial things all night. "What is it?"
"It’s Sully. He went down to use the washroom two hours ago and hasn’t come up yet."
"Are you sure? Maybe he’s trapped. You know that door handle."
"No I checked. The door is closed, but he wasn’t trying to get out. In fact there was no sound coming from inside at all."
"Did you try talking to him through the door?"
"Yes . . . no answer."
"Are you sure he’s still in there?"
"Yes I can see his shadow on the otherside from the floor."
George rubbed his face with his hands, "Why me? Why now on my first night in charge?"
George paused a moment to think, "Ok, get Ellis and meet me in the basement. Bubba can take over the cash til we get back. Just call Davy from the back if you need help."
Bubba gave a mock salute, "Yes sir!" he said, and then mumbled something inaudible.
Ellis and I met George downstairs at the washroom door. The light was on and shining under the gap. George knocked, "Sully, are you all right in there?" No answer. He knocked again, "Sully, do you need any assistance?" George cringed when he realized how awkward that statement had sounded. "How long has he been in there?"
"Two plus hours, at least" I said.
"This is not good." George continued to knock. "Sully are you OK?"
Ellis mused, "Shit, what if he’s dead in there? Sitting on a big pile of shiese."
"What the hell is shiese Ellis? Is that like shit?"
He pointed at me. "Precisely."
"Then just say 'shit' for Christ sake."
"This is not happening. This is not happening." George rocked slightly back and forth and repeated this mantra, while Ellis and I continued to joust at each other.
"Well I can’t say he’s sitting shiva for the last time can I?"
"I think in this case Ellis, you probably can."
"This is not happening. This--is--not---happening."
"I just don’t understand---," I continued. "---why, Ellis? Why can’t you talk like normal people? Just say defecated, or body expulsion, ---or--- or--- or firing a lower colon cruise missile. Christ! I would even accept sphincter vomiting. I can decipher all these. But shiese? You’ve been hanging with Bubba too long and now you’re getting Swedish on my ass."
"Actually I think I saw it on a German web-site."
"Can you guys stop?! You’re making me nauseous," George interrupted. He began to fidget nervously as the scenarios of dead customers on his watch danced through his consciousness. "Ok..." George grunted and got down on all fours to peer under the door.
"What do you see?"
"Can you smell moth balls?" Ellis needled.
George started to put his nose to the gap and then stopped and shot Ellis an angry glance. He lowered his head and peered under the door. "Well . . . he’s in there all right. I can see his shoes and his pants down around them."
"Ah fuck," Ellis gasped. "There’s a dead old guy, in mid ‘shit’---," he quoted the air as he looked at me. "--- on the can, on the first night Jacob leaves you to run the store George. It sucks to be you."
"This is not funny," George warned, and stopped for a moment to gather his courage. It seemed he stood there for hours pondering his options when in actuality it was only a few minutes. "So I guess we have to go in," George said triumphantly.
"We," Ellis and I said together. "Forget the, ‘we,’ George, you’re the boss here," I reminded him.
"Aw come on!"
"Who knows what we’re going to find when we open that door," I said.
"Or what Jacob’s going to say when he finds out one of his customers was so loyal he decided to die here," Ellis snickered.
George shot him another angry glance, "I’m warning you."
I slapped George on the back. "Someone has to open that door."
"Ok . . . Ellis, open the door!" George commanded.
"No way! I don’t even go in the washroom after Bubba, and this is just slightly worse."
"Awwwooue! I’m . . . in . . . charge!" George jiggled his body in a fake temper tantrum but I could see he really wanted someone else to do the deed. We all stood there looking at each other with no one anxious to grab the nob and expose the potentially lifeless corpse of former customer Sully Goldstein in whatever fashion contraption, in the early stages of decomposition and rigger mortis soon to follow.
"All right," I said, "I’ll do it! But you have to look in first George."
George nodded his agreement, although he probably didn’t like this option any better than performing the task himself.
"Sully," I said, tapping lightly on the door, "We’re coming in to help you." There was no answer. I looked at Ellis and George, "Are you guys ready?"
"No," George gulped. "But do we have any other option? Let’s do it."
George positioned himself in front of the door in a half-crouched stance like he was going to break through that offence and just cream the quarterback. Ellis and I pasted ourselves like wall paper to either side of the bathroom door. We must have looked as if we were about to bust in on a ring of drug dealers in a undercover Police raid.
Ellis giggled, "Christ George! You better hope you don’t have to give him the Hiemlich."
"I don’t believe you guys. This is fuckin’ serious and you are making jokes." We both apologized amid suppressed snickers. "Let’s just do this OK---on 3," George instructed, "1— 2------- 3"
I reached over and slowly turned the handle with the delicacy of someone trying to defuse a bomb. The latch popped with a little click and the door began to slowly creek open. The sliver of light along the crack of the door began to grow and illuminate George's horrified expression.
"You guys are such Assholes!" he screamed, as we burst into laughter.
There at the foot of the toilet were empty trousers hugging a pair of footless shoes. The lifeless corpse of Sully Goldstein was nowhere to be seen.
Tomorrow exceprt from: End of days