Chapter 6 read by xxx
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Charlie hopped on the escalator and reached the bathroom. He jimmied the door open and went inside. For the first time he noticed that the bathroom walls, the floor, and the ceiling were cement.

It took his eyes a while to adjust to the blinding, hanging halogen lamps. It was so hot and humid in the bathroom, it made Charlie realize he had to pee - ¡bad! But, ¿where? Such a question to ax in a bathroom.

The last place you want to be when you gotta go is in a bathroom, at least one surrounded by trees with hands, 100% humidity, faint, easterly winds from a portable fan, and ¡no toilet!

He looked for his shirt, but it was like looking for a shirt in a crematorium. The trees wouldn’t tell him where they’d put it, they wouldn’t even point.

Charlie always was freaked out by bathrooms.

-¿Why am I so afraid of bathrooms? -He axed himself.

¿Why did he feel like he was being observed? And, ¿who just touched his bum?

He needed to focus and he needed to ¡find his fucking shirt!

He stopped.

“Okay, focus”.

But there it was again. That fucking breathing. It was driving Charlie crazy. He tried to appear suave.

“¿Are these fucking trees seriously breathing?”

Charlie thought about his shirt as he sweat and swore.

“¿Why would trees want a shirt? ¿Were they going out?”

Some one or thing tapped him on the shoulder. He looked back.


“¿Why don’t they breathe fire?”

Salt. They’re too salty to breathe fire. And they have enormous emotional guards that are always up.

“If they were human, they’d have rakhmones , and give me back my shirt”, Charlie thought.

-Char-lee, ¿where arrrre you?

Charlie heard Margaret’s tan, lean, and sing-songy voice as only a small piece in that gigantic, vehicular puzzle called “Life”.

-I was okay, until now -Charlie called out to his sister. But his voice died quickly. No one probably heard him.

Then he saw it. The shirt was in front of him, three feet away.

He could blaze a trail straight to it - or, he could think.

He listened to the Gremlins in his brain, who advised him. They said, “¡Think! We don’t trust these fucking plants anyway. I bet if God asked them to ¡Repent! all they’d do is ¡flap their tendrils!”

-¡Ohhh, Char-leee! -He could hear his sister, but he was busy thinking-. ¡Char-lee! ¡Come on!

“I’m trying” He thought. He was trying, but no cigar-ing.

¿What was holding him?

In a narrative that has plants with hands, you get three guesses, and the first two donna count.

As if his outer demons weren’t trouble enough, his inner Gremlins were telling him to “torch the place”.

His shirt was telling him, “¡Save me!”

He listened again to the Gremlins, who were now telling him, “Act now, breathe later”.

He looked around at the tree that’d ensnared him. It had five hands, a top hat, and was wearing ¡his shirt! Charlie could endure no more. ¿Or was this all in his imagination?


“Well, that settled that rather quickly and arbitrarily”, The head Gremlin in his head said to him-. “Omniscient narrators are a pain in the rico suave. They don’t know what tense to use. ¡Fuck ‘em!”

¿Fuck the friendly, neighborhood, omniscient narrator?

¡Hurry! -He heard Margaret say in his brain-. You know he doesn’t like talking to Mr. Harker. Soon as Harker shuts up, Dad’ll be here.

He didn’t respond - he didn’t know who or what to respond to first. His fucking shirt was talking to him. And now he had a pie in his hand...

-¡No, I don’t!

And now he could hear the narrator.

And now a plant was taunting him.

-¿Charlie? -It was speaking ¡out loud!-. ¿Do you like this shirt on me?

Charlie trembled in fear as the five hands clutched him against its trunk.

¡If only Charlie had a pie! ¡Ooops! ¡Got one!

Charlie managed to throw the pie where he imagined the tree’s face was. The five hands all scrambled at once to get the pie dreck off, forgetting about Charlie.

-¡Oh, Char-leee!

Char-leee tore himself away from the tree.

And then he tore his shirt off the tree’s back.

Two serpentine lions lunged at him, seemingly out of thin air.

-¡Aggghhh! -Charlie screamed, paralyzed in terror-. ¿¡What the fuck!?

“I told you this shit was all in your head”, One of the Gremlin minions - not the head Gremlin - told him.

The lions roared “¡Arrrgghh!” and disappeared.

-¡Fuck me! -Charlie screamed-. ¡I have got to get outta this place. There’s got to be a better life for me and you -He told the Gremlins, as he lit his shirt on fire with one hand and wrestled imaginary serpentine lions with the other.

The lions were no match, and his shirt went up in flames like a butane tornado.

-¿¡Mar-gret?! -Charlie called out into the silence, but the only sound was the ensuing echo-: ¿¡Mar-gret!?

His body shook violently and holistically in fear.

The lions were no contest.

But we mentioned that already.

And, his shirt went up in flames...

-¡Mentioned that! -Charlie said.

It was so humid and creepy in the bathroom, he couldn’t see or think.

“It has human hands” -Charlie thought-. “No plant has hands. And no hands have plants. And no human has five hands, a tail, and...”

-¡Help me! -He screamed into the moist air. He had hit a nerve - the one that told him, “You’re fucked”.

It was useless.

Charlie was so out of it that he was already planning to drink his own urine to survive.

The lions had faded into the surrounding murk.

The “plants” were emitting a suspicious, burning smell.

-¡I’m on fire! -Charlie screamed, reaching for his fire-extinguisher-comb.

Then - at that very instant - he saw Margaret. He hadn’t seen her board the escalator. He didn’t even remember getting on the escalator himself, but there they both were.

-¡Charlie! -Margaret exclaimed, looking at him with a pained expression-. ¡¿What the fuck?!

Charlie glanced behind him, his eyes darting everywhere at once.

-¡I don’t know which way is down! -He cried.

-¡Noooo! -Margaret screamed as she saw the serpentine lions hot on Charlie’s heinie and the jaunty Gremlins circling his head.

The serpentine lion represents living in the moment. When it enters the narrative, the protagonist is not thinking, “Credit problems, girlfriend hates me”. He thinks, “¡Serpentine lion! ¡Jesus freaking Christ!”

Charlie learned a valuable lesson about living in the moment and the reader a valuable lesson about padding-out narrative.

Margaret smacked the serpentine lion and took her little brother’s hand.


The narrator didn’t catch which character said that last exclamation (see above: “padding-out narrative”).

They both, however, helped to ditch Charlie’s Key Lime pie under the escalator.

Part suspenseful action, part contrived bull crap, the two siblings faced their father. Their thoughts of what would happen next were as varied as the excuses that would hopefully explain things: evisceration, the sun was in his eyes, grounded, electric shock, total eclipse of the sun, partial maiming...

All these thoughts, as the two faced the red-faced ire of Dr. Berger.

      -- on to chapter 7   or   back to the Bathroom --