A tattered couch sits among weeds against a broken wall.

FICTION: Sit with Me in the Sh*t and Sawdust

by Sasha Victor

See me inside your Seattle high-rise condo. Accept it, it’s already begun. Watch dried shit flake off my sneakers as I wipe my shoes on your welcome mat. Take a deep breath to calm your nerves. Smell the urine of Pioneer Square Station on my coat. Notice my jeans covered in park sludge. Feel your heart rate double when I walk past your ivory leather sofa. Blurt out, “Have my chinos.” Take off your pants and hand them to me. Try to remember why you invited me into your home.

“Can I, um, use your facilities?”

“My what?”

“Can I take a shit?”

Hesitate. Say, “Oh.”

“Just a quick one. And, and then I can put on your pants, man, um, if that’ll make you feel more comfortable.”

“Oh.” Inhale through your nose and say, “OK.” Call out into the hallway, “And then the real Seattle Underground Tour, right?”

“Yeah, man, the Underground Trip. It’s already begun. Don’t you feel it? It’s so Seattle, yeah?”

Stand motionless on the other side of the door. Hear me discharge into your pristine porcelain toilet. Listen to the bidet shoot up my ass. Squirm with me. Imagine my waste careening down thirty floors of piping.

“The slacks are a perfect fit.”

“They’re chinos.”

I say, “Thank you.”

Tell me it’s nothing, the least you can do. Wait for me to smile. Try to laugh as you say the chinos could help me get a real job.

Set my filthy jeans on the reclaimed Douglas fir rocking chair. Sit next to me. Look down at your bare knees and shudder. 

“Don’t worry, man. I’m not that cheap. It’s going to cost you more than a pair of used pants.” I laugh.

Laugh nervously with me. Rub your bare knees and take the glass and the pill I hand you.

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

Accept that you have no choice. Nod. Remember you already took the pill. Slug the water.

Stare through the floor-to-ceiling glass window and peer into the city. Breathe calmer as the shadows expand and hide the concrete sidewalks and the parks and the freeway underpasses. Sigh as the day exhales its last burst of yellows along the steel-and-glass edges of the skyscraper across from you. Rest your head on my shoulder.

Roll back your eyes and imagine walking along the waterfront with me. Walk backwards toward the messy birth of Seattle. Let your shoes get sticky with betrayals of supersonic proportions. Don’t get turned around in the city’s sordid spiral of soot, snoot, and free soup. Press your feet hard into the history. Let each step leave an impression. Once you’ve walked for a hundred years, walk half a hundred years more, all the way back to the shit and the sawdust.

Shuffle your feet along the waterfront. Taste the sawdust sticking to your lips. Smell the feces floating all around you. Feel it run into your shoes. Kick your feet and send the detritus of development back into the air. Cough and spit with triumph, your mouth watering like a seagull’s beak wrapped around an Ivar’s French fry dripping with tartar sauce.

Hear the rumble of a Douglas fir rocketing down the skid road behind you. Run. Avoid certain death by mere inches. Pride yourself in your surefootedness and quick thinking. Laugh when the lumber splashes into the Salish Sea like a giant turd expelled from Henry Yesler himself.

Walk defiantly up First Hill. Refuse to be intimidated by progress. When the ground shakes, liquifying the hardened slurry beneath you, ignore that your resolve slips along with your feet. Grasp your bare knees. Steady yourself. Look uphill and see the forest’s freshly razed corpses barreling down on you. Tell yourself you are in control. Jump into the wooden box chute next to you, the pinnacle of nineteenth century wastewater removal: Seattle tech at its finest. Stuff your nose with sawdust and ride that shit chute all the way down the hill. Hold your arms high in delight and disgust. Tell yourself the salt on your lips is the sea and the flecks in your teeth are sawdust. Slide triumphantly past Pioneer Square and right back into the slurry. Rejoice in the familiarity of the shit and sawdust. Celebrate the signposts of industry.

Dredge through the dregs of Seattle, where the sludge trickles down more reliably than Klondike gold. Stomp gleefully onto floating turd logs. Send them downward through the sawdust and the sea. Slosh a few inches deeper. Slide down to your knees. Feel the prosperity ascending your Calvin Kleins. Lie down in it.

Look out at the Salish Sea gorging on fresh logs, flush with potential. Wade through it. Wait for the tide to bring back the day’s wealth and the day’s waste along with it.

See me a dozen yards away. Wave. Call out, “Sit with me in the shit and sawdust.” Laugh vigorously until your trembling causes you to sink to your armpits.

Grasp at the sawdust floating around you, thrust it beneath you. Scoop it up like bubbles in a bath. Thrust and thrust and thrust. Watch the sawdust absorb the excrement. Enjoy a temporary firmness beneath you. Feel the difference you are making.

Look around. See me also mired in the muck. Walk up to me, consider offering your shit-covered hand, or the sawdust in your pockets. Decide, instead, to gift me an opportunity for self-help. Convince me that I, too, can find firmness if I can just work hard enough and thrust the sawdust fast enough. Tell me about these things called bootstraps. Watch the tide and the shit chute wash away my efforts. Turn your back on me.

Click the heels of your loafers together and come home. Feel certain you’ve learned your lesson. Sit up in your sofa, alone. Blame me for not making it back with you. Feel proud you survived the Seattle underground with your quick thinking and your true grit. Whistle as you clean yourself in your floor-to-ceiling million-dollar glass tomb.

Walk to your job with a pep in your step. Laugh at all the shit and sawdust buried underneath your feet. Find reassurance in the history. Step over concrete shadows and around cold corners. Avoid the parks and underpasses. Don’t worry about the wreckage around you. Let the tide roll in and cleanse the city for you. Tell yourself I need to find my own way back from the shit, that you’re not responsible if I can’t figure out how to shovel the sawdust fast enough.

Stare into your office building. Enjoy the swoosh of the revolving door welcoming you in. Disregard the security desk clerk calling out after you. Hear the soft tone of the elevator. Take a ride to the top of the building. Slide the deadbolt. Listen for the delicate click. Forget that your office door was open.

Sit at an engraved Douglas fir desk and look down on the city from your wall of glass. Notice sawdust on your desk. Scoop it up. Fill your pockets with it. Realize you put on my jeans in your hurry. Unlock your desk drawer and read my note: Accept it, it’s almost over. 

Notice the flakes of shit beneath your wall safe. Feel your heart rate double. Take a deep breath to calm your nerves. Walk defiantly over to your wall safe. Grasp your shit-covered knees. Tell yourself you are in control. Punch in 1851. Open your safe and tremble violently in relief. Remove each of your Klondike gold bars tenderly. Promise to never part with even one. Realize you would need a hundred and fifty years to spend it all. Laugh vigorously.

Clench them tightly against your chest. Sense yourself leaving small impressions. Smell the excrement. Feel the Klondikes ooze between your fingers. Squeeze out the sawdust. Look down and see you have nothing. Gasp for air.

Roll back your eyes and find yourself sitting on a concrete sidewalk. Be overwhelmed by a sudden urge to shit. Recognize your condo building across the street. Search your filthy pockets for your key fob. Pound on the door when your neighbor refuses to let you into the building. Search for identification. Realize your pockets are empty except for sawdust. Look around for a place to shit. Slink into a dark corner. Defecate. Use up the last of your sawdust.

Return to the sidewalk in front of your building. See me approaching. Hold out your shit-smeared hand, relieved I came back for you, confident I have your key. Ready yourself to put this trip behind you. Notice sawdust falling out when I dig through my pocket. I dredge out a few quarters and place them in your hand. Stagger back dumbfounded by this moment. Take my coins anyway.

I tell you the quarters are for the laundromat, so you can get a job. “Man, those pants have seen better days, neighbor.”

Hesitate. Say, “Oh.” Smile at my joke and play along. Say, “Thank you.”

I smile back at you and say, “The least I can do.”

“And the, the real Seattle Underground Tour, that’s done now, right?” Wait for the joke to end. “What a trip, yeah?”

Watch me slug the last dregs of my Starbucks Americano.

Listen for the punchline. Hear only a soft tone doling out shelter to the one of us who ended up with a key, followed by the delicate finality of the door clicking shut.

Look up through the glass and peer into your home. See me inside your Seattle high-rise condo. Accept it. Watch me take off your chinos and carefully hang them over the Douglas fir rocking chair. Breathe calmer as the shadows hide you on the concrete sidewalk. Sigh as the day exhales its last pangs of yellows somewhere far above you. Rest your head on a boulder.

Sasha Victor immigrated to the U.S. as a child of political refugees fleeing the Soviet Union. He proudly called Seattle home until he stumbled into love and found himself living in Tacoma. Find him on Instagram @sashaandsebald or within the following fine magazines: Ellipsis Zine, Creative Colloquy, and Misfit Magazine.

📸 Featured Image: Original photo by Dan Meyers via Unsplash. Image editing by Emerald staff.

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