River House Home - Refrigerator
"Relief" by Michael Chmielewski
On an ordinary evening, Robert Harrison sat on his couch and flipped through bad cable television programs.
CSS outdoors, it’s about conservation.
Icy fresh breath changes everything.
Ma’am, no one can help your daughter, she’s going to prison.
What I really believe is… at the heart of the situation… is that God brings you love.
Robert suddenly felt the urge to take a piss.
He often thought about the expression, take a piss. What did that even mean? It’s not as if you collect it. You leave it, but you can’t exactly walk around and say, I’m gonna leave a piss, without people looking at you in queer ways. So the tradition of taking pisses continued.
While his mind wandered around the idea of manually retrieving urine from the toilet, the television remained on a program about survival techniques in isolated locations. Robert sighed knowing he would never have to use the information provided by the grizzly bear of a host. He lived in a large city and rarely left its confines of steel and concrete, much less his apartment.
Robert’s flat was more of a room than an apartment. The room was finished on one side with a small galley kitchen. Two doors on either side of the kitchen both led to an exit of sorts. On the right was to the street. The door on the left revealed a porcelain sink and toilet. Robert remained on the couch and waited for a commercial break, occasionally glancing across at the toilet room door.
Five, eight, then twelve minutes passed. Finally, the articulate grizzly bear host dissolved into an advertisement for water filters. Robert pushed himself off the couch. The pressure of his bladder pulsed like soft punches to the groin. He hobbled across the floor troubled by his pants’ button and zipper. Ultimately he released them and his penis before he opened the toilet room door.
A small magazine rack set on top of the toilet tank. Robert focused on the rack while his feet shuffled left and right. He succeeded in aiming a hard stream of urine just above the water line at the far end of the bowl. A pair of women’s eyes from the cover of a news magazine peaked over a novel on the rack in front of him. The novel’s author adorned its book jacket. Both sets of eyes seemed to focus on Robert during an act he preferred to execute privately.
To the right of the author’s face, ten more sets of eyes collectively gazed at Robert from the cover of a furniture catalog. The stream of urine came to an abrupt halt, though Robert still felt the urge to evacuate his insistent bladder.
He concentrated on each returning pair of eyes until he realized they were all following his movements. This wasn’t merely a trick of perspective like portraits with the ability to follow museum patrons down hallways. The paper eyes staring at Robert moved. Each iris enclosed pupil drifted in its socket. Robert’s nerves sent a shiver through his body releasing a few more spasms of yellow liquid which missed the bowl entirely.
Robert grabbed the periodicals from the magazine rack and flushed them out of the bathroom just beyond the door frame. Instead of only hearing the thud of bound paper on hard wood, the distinct sound of fairground amusement screams accompanied the toss from his hand. Robert turned around slowly, one eyebrow raised.
Too confused and distracted to finish relieving his bladder, he picked up the furniture catalog. The ten pairs of eyes previously transfixed on him cried and twitched nervously. An overwhelming sense of captivity emanated from the catalog, as well as the magazine and novel. Robert reached up at the galley countertop for his kitchen shears.
He started by ripping the covers off. A waterfall of paper scraps came with the rapid slice of scissor blades. Nothing was left except for the cover models. The figures appeared much more relaxed, a few with smiles across their glossy paper faces.
The captive feeling he sensed subsided. A new aura of wonder flooded Robert as each paper figure quietly stood up. Promptly, the figures ran for the front door of the apartment. In one fluid movement, each leapt into the air about a foot from the door and slid under the jamb.
Robert ran to the door and opened it. The author figure made his way past the trash cans. The woman from the news magazine ran in the opposite direction. Two members of the furniture catalog group were in shreds on the concrete gangway. The other eight attempted to fight off an alley cat with tiny pieces of broken sidewalk.
The old woman who lived in the building next door caught the action from her front step. Her startled eyes met Robert’s. His body began to shiver again. The old woman covered her eyes and Robert realized his limp penis was still exposed. He immediately released the remaining contents of his bladder scaring both the alley cat and his neighbor. Robert made a fig leaf with his hand, slowly backed into his apartment, and closed the door in front of him. With a sigh of relief, Robert laughed and pondered, was it he, his neighbor, or the cat who took the piss.