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issue 37: july - august 2003 

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The Hidden Art of Todd Shaddox  The Hidden Art of ScatologyScatology
Todd Shaddox  
     
       
These pants didn’t fit right and he was going to have to return them. They looked fine two weeks ago but now the waistline was too big and lingered limply over his belt. He should have paid more attention when he bought them but he didn’t care for the salesgirl and quite simply wanted to get out of the store as soon as possible.
      If it were up to him, he would never buy clothes, or anything else, in person. He would merely make his purchases online – as well as the many other tasks that for one reason or another need to be performed every so often.
      He was losing weight again. His doctor said it was probably due to stress but what possible stress could he be under? His life was essentially the same as it had always been, and probably always would be. Anyway, he felt silly complaining about something so many people are envious of. His co-worker, Tina, was extolling the merits of an orange juice and bran diet that seemed simply too harsh not to be effective. As often as she wished, she was allowed a glass of extra pulpy orange juice mixed with a large quantity of 100% bran. That was it for 72 hours. Yummy! This evidently cleaned her system to such a degree that everything thereafter would quickly slide right through.
      He climbed into his little Mazda and zoomed back to the mall. Bringing things back was not one of his favorite activities, as if he had one at all. It illustrated his inability to do the job correctly the first time. As he had feared, the same (apparently the only) salesgirl was working the store as he entered.
      “Didn’t I just see you?” she asked.
      “Yep; I guess I took too much into the changing room and came out with the wrong pair of pants.”
      “They looked great on you the other day.”
      Now this he found odd. He didn’t remember wearing the pants, or anything else from the store, outside the dressing room. To be perfectly honest though, his memory hadn’t been overly reliable lately.
      “I thought so too, well maybe not great but good enough.” He wondered if she had been watching him during his last visit. Of course she had, that was her job. Rich didn’t believe much in paranoia. Bad things happened every day, and usually they happened because some bad person caused them to happen. Paranoia is nothing more than man’s desire to pretend he’s safe, overpowered by the fact that he’s not.
      “Do you want the same pants in a different size or do you want a completely different pair?”
      “Well, I want a completely different pair, just like these, only smaller.”
      “Ok, I’ve got you,” she said with an exploding smile. “I’ll be right back.”
      The sudden change of expression on her face momentarily distracted him and it took a moment to realize she hadn’t asked his size or taken the pants. There was something different about her today, something he hadn’t noticed the first time he saw her.
      He began to look around the store. The clothes here were certainly nice, mostly dark earth tones you’d feel comfortable wearing under a dense jungle canopy.
      “Do you know anything about scatology?” she asked as she touched his right shoulder from behind.
      “Uh, I know what it is…I think,” he responded as he involuntarily jerked forward. Where the hell did she come from and how did she end up right on his ass without making a sound? Maybe she was a ninja.
      “Basically, it’s the study of animal poop,” she clarified without hesitation.
      “That’s very interesting,” he stammered. “The pants…do you have them in a 34 waist?”
      “And when I say animals, I also mean humans. Generally, we have almost total control of what goes into our bodies, the fuels that power our existence. Scatology categorizes and defines the very nature of our being, from health to social strata,” she stated as she took the pants from his weakening grip.
      “Mary Beth!” a hurricane shrill shriek pierced the air as a ghastly pale whisp of a woman hurriedly appeared from the rear of the shop. “No, no. This gentleman isn’t interested in scatology or anything else, other than fine clothing. Just assist him and let him be.”
      “He’s the one who asked, Ms. Morocco.”
      “One more time; just one more time!” she hissed pointing her finger at the girl. “Sir, if there is anything I can assist you with, please do not hesitate to ask.”
      “Thank you very much. I believe I’m almost done here.”
      And with that, Ms. Morocco was gone. Well, this was a very strange situation indeed. Obviously Mary Beth was crazy as a bedbug and had been for some time. At that moment, leaving the store as soon as possible became less important than talking to this captivatingly strange creature.
      “It’s Mary, isn’t it?”
      “Mary Beth actually. I would die if someone called me just Mary or just
      Beth. Even though they’re technically two different names and there’s even a space between them, I’m Mary Beth in toto and I appreciate being referred to as such.
      “I didn’t realize it was that big a deal.”
      “Besides that, Mary isn’t really so much a name as a verb or an adjective.”
      “Not spelled correctly, it’s not.”
      “What’s your name?” she asked aggressively.
      “Rich.”
      “See, Rich is a verb too! You see what I’m talking about, right?”
      “Rich isn’t a verb, it’s a name and if it were used in any other fashion, it
      would be an adjective.”
      “So are you rich?”
      “Not even close. I shop here, don’t I?”
      “What do you do?”
      “More importantly what do you do?” he replied sharply. “It’s obvious you
      don’t wait on customers or handle returns. What the hell do you get paid for?”
      “My aunt, Ms. Morocco is my aunt, owns this store and I have to work here
      five days a week – sometimes six.”
      Rich noticed her cheeks drop just a little bit as her lips loosened. “If she’s
      your aunt why do you call her Ms. Morocco?”
      “She makes me. She says it’s professional and if we want to be professional
      clothiers, we must maintain a professional countenance.”
      “And you accomplish this by talking about poop with your customers?”
      “Personally I always thought a clothier was more someone who
      manufactures clothes rather than someone who sells them but, whatever. I think technically we’re more of a haberdashery but who wants to be called a haberdasher? Not me, that’s for sure.” He wished he hadn’t noticed her soft cheeks drop. It saddened him.
      “What size did you say you were looking for?”
      “A 34 waist.”
      “I think we have that.”
      I should hope so, it’s a pretty common size, thought Rich.
      “I don’t want you to leave here thinking I talk about poop all day to everyone who just happens in, because I don’t.”
      “Well it is odd.”
      “Admittedly, but you have to remember that I spend all day, practically all week, surrounded by men’s clothing and no one to talk to but Aunt Morocco…”
      “You called her Aunt Morocco.”
      “Of course. What should I call her?”
      “It just seems you’d call her Aunt, whatever her first name is.”
      “Ah, you’re like my sister the spinster.”
      “I seriously doubt it.”
      “Her name is Shirley – an adverb.”
      “Look,” he said in his most exasperated (though somewhat exaggerated) tone, “just give me my pants so I can get out of here.” He was starting to swim around the room, dancing with headless mannequins and wrapping gaudy ties tightly around his throat. He gazed down at the carpeted floor, focused his eyes and stared back up to examine his tormentor.
      Mary Beth was about 5’5” and weighed in at about 120. He would have described her hair as dirty blonde if he hadn’t started to like her so much. She was wearing a light blue, button-down man’s shirt and khaki pants, somewhat tight in the hips (in a surprisingly seductive manner). She was the only person he’d ever met whose teeth glistened as much as her eyes.
      “Listen Rich, you looked fine in those pants and you know it. You just came back here to see me. I may be a simple clothier but I’m not an idiot. I know when someone’s coming in to check me out.”
      Rich would have been angry if it weren’t for the camouflaged smile rippling just beneath her lips.
      “Okay, I don’t mean to be rude but you’ve placed me in a very awkward situation and I don’t know how to get out of it gracefully without hurting your feelings, or getting you in trouble with Aunt Monaco or whatever her name is.”
      “Morocco.”
      “Morocco.”
      “Please,” she implored, using that tone of voice relegated to persons suffering under dire circumstances, “Take me with you.”
      Rich took a hasty step backward and cocked his head to the right. “Are you serious?” he asked incredulously.
      “Look at me, look at my aunt, look at my job. Of course I’m serious.”
      “Where am I going to take you?”
      “You’re rich, aren’t you?”
      “In name yes. Haven’t we covered this?”
      “You have a car, don’t you?” she queried, already knowing the answer. “A car that will fit two people?”
      “I think all cars fit two people.” Taking a chance, he placed his hand on her shoulder and said, knowingly, “Apparently you’re going through a rough time here and maybe this isn’t the life you envisioned living but it’s all you’ve got right now. Just sit back and relax. Take life as it comes. Don’t force anything into it and it will be ok. I’ve just got to get my pants and get out of here.”
      “Look, I’ll make you a deal. If you take me with you, we can have sex whenever you want.”
      Now he was flabbergasted – completely beside himself. “I already have sex whenever I want.”
      “Not with me, you don’t,” she replied. “Do you have a girlfriend?”
      “Yes,” he stated with subtle hesitation leaking into his voice.
      “You’re having problems, aren’t you?” Anyone else would have sounded like a prying psychotherapist.
      “Yes we are. We have been for some time. I’m not sure we want the same thing anymore.”
      “Maybe you simply don’t want the sane thing anymore.”
      “The sane thing?”
      “Yes.”
      “How do you know I’m sane?”
      “I don’t. Are you?”
      “Is there anything else you’d like to look at sir?” growled Aunt Dumbass from behind a rack of scarves.
      “Would you please just shut the hell up!” Rich flung the statement directly at the older woman’s forehead without even looking at her.
      “Am I sane? Am I sane? I can’t answer that, but I’m not leaving you here so I guess we’ll both find out soon enough. Let’s go.”
      The 40 was jammed but for once he was relieved. His pager had gone off so many times he was certain his hip was bruised. It was either his office or his fianc»e; either way he didn’t care enough to find out.
      “What do you do Rich?”
      “I sell insurance.”
      “Oh my God. Isn’t that what Beaver Cleaver’s dad did?’
      “I don’t know…probably. I’ve only been doing it for two years.”
      “Two years. That’s a long time. You must really like it then?”
      “No.”
      “Why do you do it then.”
      “To support myself. It took me three months to sell my first policy and that was to my fianc»e.
      “Who was it that sang “We’re the Kids in America?”
      “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
      “Yes you do,” and with that she belted out the words as if possessed by a retro 80’s banshee, “We’re the kids in America whaho! We’re the kids in America whaho! We’re the kids who hear the music go round! Nah, nah, nah nah nah. Nah, nah, nah nah nah, hey!’ or some crap like that. Who sang that?”
      “Jesus, I have no idea.”
      “Seriously,” she asked in all seriousness.
      “Seriously,” he answered in just as grave a tone.
      “You don’t seem much like a Rich to me.”
      “Oh I can’t wait to hear this, please go on.”
      “You seem much more like an Eric or a Shawn.”
      “Well for some reason, my parents don’t agree with you.”
      “What do they have to do with it?”
      “They named me.”
      “I can’t believe we just started this relationship and you’re already blaming other people for our problems. You’re an adult, you can change your name to whatever you want.”
      She was a lunatic and as he reached down to turn off his pager he knew he was in love with her.
      His abrupt emotional breakthrough, however, did not make it any easier to respond to her inane statements.
      “First off, I wasn’t aware we had just started a relationship…”
      “If we’re not in a relationship then why do you want to have sex with me all the time?” she quickly retorted.
      “I never said that in any way, shape, or form.”
      “You definitely implied it.”
      “I just wanted a new pair of pants.”
      “Then how did we end up here?”
      “I swear to God, I don’t know.”
      After a few hours he stopped at a convenience store and filled the tank while she browsed around inside. Keeping in character, he paid at the pump and once again she startled him from behind.
      “The clerk said there’s a decent motel three blocks from here.”
      “And you want to go there?”
      “Yes.”
      They made love all night and fell asleep in a heap on the floor, rolled up in the worn, brown comforter. He awoke alone and eventually realized she was truly gone, physically that is. He showered, dressed, and as he reached for his keys he discovered they were attached to a wooden key ring sculpted into the name Eric.
      He dreamed of her often, through marriages, children, jobs, and all of the other things we do during our lives here. Her presence saved him innumerable times; and though he never saw her again, Mary Beth was always there, in toto.
© Todd Shaddox  2003

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author bio

Todd Shaddox has been published in literary journals, magazines, newspaper and online publications. He possesses all of the destructive personality traits of a great writer with none of their bothersome talent or annoying creativity. He can be contacted by clicking here

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 tbr 37           July - August 2003 

 
Short Fiction

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Todd Shaddox:  The Hidden Art of Scatology
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