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When I’m Seventy


Daniel Greenstone

I have clogged toilets in all three American time zones.

By my girlfriend’s nineteenth birthday, I was spending too much time on the commode. These were wrenching bowel movements, often consuming three-quarters of an hour. If present trends continue, by the time I reach seventy, I will have time for little else.

On Jen’s nineteenth birthday, I met her parents for the first time. She had told me that her father was a history buff, an avid watcher of C-Span. In hopes of making a good impression, I memorized all the presidents in order, even the mediocre ones from Ohio that come between Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. He was a smallish man, but his military bearing and immaculately trimmed whiskers made me anxious.

"What do you do for a living, Bill?" he asked, glancing at the nametag on my uniform.

"Did you know," I countered, "that Andrew Jackson killed the national bank."

"Some sort of delivery job?" he tried again, gesturing vaguely at my canvas satchel.

"It’s kind of ironic that they put him on the twenty-dollar bill, isn’t it?" I said nervously. "Ha," I added.

The conversation had stalled, and I had all but given up hope of steering it towards presidential trivia, when that awkward (but I suppose inevitable) moment arrived

"I understand," he said, "that you are nine years older than Jen."

It was then that I felt an urgent, punishing need to find a toilet. Though it must have looked to her father very much like a desperate ploy to evade the subject, and though the causes of my sudden need are undoubtedly as much psychological as biological - and are very probably related to my twin obsessions with scatological pornography and the gorgeous host of Moneyline on CNN (the former of which has been the focus of my therapy) - as subsequent events will show, I really did have to take a shit.

It was poor timing. I prefer to evacuate at work. I find the corporate sterility of the brown-bag colored towels and the industrial green soap soothing. Also, at work - because of the thunderous, institutional flush that pours down from the water tank perched atop the roof - there is a certain assurance that it will all go down.

There was, I discovered during my rapid but labored search of the house, no toilet on the first floor of their home. I crept upstairs in a crabbed gait that can only be described as unmanly. The bathroom at the top of the staircase was pleasantly decorated with a rainbow basket of potpourri, lit lime green candles, and a vase of plastic roses. Nevertheless, it was a grueling affair, made worse by the void of quality reading material. Half an hour and two quizzes later, I put Redbook down and read the back of a bottle of pine-scented cleanser.

"Are you all right?" I heard Jen ask. Her voice was thick with worry - though not, I think, for me.

"I’ll be out soon," I said, with little confidence.

But it was just a short while later that I rose and pushed down on the handle. The noise of the swirling water was discouragingly thin, like a teakettle just beginning to whistle. I watched with growing horror, as the tissue danced and drifted in the bowl, but did not disappear. As the water rose inexorably towards the top, I stood frozen, consoled only by the thought that I was, at least according to Redbook, an unselfish lover. But as the torrent of brown water rushed headlong towards the door - as if in answer to the furious rapping that could only be coming from her father’s fists - my feeling of satisfaction evaporated and I resolved, finally, to heed the advice of my friends and therapist, who had long urged me to see a gastrointestinal specialist.



Daniel Greenstone is a 29 year old writer living in Chicago. His stories have been published in Carve Magazine, the SNReview, and Lynx Eye. He is currently completing his first novel. Reach Daniel Greenstone at

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