Johnny America


Stan­dard Deviation


“The av­er­age hu­man spends three years of his or her life go­ing to the toilet.”

— The New York Times

Day 1

“Av­er­age,” she calls me. Of all the ep­i­thets to fling my way, she choos­es “av­er­age.” It’s more odi­ous than “un­re­mark­able.” That I was kicked out of my Phd pro­gram for pla­gia­riz­ing from Ulysses (it turns out peo­ple have ac­tu­al­ly read it — some­thing I had not an­tic­i­pat­ed), doesn’t mean that I didn’t have the skills or the met­tle, or the mind to ex­ceed my dilet­tante col­leagues or that I am some­how “av­er­age.” I’m glad Sal­ly left. And it’s sur­pris­ing how lu­cid every­thing be­comes when I’m here writ­ing in my toi­let jour­nal. I should spend more time in here. Col­lect my thoughts. Sal­ly wasn’t right for me.

Day 3

…Wish I’d brought a pil­low. My mind is rac­ing in here. Be­tween go­ing to the toi­let and the foun­tain of fe­cun­di­ty pour­ing forth from my pen, I’ve for­got­ten to eat. But “Joe Av­er­age” here will be okay. This will be awk­ward for the de­liv­ery man…it was. But the crab Ran­goon from Un­cle Chan’s is divine.

Day 73

I feel that keep­ing vig­il over this porce­lain al­ba­tross has weak­ened my re­solve. But what am I to do? Mom sent me some more mag­a­zines, which was nice. Of course, I’ve giv­en my­self a mild case of ver­ti­go by try­ing to see the fu­ture through in­ter­pret­ing flush geom­e­try (no flush is pre­cise­ly the same; this al­so holds true for snowflakes and cheese­burg­ers), so it’s dif­fi­cult to read for any length of time. Yes­ter­day, I tried to read an ar­ti­cle in Peo­ple — some­thing about a de­formed boy and a goat. The boy ei­ther saved the goat’s life or vice ver­sa — any­way, next thing I knew I felt wob­bly and woke up with the float ball in my mouth. It felt like some­thing from a movie. What didn’t feel like some­thing from a movie is ear­li­er to­day, when, for three hours I tried to name every ob­ject in this bath­room with my eyes closed; I al­ways for­get the f’ing Loofah.

Day 390

His name is Clau­dio Thun­der­pants, née Cien­fue­gos. That’s what I call him now, the toi­let. The walls sing songs of silent pain, the lone­li­ness en­velops me like a snake in­gests a rat — clin­i­cal­ly — and the bore­dom is two fire hy­drants tes­ti­fy­ing be­fore com­mit­tee (I am work­ing with metaphors. Does this work?). Ask Mom to send rhyming dic­tio­nary and The El­e­ments of Style. Re­mind her that White has oth­er books be­sides Charlotte’s Web. Like last year, when he wrote every is­sue of Hus­tler — dou­ble check this…No, don’t. The toi­let snake is singing as the Duke of Man­tua from Rigo­let­to. I tell him the Duke is a tenor, but the toi­let snake in­sists on singing it mez­zo-so­pra­no. I have been go­ing to the bath­room for one year. One year. Sounds like “wonyi­er,” the word for “mer­cu­r­ial” in Claudio’s and my se­cret language.

Day 877

The tank gas­ket has opened with Si­cil­ian. Is he ready for the Moscow Vari­a­tion (2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+)? Damnit! He is. Why the hell is the flush valve snick­er­ing? Who do you think you are, flush valve — Gary Kas­parov? I think he just might be. Re­minder: Ask flush valve for valid ID. Sal­ly sent some kind of spe­cial­ist over. I hate be­ing an­a­lyzed and you’re so vul­ner­a­ble on the toi­let. I just pre­tend­ed to be crazy. Sal­ly used to be my girl­friend, but it’s clear she is As­modeus, King of the Nine Hells, eter­nal­ly astride an in­fer­nal drag­on. Must sleep. Big day to­mor­row. Go­ing to try to read À La Recher­ché du Temps Per­du again. Still don’t read French, but this time I feel lucky. It’s too quiet…

Day 1,003

I feel like the kid in that movie where he goes to Alas­ka and dies in a bus. This is like that, but with­out the view and all the moose and snow. I need a priest. No, not a priest. A hab­er­dash­er. Yes, a hab­er­dash­er. Fin­ished À La Recher­ché du Temps Per­du. Is it about rugby?

Day 1,059

My moth­er is William Faulkner.

Day 1095

What is left for me? I feel I must ex­tri­cate my­self from this bowl. But how? I am afraid. Some­thing must oc­cur. The atoms need to slide in some kind of di­rec­tion. But which? This bowl has nev­er been cold­er. I am lost. I feel so…what, so stul­ti­fied. In the words of Clau­dio Thun­der­pants, née Cien­fue­gos, “What is to be done?”

“The av­er­age per­son walks the equiv­a­lent of three times around the Earth in a lifetime”

 — The New York Times

Day 1

Je­sus wept. I need to go for a walk or some­thing. Fi­nal­ly made it off the toi­let. Three years I was on there. Does an “av­er­age” per­son (Yes, I still re­mem­ber what you said, Sal­ly) make it three years pon­der­ing the mys­ter­ies of the soul on a toi­let with on­ly a Can­tonese-speak­ing de­liv­ery man to fill me in on box scores, de­liv­er sus­te­nance and oc­ca­sion­al­ly shave me? No. That is dis­tinct­ly un-av­er­age, wouldn’t you say? On­ly made it two blocks on my walk. I’d like to pick up the pace, but with Clau­dio Thun­der­pants, née Cien­fue­gos and I now be­ing, quite lit­er­al­ly, “joined at the hip,” this trek looks much more am­bi­tious. But you’ve al­ways want­ed to see the world, haven’t you? Yes, I have. Well then I bet­ter keep go­ing. A child looked at me and shrieked in hor­ror as Clau­dio and I trun­dled down the block.. What’s the big fuss? I thought I was just an av­er­age guy.

Filed under Fiction on March 28th, 2009

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Reader Comments

Sonja wrote:

This line: “I was kicked out of my Phd pro­gram for pla­gia­riz­ing from Ulysses (it turns out peo­ple have ac­tu­al­ly read it — some­thing I had not an­tic­i­pat­ed).” Very fun­ny. Very, very funny.

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