Emerging from the rest room alcove, Roddy Granger tipped an imaginary hat in Lester's direction and assumed a cheerful tone:
“I literally came in here just to have a bowel movement, Lester, nothing else. Sorry about the misunderstanding."
"A what?" Lester stopped tugging at the hose snaked up his shirt sleeve and tangled around the sink's faucet.
Estelle knawed on a thumb nail, standing just inside the woman's wash room door. She was unsure where the stranger was going with this. She'd have to make double sure he didn't blow it as she was only a hop, skip and a jump away from Freedom with a capital F. Estelle called out,
"The stranger has apparently had constipation issues in the past, Lester."
With deliberate stride, she entered the bar room space as an actor might in receiving their stage cue. Lester stared suspiciously from her to the stranger.
"A constipation issue? What the hell does that have to do with me? We don't just take constipated people in off the street, stranger. 'Hey Lester, can I use your bathroom. I'm constipated.' See a proctologist, why don't you, but see one on your own time. I don't let any old Bob Jones waltz in here and have a. . . what did you call it? A bowel movement? D'you hear him Estelle? He said he came in here just to have a BOWEL MOVEMENT."
Lester chuckled. Estelle chuckled as well, loud enough for Lester to hear. She didn't usually chuckle at Lester's jokes. Lester was pleased Estelle had chuckled.
"I knew you'd find that funny, Estelle, that's why I said it. See, stranger. We aren't laughing with you. We are laughing at you."
Roddy Granger blinked and went on.
"I understand completely. I'm not asking for sympathy, Lester. I ordered the beer so using your facilities wouldn’t pose a financial imposition. After each log I flush, see; wipe then flush; then wipe again and flush a third time, rarely a fourth time although the day after a burger, I might wipe and flush up to twelve times. This adds up in a water bill, take my word for it. I just happened to be passing by your bar constipated as all get out, the place looked friendly enough so I waddled in. That's all. Saw your name on the mailbox, figured you must be the head honcho and felt it was only right to clear it with you first. That’s why I asked for you by name: Lester.”
Estelle realized she needed to help the stranger, however unpleasant what she had in mind might be for him. The stranger had gotten off on the constipation tangent. She wouldn't have suggested he take that tact but he took it. The stranger was going to have to run with that football.
Roddy Granger, in the meantime, continued to improvise.
“I was just asking that woman over there, Lester, whispering to her really because frankly I was embarrassed. I whispered: ‘Can you smell me?' She whispered back, ‘Yes I can smell you. You smell like a landfill.’ That was insulting enough but she went on to call me ‘a filthy good for nothing tramp.’ Lester, my feelings were hurt at that point, frankly. So I'll be finishing my paid for draft and be leaving and probably won't ever be coming back.”
Lester sputtered, “That’s my girl. Estelle. Did you really say that to the stranger? And I was struggling this whole time trying to disentangle myself from the hose and all. No, that’s exactly what you should be saying to strangers and I shouldn’t have gotten all riled up if I had known that’s what you two were talking about, all about the stranger’s bowel movements and that freakish wiping he does. What you said was exactly what you should have said. Lay the truth down like a steamroller, and make it clear which side of the parade route you stand on, which flag you'll be waving. What you’d call him again?” Lester chuckled. “A good for nothing tramp? I like that. A good for nothing tramp! And that hurt the stranger’s feelings as it should have. The stranger need respect our agenda here, for one. Come barreling in here wanted to take a dump in my facility. You just fired a warning shot across his bow, Estelle. And mister, you heard the woman. You best be finishing that paid for draft you were lucky enough to be served and be on your merry way. I don’t have anything against you personally but apparently Estelle does. And if Estelle has an issue then I have an issue. Gabeish?”
“I’m just swigging this last little bit down and I’ll be out of here in a diddle-daddle
“In a what?” Lester asked.
Keeping both hands in dress pockets, Estelle began wiggling her fingers in a complex way, as if she were a potter sitting in front of a wheel, molding a large lump of clay. Her fingers kneaded and caressed, making subtle corrections to hidden contours; then, after a minute, abruptly extended all fingers outward in the direction of the stranger; more precisely, in the direction of the stranger's behind.
"In a . . . " Roddy Granger began to say then stopped abruptly, feeling as if a hand had been clamped across his throat and was crushing his vocal cords. Thereafter he felt strangely compelled to speak the following words:
"I might as well have be wearing a banana hat eating a banana split on a banana boat bound for Costa Rica, the banana capital of the world!"
"What the hell did you just say?" Lester asked.
It was as if those nonsensical words had been placed on his tongue by some invisible spatula. There was something else happening, a rumbling in his tummy. Without warning, Roddy Granger gripped his sides and fell off the barstool, reflexively arching his spine in the most agonizing of angles, as if he were in the throes of exorcism.
"Oh my GAWD!" Estelle exclaimed, flattened hand rising in front of her mouth. "Look at the stranger, Lester!"
Granger had curled up on the bar floor into a tight fetal position, the very posture he had assumed on one previous occasion, when his gut had expanded with air and he had felt, not just “like diarrhea” but "like bad diarrhea" as he described it to his family afterward. He ended up on the floor of his own bathroom following a week of intense studying for Fraud Investigation School finals. He'd sent his wife and children upstate to the in laws so he could non-stop power read; in doing so, he had not allotted even a single minute to have a bowel movement; simply forgot. He ended up “impacted," a term the doctor the had used in the emergency room where he later had to be seen for his torn rectum after he pushed the thing Out with a capital O.
"Jesus." Lester peered over the top of the bar at him. "You think what we're seeing is the stranger's constipation problem, Estelle?"
"I think that's exactly what we're seeing, Lester. He has to pass stool but can't. Looks like he's in agony."
"Estelle, I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't. . . This topic is one I'd prefer never to discuss. WHO WANTS TO HEAR ABOUT THAT?!
“I have to pass hard stool again," the stranger moaned. "Like I did before. . . " Estelle's fingers had again started to move inside her dress pocket and Roddy Granger spoke mechanically, almost electronically, as if he had a voice box:
"I had to break a number two pencil in half and start chipping away at the log, the petrified log, half hanging out, chip at it when its head was sticking out; had to chip away at it then make myself push and pull it in and out, chip away at it, push and pull it, chip away at it some more, until at last I was able to push out a softball sized lump of granite hard stool. It was as if I had delivered a new born baby."
"You passed a WHAT?" Lester bellowed, clearly upset, contorting his face. "That's disgusting!"
Roddy Granger began struggling even harder with the hose. His intention now was to come out from behind the bar, drag the stranger out the door by both arms, set him down in the parking lot, lock the door behind him and stay closed for the remainder of the day. Lester started mumbling to himself.
"The stranger is welcome to struggle with his constipation issue in the parking lot. But not in here. Not on my watch . . ."
A rock hard ball of stool had appeared within Roddy Granger's sigmoid colon as if placed there by some an unseen set of invisible tongs. This one was bigger than the first. Estelle made sure of that: Almost the size of an NFL football.
Lester said, "I'm frankly embarrassed. I'm embarrassed for myself, embarrassed for you Estelle and embarrassed for the stranger. What I just heard him say was pathetic and inappropriate."
Lester pointed a finger not just toward but at the stranger.
Roddy Granger shrieked. Again, Estelle was moving her fingers around in a subtle fashion. When she flicked her index, the stranger started rolling along the floor, picking up debris, his shirt becoming sopping wet as he hit congealed puddle after congealed puddle of day old urine. Something was happening beyond his control. He couldn't pull himself off that stinky bar room floor for all the tea in China!
Lester was becoming more alarmed in turn by the stranger's shenanigans and struggled even harder with the hose, all the while continuing to mumble. “Uh. That floor’s really filthy, Mister. Some man pissed just about where you are last night and I didn’t have a chance to mop that area . . . completely.”
Estelle began shrieking at the top of her lungs and bent over the stranger, hissing:
"You're the whole Spartan Army wrapped up into one fighting machine, stranger, and you need to hold them off at Thermopylae. Hold them Persians off, stranger. Hold them off!"
She flicked a finger and the stranger winced. The stool was getting bigger.
"Incentive," she hissed.
If he could have, Roddy Granger would have vomited up his church bulletin, chewed it and swallowed it again. But he wasn't even thinking about church bulletins: He was thinking about passing an NFL football sized stool.
Estelle raised her voice, “He’s hurt, Lester. The stranger’s hurt bad. Lester honey, why did you have to shoot him? Why did you have to shoot him, Les? He’s just some old tramp.”
Lester stopped struggling with the hose again, confused.
“I didn’t shoot him, Estelle. Did you see me shoot him? The one thing I don’t like is being accused of something I DID NOT DO! That’s the one thing I can’t. . . DEAL WITH! My mother used to accuse me of things I did NOT do. I did not do any of the things she said I did.”
Estelle knew Lester didn’t like being accused of things he didn’t do. She knew his buttons and this was precisely the time to start pressing them, and press them like she was playing a church organ with pedals. She lifted two fingers in her pocket, causing the stranger to start rolling then bouncing along the floor, moving erratically, straight toward the old antique telephone booth which hadn't been used in years, a booth long since defunct, its receiver yanked from the wall and sitting cordless in the cradle.
When Lester saw where the stranger was headed, he began to struggle even more fiercely with the hose and bellow anxiously, like a mastodon stuck in a tar pit.
“Now what’s he doing? Estelle, don’t let him go over there. Stand in front of him, Estelle.”
“Pass that stool, stranger,” Estelle hissed, her voice descending in register to the depths of a hellish Wagnerian bass, rattling the bottles behind Lester’s back. Whiskey and Tequila began toppling off the glass shelf, first the Resposado, Lester's favorite, then the single malt, his second favorite, all of it hattering and causing Lester to flinch now, and not just once but flinch Twice with a capital T.
"My booze," was all Lester could say, realizing what was happening. The day had come. And Estelle knew he knew at that moment. The stranger didn’t know anything, however, and continued to roll and flail, pull and push.
Oddly, the closer the stranger rolled toward the old phone booth, the less pressure he felt down below. So he kept rolling. It seemed as though the impacted ball of stool had some kind of fandangled modern electronic homing device embedded inside that was melting it from mithin the closer he got to the old phone booth. Roddy Granger didn't care about the technical details - he just knew he felt less pain if he rolled in that direction.
"No!!" Lester yelled, trapped completely in the hose-faucet-sink apparatus, feeling himself to be a fly in a spider's web.
Estelle followed the stranger, trotting along side of him, like the sweeper in Olympic curling.
"Thrash, stranger, thrash. That’s right. You’re needing to pass that big hard bowel movement as you called it, but its getting smaller, isn't it, if you head in one direction. Wonder why that is? So I'd go in that one direction if I were you, stranger. Go hard in that one direction."
Estelle flipped the red horned rim glasses up onto her forehead and raked one finger down the center of her oily jet black hair, renting it to one side so her cold green eye became completely exposed along with the set of freckles that now glowed like fiery coals.
“Roddy Granger,” she incanted.
“Don’t call him by name, Estelle,” Lester said weakly. "I don't like that. . . "
Estelle turned to train her eye upon Lester, gaping helplessly at the unfolding scene. He was still, however, no longer struggling, realizing the futility.
“The stranger needs medical attention, Lester, as you will in a moment. . . ”
Roddy Granger ploughed, be-hind first, into the old phone box, mule kicking the panel just under the cracked wooden seat, arching his back in that instant as he pushed out the NFL sized football of stool into his underwear, experiencing immediate Relief with a capital R.
The whole wooden panel and seat clattered onto the barroom floor and out flew a small non- descript paintbrush which made a distinctive "tic" against one of the bar stool legs.