What began as an exchange of artistic ideas quickly became a competition to see who valued his dignity less. Please find enclosed Robert J. Bennett’s ghost story…
“Well, that does it,” said Professor Exposition. “All five of us are most definitely trapped inside of this incredibly haunted abandoned toilet factory.”
“Of all the luck in the world!” said Victoria Ghernten to her fiancée, Rick Stump. “I’m really starting to regret choosing to get married in the most haunted toilet factory in the Northern Hemisphere!”
“It could be worse,” said Rick. “Thank goodness we didn’t choose to get married in that haunted toilet factory in São Paulo.”
“You’re right,” said Victoria, “That place is fucked up. Though I guess we could have easily avoided getting married here in the middle of the night, with no power, no priest, no attendees, or really anything related to weddings at all.”
“Even chairs,” said Professor Exposition. “Shit, guys. Chairs.”
“Chalk it up to inexperience, I guess,” laughed Rick. “But we do have our love. And this duffel bag of sputtering, half-working flashlights, and video cameras that only work in nightvision when they’re pointed directly up at your face.”
“And you also got me,” said Fertt Chapley, PI from the corner. “Fertt Chapley, PI.”
“You’re right,” said Victoria. “What were you doing hanging out inside of this abandoned haunted toilet factory in the middle of nowhere, anyway?”
Fertt Chapley, PI gave her the squint eye, and stuck a cigar in the corner of his mouth. “Lookin’ for clues, of course, little darlin’,” he said. And that’s also why I cruise around in men’s bathrooms at rest stops, he thought to himself. No one had asked him about that, but if they did, he was ready – especially if his mom asked.
“What about that guy,” said Rick, pointing. Standing behind Fertt Chapley, PI, was a short, filthy man in a stray hat and overalls.
“I don’t know who he is, maricon,” said Fertt Chapley, PI, “but I know he’s a turnip farmer.”
“How do you know that?” asked Rick.
“Cause he gave me this card.” He showed it to Rick. It read:
I AM A TURNIP FARMER
PLEASE DO NOT HAUNT ME
“Shucks, mister farmer,” said Victoria. “Seems you’re plum out of luck, just like the rest of us, who are plum out of luck.”
“Maybe you should shut the fuck up about luck for a second so we can figure out what to do,” said Professor Exposition reasonably. “Clearly the ghost of this toilet factory has trapped us here for some reason, probably ghost- or toilet-related. We have to find out what that reason is, and do some stuff, and then I bet other stuff will happen, maybe.”
“I sure am happy that we ran into a professor of ghostology here in this ghosty place!” said Victoria.
“I’m actually a professor of Jewish Studies,” said Professor Exposition. “My family’s original name was Expositionberg.”
“Then what were you doing in here, padre?” said Fertt Chapley, PI. He stuck another cigar in the other corner of his mouth.
“I can’t quite say,” said Professor Exposition. “One thing I can’t quite say is that I was in here crying because my wife of thirty years ran away with a moderately popular, muscular, toned African American actor, who will passionately make love to her like they do in music videos from the 80’s. I can’t quite say that, because I am a reasonable, established man with a respectable career who has not cried a couple of hundred thousand times in the past two months. Now let me abruptly change from this stream of thought and look at this map of the toilet factory.” He pulled out a big piece of paper.
“Where did you get that?” said Fertt Chapley, PI. He stuck another cigar in the third corner of his mouth.
“It’s a Jewish tradition to have maps of factories,” said Professor Exposition. “I’m pretty sure it was in a Philip Roth novel. Now,” he said, looking at the map, “at the center of this dense maze of toilets is what appears to be the Mother Toilet, which produces all the other toilets, because that’s how toilet factories work, probably. We have to get to the Mother Toilet, because I’m certain that’s where the ghost is.”
“And then what?” said Rick.
“Shut up,” said Professor Exposition.
They trooped off through the shelves and shelves of toilets, which gleamed whitely in the gloom, except for the black ones, which didn’t, because they were black.
“Why do they have black toilets?” said Victoria. “I’ve never seen one of those.”
“The owner of this factory, Cherp Horsebeans, tried to shake up the established toilet formula, and produce black toilets,” said Professor Exposition. “But what he didn’t realize was that black toilets are totems of sad. Have you ever sat on a black toilet before?”
“I ain’t sat on one, no,” said Fertt Chapley, PI, through a mouthful of cigars.
“Well, it would induce in you a feeling which is known as the sads. When he tried it, people felt so sad they never got off the toilets. They just died right there, in the stall. On the toilets. With their junk hanging out and everything. It was real messed up. It ruined the Horsebeans family for good, driving many members to suicide, right here in this toilet factory.”
“How do you know so much about toilet powers, pardner?” asked Fertt Chapley, PI.
“Damn it, I told you, I’m Jewish,” said Professor Exposition angrily. “Do you listen? Y’all some fucking racists!”
They trooped along in silence.
“Do you all feel sad for plums sometime, because they got no luck?” said Victoria.
“Oh, my God,” said Professor Exposition.
Finally they came upon the Mother Toilet. They knew it was the Mother Toilet, because it was four stories tall, and it had an apron on it. They watched, horrified, as the Mother Toilet shook and shuddered, before burping up a tiny black toilet which plummeted to the ground to shatter into a million pieces. There was a huge pile of black toilet shards on the floor, nearly a dozen feet high.
“Look!” said Fertt Chapley, PI. “The Mother Toilet!”
“That’s been established already!” said Professor Exposition. “But my question is – why’s it still doing this? And where’s the ghost?”
“Right here,” said a ghostly voice.
They gasped, except for Fertt, who coughed, because he had inhaled a cigar.
A faint luminescence on the top of the toilet shards coalesced into the form of an old man in a pinstriped suit.
“It’s Mr. Cherp Duncan McGillicutty Horsebeans Jr. himself!” said Professor Exposition.
“Indeed!” said the ghost. “I’ve been trapped here for four hundred years, waiting for someone to come and free me!”
“Wait,” said Rick. “You can’t have been trapped her for four hund-”
“Four hundred years!” said Horsebeans. “Yes, four hundred years. A hundred years, in four sets. Twenty times twenty years. Four hundred multiplied times one, then divided by one. Four. Hundred. Years.”
“Okay, fine,” said Rick.
“And though you may think I stand upon a mound of broken toilets, I tell you I stand upon a mound of broken dreams!” cried the spirit. “Of broken souls! Of lives lost, of morals betrayed! I have brought shame upon my family! And here I sit, broken hearted, awaiting… a champion!”
“A champion?” asked Professor Exposition.
“Yes! Though you may not know it, I have called you all here to see if you can free me! You, Professor Expositionstein-”
“Right. You I called due to your intellect. Ricky and Victoria, you I called here for your love. Fertt Chapley, PI, you I called because you spend so much time in highway rest stops, and you know how to push the boundaries of what toilets can do.”
Fertt Chapley, PI, laughed nervously.
“And you,” said Horsebeans, looking at the turnip farmer, “I… I’m not entirely sure who you are.”
“He’s a turnip farmer,” said Professor Exposition.
“Great,” said Horsebeans. “But one of you, surely, must be able to complete the test – you must be able to use this Mother Toilet, so she will stop producing these hateful black toilets, which bind me to this mortal realm!”
All of them looked at one another as they considered it.
“Uh,” said Rick, “you can count us out.”
“But what about your love?” said Horsebeans.
“We love each other in a Protestant American fashion,” said Victoria. “Which means we’re wildly repressed, and can’t acknowledge our nether regions in any sort of public fashion, nor will we ever admit in our lives that we have functioning anuses.”
“I am determined to die believing Vicky has no asshole,” said Rick, fondly staring into his fiancée’s eyes.
“I love you too, sweetheart,” said Vicky.
“Goodness, Vicky,” said Rick, sweating. “There are people around us.”
“And pardner,” said Fertt Chapley, PI, “I can’t do it because I explicitly use toilets for depraved, sexual purposes. When I need to do a twosie, I do it out in the woods at night, shrieking in a leather wolf mask, like a normal person.”
“Shut up, Fertt!” said Horsebeans. “Nobody likes you! And you talk like a cowboy, not a detective!”
“Shucks,” said Fertt Chapley, PI.
“I can’t do it because I’m still deep in anxiety over my wife, who definitely didn’t leave me for actor Scott ‘Taye’ Diggs,” said Professor Exposition. “And even if she did, I can’t understand why the hell she would want to. I mean, yes, the guy is handsome, handsome like he’s been carved by the gods themselves out of the most supple wood on Earth, wood that’s been soaked in oil and honey by some wise shaman who’s been on many spirit journeys, but what’s up with his career lately? Equilibrium stunk up the place, and sure, he was on Better Off Ted, which is okay, but what the fuck else? Jesus. I am a professor. A professor of Jewish Studies. They even gave me a special badge.” He showed them the badge. It was pretty special.
“Okay, so let me get this straight,” said Horsebeans. “I get five people in here to help me out, and none of you are willing to pinch a loaf for my freedom? None?”
Suddenly, a low, rough voice said, “You done admitted you got five people in this here toilet factry. But I only heard four no’s.”
They all gasped. They slowly parted to reveal the speaker – it was the turnip farmer. The one from the beginning of the story, that we haven’t talked about in like a page or two. Yeah.
“You?!” said Horsebeans. “You are willing?!”
“Mister,” said the farmer. “This been a long time comin’. Cause what you don’t know is my name is Enoch J. Ditchley – but my ma’s name was Horsebeans.”
They all gasped. They parted some more, just because.
“We done escaped the curse of the Horsebeans family by burying ourselves deep in the turnip business.” He produced a turnip from his pocket, and took a huge bite out of it, just like an apple, straight-up. “The curse overlooked us, for the curse haints on account of ambition. Toilet ambition. But,” he said, and he started unbuttoning his overalls, “it’s time someone with sand in their blood gussies up and lays that ol’ curse to rest. Now you’ll see what turnips are made to do.”
And lo, the turnip farmer did put the curse to rest, precariously balanced on the lip of the Mother Toilet, as all around him cheered and clapped, except for Horsebeans, because his ghost-hands didn’t make clapping noises.
Then, with a whisper of “Thank you,” he glowed bright, and vanished. And all of them departed from that place of sullied dreams and toilet-horrors, and returned to happy endings, unless you read horror stories to see people get all fucked up and stuff, in which cause they all died in, I don’t know, a grease fire.