John is a recent college graduate who has taken his humanities degree and fled the bad American economy for the great adventure of teaching ESL in China. His stomach gets in an argument with some backstreet food, and loses.
He’s fishing with a local boy, when his stomach goes down for the count.
John had just taken the pole back when he got his first inkling that something was wrong. That gear was turning again, dragging burps with it, burps that rose and soared to the end of his mouth. He jittered. The fishing pole lowered like a longneck beast at drink.
John’s hand fell to his stomach.
“Ni yao la duzi ma?”
The fishing pole fell. John farted.
“Ah! Ni yao la duzi ba!”
John turned, waved and shouted ‘bye-bye’ and the boy called out something else, something that chased but could not catch John as he rushed across campus.
As he raced against time.
He started out walking fast, his eyes darting everywhere. What was the word for restroom? Did it matter? Even if he knew the word, he’d have to know the characters too; none of the signs here were exclusively pinyin, let alone in English.
People were coming. He tried to make eye contact with one guy who averted his own and slung his backpack up tight on his shoulder.
“Excuse me, do”
“Sorry sorry.” He waved his hand and kicked up his pace.
“No,” John called at his heels with a burp. “I need to know where the restroom is.”
The man kept on going.
The gear did another turn. Heavier this time.
“Oh fuck.” John looked around. There were dormitories, tall structures with clothes hanging out of every window. Sheets and all manners of lines hung down in the courtyard, and the wind cupped a sheet and it flapped up to reveal a sign. A picture of a Coke bottle.
John ran to the counter. A woman was sitting there with a baby in her lap. The baby turned and smiled. Then the woman turned and smiled too.
“Ni zhao shenme?”
The gear did two revolutions. A burp contained entirely in his stomach tookt he whole of it and popped. He choked down its remainder.
The woman repeated her question.
“I don’t understand I’m sorry,” John said. “Bathroom?”
She didn’t understand either.
“Restroom? Toilet?” He added in some pantomiming, meant to mimick aiming his penis at a urinal, but…
She still didn’t understand.
“Shit,” he whispered, and noticed that he had drawn a small crowd. A guy pushed past, laid down a small yellow coin and left. He thought back to France. He had no trouble finding the bathroom there. Ou est la salle de bain? La salle de bain. In the middle of another great turn, he perekd up. La Salle de bain.
“WC!” He was almost hunched over the counter. The woman spoke. She pointed.
John took off in that direction.
John found a short building cupped in a hill. The gear was up to three revolutions now, turning and turning and he headed towards the building with its two entrances, a different red-chalk character marking each. But he didn’t know for sure until the smell.
“Oh God,” he said, and ducked into one.
For urination, there was a single traugh that took up most of the restroom. A pipe matched it inch for inch, water trickling down from it. Both ran from a wash basin to three stalls, none of which had doors. The stalls faced out the window, up the hill. John checked the first one. It was a squat toilet, a little porcelain groove laid over a pipehole, full of paper and shit. A microcosm of greater foulness.
The second toilet was the same.
The third was empty. As if sensing a free toilet, the gear kicked up its revolutions and as he unbuckled his pants, he could feel a squishy mess poking out.
“Holy fuck,” he said, and got his pants down. He squatted, balancing on his toes. “Here it comes.”
It came. The shit was painful and loud, exploding out in bubbly, liquid bursts. At the end, the gear did a turn, he burped, and then it fell still.
John took a couple steps forward. Some shit lie on the sides of the toilet, but most of it had gotten in. A solid light brown pile lay in the middle and the smell reached up for him and he turned and looked for it.
He was looking for toilet paper.
John spent a minute or two listening carefully. Then he emerged, waddling over to the wash basin. There was a bucket. A mop. He turned the faucet and ran his hand under the cold water.
Then he wiped.
When he felt clean enough, he scrubbed his hand off and went back to the toilet. He looked again, this time for a handle to flush it. He pulled his pants back up and spent some time thinking. A mosquito lifted off from the sink and buzzed past him.
He took the bucket and filled it up and then carried it over to the toilet. He poured all the water in. Some shit did disappear down the hole, but not all. Most of the clump stuck there.
“Oh God,” he said, and flung the bucket aside.
Read The Seven Year Laowai, which sets the foundation for Little Red King, here.
Read exerpts from Little Red King here.
Read more of LRK’s deleted scenes here.