POOP by Kelly Kurtzhals Geiger
Charles Arthur Pennyton was seven years old, but more importantly, his favorite word was “poop.” He was completely obsessed with poop.
He screamed it at his neighbors: “You stepped in poop!” Causing them to look at the bottoms of their shoes. Not finding anything, they’d frown fiercely at Charles Arthur.
Charles Arthur laughed. He liked to embarrass people.
He told it to his school bus driver: “You smell like poop!” Forcing Charles Arthur to sit alone, right behind the driver.
Charles Arthur didn’t mind. He liked being alone.
He told it to the girl at school: “Your face looks like poop.” Prompting Amelia Bedora to knit together blonde eyebrows so perfect, Charles Arthur couldn’t help taunting her again and again.
“Charles Arthur Pennyton,” Amelia Bedora finally said, tears spilling from her teal blue eyes, “one day you’re going to say those nasty things to the wrong person, and then you’ll really be sorry.”
Charles Arthur did not believe in consequences.
Days later, Charles Arthur’s mother dragged him along with her to the grocery store. He normally hated going to the grocery store, because he was afraid of the old homeless woman who sat outside the entrance with a dirty grocery cart filled with junk. Her dirty grey cat always perched in the child’s seat, scowling down with mean yellow eyes.
But on this day, Charles Arthur was prepared.
He approached the old homeless woman. He beamed with anticipation over the zinger he had just formulated from his almost-graduated car seat. He hauled back and spoke out in his clearest voice: “Your breath smells like poop because you eat your cat’s poop! You eat poop for breakfast, lunch and dinner!” He almost felt like taking a bow after such a masterpiece of wordplay.
In fact, he did take a bow. But when he extended his arm to his imaginary audience, the old homeless woman grabbed it.
“You will regret what you said.” Her voice was a black abyss and her eyes were pure thunderclouds. She tightened her grasp Charles Arthur’s arm with sharp skeleton fingers, like she could tear off Charles Arthur’s skin and use his skin like a coat.
Charles Arthur felt a chill rake up and down his whole body, and an army of goosebumps invade his skin. “Let go of me!” Charles Arthur couldn’t pull his arm away.
“Mom!” Charles Arthur cried for her, but his mother was preoccupied by the cherry pies on sale near the store’s front entrance.
“You will regret what you said,” the old woman repeated, slowly uncurling her fingers from Charles Arthur’s navy-blue blazer – his favorite blazer, with the round gold insignia on the left breast which made him feel official. The old woman reached forward and tapped the gold circle on Charles Arthur’s blazer and repeated a third time: “You will regret what you said.”
Charles Arthur sprinted into the store, finding his mother putting a cherry pie into her shopping cart. “Mommy, the old lady scared me!” Charles Arthur was near tears, and it had been a while since he had called his mother “Mommy.” She cradled an arm around her son’s shoulder. But when Charles Arthur turned back to accuse his offender, the old homeless woman and her cart – and her cat – were gone.
That night, Charles Arthur could not eat his dinner. Everything on his plate was rank and foul. “This food tastes like poop,” he declared.
“Please don’t talk like that,” his mother said. She tasted his food. “Your food is fine.”
He tasted his mother’s food. “It’s nasty!” he wailed. He couldn’t eat anything.
Charles Arthur’s mother was worried. Her son always had a good appetite, even as a baby. He must be sick, she reasoned, deciding she would put him straight to bed.
Charles Arthur was still hungry. Very hungry, in fact. “Could I try a piece of cherry pie?” He turned his best puppy dog gaze onto his mother. She clucked her tongue, but agreed to give him some pie, even including a dollop of sweet vanilla ice cream on top.
Charles Arthur could already smell the putrid odor as soon as his mother set down the plate. He used his spoon to scoop up a heaping helping of gooey cherries, flaky crust, and melty ice cream. He brought it to his lips. Maybe this just smells bad, he told himself. It looks so good. Maybe it doesn’t taste bad.
It tasted bad. He spat it out onto his plate and ran to his room.
Days clicked by and Charles Arthur could not eat. He cried. His mother cried. He could no longer eat chocolate pudding, or fried chicken, or pizza, or buttered noodles, or even drink water.
“Please drink it,” his mother begged.
Charles Arthur tried. He really tried. His stomach growled and growled but everything, absolutely everything, was inedible – only to him.
Charles Arthur asked his mother to take him with her to the grocery store. She agreed, hoping he could pick out some food that he could eat. But all Charles Arthur wanted was to find the old homeless woman, or even her grey cat.
They were nowhere to be found.
His mother took him to the hospital, where a nurse with bright purple scrubs hooked him up to an IV drip. A doctor came too, but when a week went by with Charles Arthur unable to eat or drink, the doctor and the nurse in the bright purple scrubs tried force feeding their patient.
Charles Arthur screamed and bit the doctor.
The doctor tasted like poop.
Despite the hospital’s best efforts, Charles Arthur died. He was buried in his favorite navy-blue blazer, the one with the round gold insignia on the left breast. And eventually, when the worms tried to slither into Charles Arthur’s coffin to feast off his ripe dead body – they stopped short, their tiny worm brains not understanding why they couldn’t burrow inside.
The worms weren’t smart enough to realize that the entire coffin was filled with…