Sure, he also had “sword (a real one)” and “bb gun” on the list, but come on. He’s five. I suppose we probably shouldn’t be encouraging such crudity. But fuck it, 2020 right? Couldn’t throw him a real birthday party, anyways. On account of the virus. So toilet piñata it was. Fuckin rights.
In preparation, I set aside empty macaroni and Cheerios boxes, wrapped the popcorn bowl in cling wrap. Every night for a week leading up to the boy’s big day, I’d sit at the dining room table, spread out the day’s newspaper, and mix a half cup of old white flour up with warm water. Then, I’d roll up my sleeves and get to work.
I’m no artist. Never claimed to be. But I figured I could whip up a papier-mâché shitter in short enough order. In that, at least, I wasn’t wrong.
Slowly, one layer at a time, the headlines of the day would transmogrify into something tangible, something meaningful, if only for a few moments. “Another health-care worker dies” became a part of the lower bowl; “Schools hope for best, prepare for worst” connected the bowl to the base; “Sports still cancelled” folded into a flusher. Transmogrifying such horrors into something a child could easily, gleefully destroy provided some small comfort, those long dark evenings. What more can you ask for, these days?
Not a fuck of a lot, eh?
When the Great Value bonds had grown firm enough, I sealed our left-over Halloween candy safely inside, slapped on some left-over house paint, and sat back to admire my work.
It wasn’t pretty, but it sure did look like a shitter.
Now, for the record, we’re not talking life size throne, here. Not even a discount, twice-reduced American Standard. Potty size, maybe. Yeah, our two-year-old could have pissed in this thing, if we let her. No problemo. Not that we would have let her. We’re not monsters.
The plan, at the outset, had been to string the effigial commode up from the branch of the old oak tree in the front yard of the boy’s grandparents’ place while the extended family gathered round. But the virus fucked with that plan, too. Instead, his grandparents hung it up from the rafters of their garage and we hauled the boy and his sister over in the wagon a little before his birthday lunch.
Now, it bears mentioning that it was freezing out, wind whipping across the northern plains at a crisp 40 km/h. Nasty, stupid weather. Just plain dumb. We’re used to that, living in Winnipeg. But still, though.
When we got to the garage, my son was excited, sure enough. But not as elated as I’d grown to hope he’d be. Such is life. Still, he took to his task with a scrap piece of 2×4 lumber that was laying around with enthusiasm and all the force his slim, five-year-old frame could manage. Which really did not do much. House paint has got some weight to it. His mother helped get things moving along with a hearty whack from a broken old piece of dowling, eventually putting the papier-mâché potty out of its misery, spilling the candy across the oily concrete pad.
That was fun, he said on the march home, before the wind got to him and his sister and they started crying.
It was, I said, wasn’t it?
The next day, when I took him in to the doctor for a check up and flu shot, his pediatrician asked what he’d done for his birthday.
I had a toilet pinata, the boy told him with pride.
Oh, the doctor said before sliding the needle in.
Sheldon Birnie is a writer, reporter, and beer league hockey player from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Find him online @badguybirnie.
image: Sheldon Birnie