April 13, 2019

Chapter 03 - The Bathroom Library

The Bathroom Library
The True Seat of Knowledge

"Anyone who needs to use the bathroom better do it now, your father will be home soon!"

Everyday just before five o'clock my mother would go through the house yelling those words. It was the signal that gave us warning to go now or forever hold our pee. It was some sort of secret and strange family ritual that I thought absolutely fascinating.

Each day when my father got home he would exchange brief hellos with those of us in the immediate area and then head straight for the second floor bathroom. He would go in and shut the door and there he would stay for about an hour and a half. Sometimes two hours. Why he went there and what he did was the first great mystery I became aware of and one that took years to solve.

Naturally, with the door closed, we couldn't see him and there was nothing in the way of sound to indicate what he did while he was in there. My older siblings had some horror stories they used to scare us little ones… putting new nails in "The Belt" that we were always being threatened with was one I liked best.

Even when I learned what masturbation was it didn't seem a likely answer. My father had 14 kids so playing with himself didn't strike me as one of his pastimes. And an hour and a half was way longer than it ever took me so it didn't seem humanly possible to do it that long.

One day I learned the secret and discovered for the first time that I and my dad shared a secret passion. It was also the first time I realized that, even if he wasn't sure of my name, he knew who I was and that he was proud of me in a weird way. Because of this passion I was finally allowed to share something with my dad that no one else did. It was the beginning of the time when I could talk with my dad and not just to him.

A little background first…

We lived in a triple-decker and occupied all three floors. There were two bathrooms... one on the second floor and one directly above it on the third. The second floor bathroom was always referred to as Dads bathroom, the one on the third floor was known as the other one. As in "someone is in dads bathroom, use the other one for now".

Next to the toilet in my Dads bathroom was a large pipe… a drainage pipe that ran up from downstairs, through the floor and went up through the ceiling to the third floor. It ran very close to the wall and stuffed between the pipe and the wall were all these books. Most were paper backs and most were open to a page or chapter. They were all wedged between the pipe and the wall from floor to ceiling.

My father was a very innovative man when it came to fixing things. And since everything in my house was broken a least once a week, he was always coming up with clever ways to repair them. Not lasting ways mind you, but they worked until he could get around to doing it right. Something I don't think ever actually happened

The other bathroom never really worked right and flushing was always a hit or miss action. You never flushed without the plunger in one hand while you jiggled the toilet lever with the other. The pipe in Dads bathroom was connected to the third floor so I always assumed it had broken and I thought this was some way he invented to hold the pipe in place and away from the wall. You know, keep it straight and all so everything upstairs made it downstairs.

I loved to read and going to the library to spend an afternoon reading was something I always enjoyed. Going to my dad's toilet during the day was almost like going to the library only better. The books were more interesting and had lots of stuff that that you didn't find in the books in the young adult section of the local library. Sex and violence, among other topics being the main attraction. I looked forward to my daily movement and would often hold it until Dads bathroom was free. I would then lock the door (it was the only door in the house with a lock that worked too, how cool!) and would always take out one of the books, take a seat, get comfortable while doing my thing and read.

Depending on my mood and constitution I would either read the one or two I enjoyed for the duration or skim through the rest looking for dirty parts. After all these were "grown-up" books and I wasn't sure I was allowed to read them. So they were of interest for that reason alone. When I put the book back I would leave it open at the spot I stopped reading (unless it was one of the dirty parts of course). I was always careful to put the book back in the same spot for fear of disturbing the delicate balance of support in my fathers design.

There came a day when my father emerged from the bathroom and called me by name.

"Michael, where are you?" he hollered and the whole house became quiet.

It was never a good thing if my father called your name without making a mistake. It meant he knew who he was looking for and that you were in trouble BIG time. I came out of my room while everyone else ran for cover. My father was standing at the bathroom door and he didn't look happy.

"Get over here you", he said. I walked over and he took me into the bathroom and shut the door. I was terrified and was sure I had seen the last of my days. He leaned over and looking me dead in the eye while pointing at the books asked, "are you fooling around with those books?"

Normally I never lied to my parents but since I was about to die I took a shot, "No" I squeaked.

"I know it was you" he said quietly. Caught in a lie by my father! My death was no doubt imminent and I immediately crumbled. Whatever I did it was time to start the cover stories. Since I wasn't sure what I was guilty of doing I offered every generic excuse I knew.

"I didn't mean to!"... "I didn't break it!"… "It was an accident!"… "I don't know!"

"Shut up and stop that shaking be fore your pants fall down!" he told me. "I thought I told you not to touch those books!"

I suddenly realized my father, who was almost never wrong about what he told us, was, in fact, wrong about that. In being wrong, he had given me a way out.

"You never told me not to touch them… honest! If you did I wouldn't. I know they're holding up the bathroom wall and the pipe. But I only moved one and I put it back in the same place." Just to show how much I respected his repairs I embellished just a bit and added "The toilet stills works when I'm done, I check each time!"

A look of confusion crossed his face. He looked at me and then at the pipe and at the books that were wedged between it and the wall. I thought a saw a smile touch his mouth but since he didn't smile a lot it was hard to be sure. I thought it could be the gas that made all my baby brothers look like they're smiling just before they fart or poop.

"What book are you reading?' he asked. Now I was the one confused. Most of them had the front covers torn off so I only knew by the color of the back and that they were always the lower ones. The line of books actually stretched to the ceiling which made to upper ones inaccessible.

"The blue one most of the time and the one on the bottom when I'm in a hurry" I replied. I left out the fact that I scanned the rest for the dirty parts. But, based on his reply, he seemed to know I had anyway.

"You've been looking at more than just those two and you're screwing me up doing it!" he grumbled. "You keep changing the pages and putting them back wrong. From know on, if you touch any book you'd better see what page it's opened to and make sure it goes back the same way. If you don't, I will tell you to never touch them and you'll get the belt if you do after that! Now get out of here before I give you the smack I should have before."

This was incredible! I was still alive, my father hadn't beat me as expected and, even stranger, despite his stern warning and the threat of the belt, he almost seemed pleased that I was reading the books. Somehow my only offense was in the way I put them back. While I always put the books back in the same place, it never occurred to me that what pages they were open to was important. They still held the wall up didn't they?
When the thought came to me it was like something out of science fiction. If true it meant my father was not the man I thought he was and there was a more serious purpose for the books than just holding up the wall. Was it possible?

"Dad", I asked just as I was leaving, "why are the books there? What are they for?"

"They're there because I put them there and they're for what any book is for," he answered. "They're for reading."

I still didn't know how he knew that I looked at all the books, well the ones I could reach anyway, but I wanted to be certain which one he was reading so I could be sure to leave that one alone.

"Which book are you reading, Dad?" I asked.

When he turned, this time there was no doubt, strange as it made his face look, I was sure it was my father, sure it was his face and it was smiling at me. It was the scariest thing I ever saw!

"ALL of them," he said in a voice straight out of some creature feature. "Just like you!"

Terrified, I still had to know… "How did you know it was me that was looking at them?" I asked.

"Because you're the only kid I have that loves reading as much as I do! And, just like you, in here is the only place I get to do that in peace and quiet!" he explained as he shut the bathroom door.

Mystery solved

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