I’m driving to my job at the university, running a little late, and I see two guys carrying a toilet into Taco Bell. They’re crouched over like it’s kind of heavy, one’s got the door propped open with his shoulder, getting the toilet through the entrance looks awkward. So maybe Taco Bell is getting a new toilet, but somehow these guys don’t look like plumbers. I mean, it’s not like plumbers have uniforms, but would professional plumbers be walking in the front door and not the service entrance? Probably not, but who knows? Could be these guys were plumbers but the toilet wasn’t for Taco Bell, they just didn’t want to leave it in the back of their pickup because it might get stolen. Or they were DIY guys on the way home from Ace Hardware on Castro Valley Boulevard, worried about the same thing. I live in northern California in the kind of rural-suburban town, not even a town really, an unincorporated area, where people put stuff in front of their houses to give away for free. You wouldn’t do that in the fancy Tri-Valley suburbs nearby. There are probably municipal ordinances against it, not to mention uptight neighbors. We gave away a fake-leather La-Z-Boy recliner a month ago that I still miss. Twenty years old, large, ugly, so comfortable it was almost divine. We redid our family room and bought one of those Danish stress-less recliners and in fact it’s nowhere near as comfortable, but it’s smaller and looks a lot better. It took almost two days before our La-Z-Boy disappeared. I don’t know who took it. I imagine them taking heavenly naps in the most comfortable chair I ever owned. We got a new high-def TV for the family room, and a new array of cable channels. HGTV is one of them, and every time I turn it on someone is knocking down walls and tearing out kitchen cabinets and talking about sight lines and how you really want the entire first floor to be open concept, which seems to mean no separations between any of the rooms: living room, kitchen, dining room, family room. It seems strange to me, this cookie cutter open concept look. If you’re messy cooks, like we are, do you really want the kitchen visible on all sides? If you’re listening to music, or watching TV, won’t you bother everyone else in the house? The only downstairs room that keeps its walls is the bathroom, but they demolish the bathrooms too. Dated, they say. Of course the new bathrooms, always gray and white with marble tiles and countertops, are becoming dated as we speak. It seems very American and wasteful to tear out usable things and throw them away because they’re dated. Which brings me back to the toilet. Maybe these guys found the toilet at the side of the road and thought it might come in handy some time, so they loaded it into their pickup and then decided to take it into Taco Bell with them. Do you remember that old Buñuel film where people at a dinner party are sitting on toilets? I picture it kind of like that, two guys eating tacos at a table with a toilet sitting next to it. It was around lunchtime. The Taco Bell on Redwood Road is right by the entrance to the freeway; it’s a hangout for tradesmen, and an acquaintance hails them and joins them for lunch. So he’s sitting on a toilet with the lid down in the middle of Taco Bell. The toilet was white, by the way. I’m always sorry to see them demolishing the dated bathrooms with colored sinks and bathtubs and toilets on HGTV. Imagine it: a bathroom with an avocado-colored toilet and matching sink and bathtub! Or harvest gold! Or flamingo pink! All of them gone to join the colossal mountains of junk in our garbage dumps. It’s nice to see someone treasuring a toilet, even an ordinary white one. Our tiny California town, that is, unincorporated area, has two Taco Bells and around five Mexican taquerias. We never eat at Taco Bell since the taquerias are much better, but the one time I remember eating at the other Taco Bell some guy tried to sell us the shoes on his feet. He didn’t have another pair on him. I don’t know how he was planning to walk home. Maybe that’s the beauty of a place like Taco Bell in a place like Castro Valley. Guys carrying a toilet into the restaurant, with no clear plans.
Jacqueline Doyle is the author of flash chapbook The Missing Girl (Black Lawrence Press). She has flash in Wigleaf, CRAFT, matchbook, Fiction Southeast, Post Road, Juked, and elsewhere. Her very short prose has recently been featured in “Creative Nonfiction Sunday Short Reads” and longlisted in the 2020 Wigleaf Top 50. Find her online at www.jacquelinedoyle.com and on twitter @doylejacq.