After scrutinizing my fellow passengers — a fat woman in an obnoxiously pink dress, a couple of loud teenagers, a white-haired gentleman in a gray pin-stripped suit — I realized the urine smell was coming from me. Not me directly of course — I prided myself on my aiming skills — but the diaper I was holding.
When I noticed it in my hands I was a little surprised it was still there. I had found it in the train station parking lot and, being a stickler about litter, I decided it had to be thrown away. However, at that moment I was equidistant between the nearest garbage can and the soon-to-be leaving train.
I calculated my chances of getting to the garbage and disposing of the diaper and still making the train before it pulled away. I realized I couldn’t take the risk, but instead of just dropping the diaper I kept it and decided to throw it away when I got off the train.
At the Mason Street stop I headed south on Third. There was a garbage can on the next corner but when I got there I hesitated. It was full, some of the trash was hanging precariously on the edge, and I decided I couldn’t in good faith leave the diaper there.
The next can I encountered was old and in desperate need of a new paint job. The one after that was incredibly rusty. I also didn’t like the look of the one in front of my office building but since the diaper was now leaking (so much for the Huggies promise) I decided I needed to get rid of it and dropped it in.
Leaving a moist handprint on the revolving glass door, I went inside. As I passed the receptionist, the large calendar hanging behind the desk made me stop abruptly. I couldn’t believe I had forgotten it was Tuesday — Taco Tuesday in the cafeteria — by far the best day of the week. I grinned and skipped to the elevator.
In my office I settled in and began working on one of the piles I had left myself from the day before. I had a lot to do but just couldn’t stop thinking about those succulent tacos.
Not many people knew this, but it was me who had come up with the name “Taco Tuesday.” I had suggested the name change one day to the kitchen staff and they loved the idea. Prior to that, it was just called the bland, non-alliterative “Taco Day.” They had even wanted to do a little story about me for the quarterly company newsletter but I politely declined; I’m not about publicity or self-promotion, I just love tacos.
When I glanced down at the budget proposal I was working on, I noticed that in the “expenditure” column, I had only written “tacos” over and over again. I was about to throw it away and start again when I stopped. Why couldn’t I submit it like this? You can never have enough money allocated for tacos.
At 10:45 I took the elevator down to the lunchroom on the third floor. I knew they didn’t begin serving food until 11:30, but there was usually a rush around 11:15 and I wanted to make sure I was first in line.
I decided I would have eight tacos. I started salivating thinking about them: the spicy — but not too spicy — ground meat, oozing with tender juices; the perfectly aged, extra sharp cheddar cheese; the thick, rich sour cream; the crisp, fresh lettuce; and the tangy taco sauce covering it all. It was almost too much to stand.
The first bite is always the best. I tilt my head slightly to the side to ensure that everything stays in place, and then I slowly, very slowly bite into the firm shell. The crunch is thrilling. And as all those ingredients descend to my tongue, mixing together to create the perfect flavor, it’s almost orgasmic.
As I approached the lunchroom, I became a little curious when I didn’t smell the customary goodness cooking. When I took a right past the vending machines into the room where they served the food, I was met with a large handwritten sign that gave me a pang in my chest: Tuna Tuesday. For a moment I couldn’t breathe.
“What, what?” was all I could stammer as I pointed to the sign.
Agnes, the grandmotherly head food server wearing her usual purple hair net, was behind the counter scrubbing a pot.
“Hey, Mr. Z. Oh, yeah, we moved Taco Day to Friday. It’s now ‘Fiesta Friday.’ Didn’t you get the memo?”
I began hyperventilating.
“You okay, Mr. Z?”
Agnes and everything else suddenly started getting hazy. I felt my knees buckle and I grabbed onto the stainless steel counter.
The last thing I remembered before blacking out was the putrid smell of tuna.
I had a horrible dream. In it I was me but also not quite me. I looked like myself but I was running around in what appeared to be a cafeteria overturning chairs and smashing windows. The next thing I knew I had a long knife and people were screaming. Blood and hair and what might have been tuna flew everywhere. At one point I was holding a severed head with a purple hairnet.
When I awoke, I couldn’t help but think about the diaper from this morning. And not because I missed it (though, strangely enough I did a little), it was because the smell of urine was incredibly strong.
After scrutinizing my fellow inmates — a fat man with a shock of pink hair, a couple of loud teenagers, a white-haired man wearing only a pair of stained gray sweatpants, I realized the smell was coming from me. I was lying next to a filthy toilet and apparently not everyone’s aiming skills were as good as mine.
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Portland Fiction Project
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