By Ben Bellizzi


Well, he unclogged the toilet, that was easy enough. It was back in working order, the brown water rushing out, the clear water trickling in―he knew exactly what to do there. But now what, what about the plunger? One must wash a plunger, certainly; where exactly to do that is another question. He could swish it around inside the bowl perhaps, but no, toilet water is not a cleaning agent, that wouldn't do. There were two faucets in the bathroom―the sink could be eliminated immediately―and then there was the tub. He could rinse the plunger and later scrub the tub, but it seemed like it would still be dirty; she liked to take baths.

They were trying for a baby, and that was fun, the trying. They were working toward something, the act containing a greater purpose, and that was good, although the experimental aspect of things had taken a bit of a hit. He liked the verbiage that came with the trying: getting knocked up, popping a bun in the oven, and so on. Once, after the act, he'd joked that if she was going to sleep with someone else, now was the time to do it; he'd never know, unless the baby was black or something. She'd turned away from him in silence. How could she not think that was funny? Perhaps she hadn't heard him. Perhaps he should say it again.

The dilemma loomed large. There was a good chance that eventually their trying would succeed, and when she was pregnant he couldn't afford any such mistakes. He'd read a statistic claiming that the majority of women who cheat on their husbands do so during their pregnancies, normally because their men don't know how to respond to them. And he didn't know for sure how to respond to her now. He was supposed to know what to do, but not to ask what to do, for his asking would show that he didn't know and that he might not know anything. So he simply had to do. But if he did wrong, then how could he not have known, and if he didn't know, then why would he do without knowing? They say that when the time comes you just know, but that's something that's said later, after you do know. And you never know. You may think you know, but the best you can do is act like you know. Did Donald and Ivana know? Did Charles and Diana? What about poor Henry the Eighth?

And there was more. He had to remain a man, some kind of cowboy/ businessman/ firefighter combination that would agree to pilot a minivan but could also steer a truck, that would be there for her but not smother her, that would make her life easy but not too easy, because that was boring and she needed to be challenged. He had to do all of this without making it seem like it taxed him, because was that what she was, a burden, a hindrance on his life's goals and dreams? If that was true, then who needed him? She could do this on her own, she was strong enough, and he could run along after something younger with bigger boobs, someone who laughed when he farted and knew all sorts of places with dim lighting and expensive drinks. There was just so much to consider, and it could all go wrong with a single drop of toilet water falling in the wrong spot.

He left the plunger in the toilet and fetched a bucket from under the kitchen sink. He filled the bucket with warm water and brought it into the bathroom. He supported it on his thigh while he reached down for the plunger, held it above the toilet water, and tipped the water out of the bucket over the plunger's rubber head. He poured with such concentration and care that he failed to notice her standing in the doorway.

"Hey," she said, her head cocked inquisitively to the side, "What’s going on in here?"

He looked over his shoulder, and fully aware of his absurd position, he said, "Trust me, I know what I'm doing."


Ben Bellizzi has published works of fiction and nonfiction in various domestic and international magazines. He has completed two novels pending publication and has written for several nonprofit organizations both in the US and abroad. He is a graduate of the California College of the Arts MFA Program in San Francisco.




Guest artist : Regina Valluzzi. Graphic shown above right: "Bacteriophage Ballet"