A Closed Lid
—–My mother ran into the den, terrified. My heart raced, as she, unable to speak, began to mime what she had just seen.
—–“Something’s in the bathroom?” I said, watching her point down the hall.
—–She nodded, moving her hand up and down like she was jiggling something.
—–“Something’s in the toilet!” I yelled.
—–This time she nodded so hard I thought she would make herself dizzy.
—–I jumped from the couch and approached the bathroom cautiously, several steps ahead of my mother.
—–Standing on either side, we stared at the closed toilet, unable to ignore the sounds of violent splashing within.
—–I instinctively put my foot on the lid, unsure if whatever was inside could push open the lid and run out into the house.
—–“What is it?” I asked, swallowing hard.
—–“A rat,” she deadpanned, her voice finally back.
—–It seemed as if the splashing was getting louder and louder.
—–“Did you try to flush it?” I asked.
—–“I’ll try—but keep your foot on the lid, okay?”
—–I nodded, more out of fear than obedience.
—–She leaned forward and cautiously pressed down on the handle, as if the motion might offend the thing inside. The familiar sound of the toilet’s flush filled the room.
—–We stood staring at the closed toilet, my foot still planted firmly on top.
—–“I guess we should look now,” I said.
—–“Wait,” she responded, running to the kitchen to grab a broom. When she returned, she lifted it, prepared to beat the hell out of whatever emerged.
—–I lifted the lid with sloth-like slowness until we could see the clear, empty toilet bowl.
—–Afterwards we laughed nervously about what had happened, but in the years that remained before I left home to go to college, I nervously looked down every time I used the bathroom, unable to shake the fear that something hairy might one day brush against me.
Ran Walker is the author of sixteen books. He is also the recipient of a Mississippi Arts Commission/NEA fellowship for creative writing and a Callaloo Writers Workshop fellowship in fiction. He currently teaches fiction writing at Hampton University in Virginia.