Worse Things

What the hell are you doing? Put it back in there.

But there's green stuff on it.

Green what?


Stop peeing first. And don't cry.

The boy moaned --- a brave attempt at compromise.

You see everybody else, these men? They're watching you go on.

But look!

Will you stop peeing?


A few dark patches of green clung to the underside of the boy's squiggly scrotum.

That's just some seaweed, the father said.

Seaweed? Seaweed? The boy began to hyperventilate.

The father turned around, opening his hands to the others. There's worse things. Right fellas?

A hairy backed man turned from the sink and tugged playfully at his crotch. I'll show him worse . . .

Hard laughter cracked against the restroom walls.

The father winked and said, at least that means you're getting something.

More laughter, cracking like the ochre tiles on the wall.

Another man sighed, his fish white stomach looming: marriage will do that to you.

Murmurs of assent, chuckles sharp like broken shells. The punch of soap dispensers. The rip and tear of paper towels. The sudden fart behind a graffitied door.

The boy stared at these men --- all these strange, colossal faces, all these squinty grins. As his father moved from the urinal, the boy started flapping his hands. Cartoon trunks dropped and died around his ankles.

What am I . . . going . . . ?

Christ, you always have to be a baby. The father made a sudden motion with the back of a hand. It came close, so close the boy could see the scrapes and gouges along that silver wedding band.

Last summer, things were so much better: his mother used to bring him in with her and he got a stall all for himself. Are you done yet? she'd say after a nice, comfortable time. Sometimes he stood for awhile, staring at the raised up seat coming together like a claw. He'd think of father crackling a lobster in half, its dead legs scraping against the plate . . . father sucking out ghost colored meat with a big fat ugly kiss. Times like these, the water just wouldn't come. That's fine, mom would say, her voice warm yet wavy like the parking lot by 10am. You take your time now, dear. There's plenty of time for the sun.

About the author:

Michael Cocchiarale lives and works in the Philadelphia area. Some of his other creative work may be found in Tattoo Highway, Main Channel Voices, Slow Trains, Snow Monkey, and Eclectica Magazine.