He sat on the toilet, spread his legs out, breathed easy, and did his business. He looked down and saw red spots floating in the water. He tried to think of what that meant. Bloody stool? He knew it was a sign of something, some disease, some illness. Bloody stool was not normal. It was a bad sign.
He needed to examine this. He needed to look closer before he jumped to any irrational conclusions.
He pulled a square of toilet paper off the roll and wiped himself. He looked at the square. The blood was thick and goopy, not thin and runny as he had expected. It looked like a dab of ketchup on one of the napkins at the McDonald’s he worked at. He looked at it, and it looked like ketchup, not blood. He brought it to his nose and sniffed it. He licked it. It was ketchup.
He walked down the hallway of his trailer. His wife was sitting in the kitchen watching Jerry Springer on the counter-top TV. She was probably cheating on him while he was at work. He tried not to care. She was fat and he told himself he hated her.
“Paula,” he said, “I’m shitting ketchup.”
She turned around to look at him. “You’re saying it like you’re proud of yourself, Dale.”
Dale’s uniform was a black visor with a big, yellow, trademarked M on it, along with a black polo and black pants. It was nicer than any clothes he had of his own.
He worked through the day. The day was done. He got in his pickup and put the bag in the seat next to him. He ran the windshield wipers, but ice was caked to the window, so he got out of his car and scraped at it. He didn’t have gloves, and his hands started to turn red and glow with pain.
As he waited for the ice to melt, he looked in his rearview mirror. He noticed he had some acne on his face. White-heads. They stuck out, quivered almost. He touched one on his forehead; it was hard. Where had he gotten this acne? He worked with the fryer, and he’d had acne before, but never like this. These were like hard buttons, like beetles, like white ticks buried into his face. He pinched one of the zits between his thumb and forefinger. He squeezed at it, a sharp pain going through his skin, cutting into his brain, but he squeezed harder, and it popped out, pinging off the mirror. He looked around his car for it and found it on the seat, a tiny white teardrop. He set it carefully on his finger and brought it in for a closer look.
It was a sesame seed.
He woke up before Paula and went into the bathroom to take a shower. He looked in the mirror. More sesame-seed-zits had sprouted up on his forehead overnight. He stripped off his pajamas and hopped in the shower. He cleaned all over his body, and when he got to his ears, he heard a squeaking. He pulled at them; they felt waterlogged. He leaned his head to the side, smacked his temple with his palm, shook his head, but he could not dislodge whatever was in there. He got a Q-tip from the medicine cabinet and dug in deep. All he heard was squeaking, like a dog’s chew toy. He pulled out the Q-tip; the cotton was wet and matted down, but there was no wax, no residue of any kind. He looked at the green in his ear. He pulled at it, and it came loose. He held it up to the light. It looked like a piece of lettuce.
Then he leaned over the toilet and threw up and blacked out.
Dale woke up and felt like he had the worst hangover in the history of hangovers. He could barely see straight, his head hurt so badly. He felt like throwing up again but could not muster the energy to do so. He sat there in the bathroom, paralyzed.
He tried to look at himself in the mirror. His vision began to come back to him, out of the blurry ether. He craned his neck to see himself, and sitting in the corner of the bathroom, where he was sitting, was a hamburger the size of a table. He could not see himself; he saw the rest of the bathroom as it was—the tiles, the toilet, the shower curtains, the towels. The only difference was that, instead of seeing himself, Dale saw a giant hamburger.
Paula came into the bathroom after a few hours. She walked over to him and poked him. “Gross,” she said. “What the hell is this?” She left the bathroom and looked around. “Dale, what the hell is this thing in the bathroom? Dale!”
Days passed, then weeks, then months. She walked around the trailer naked. Dale could see her ribs, she was so skinny. And he liked it. He liked seeing her suffer.
One night, she walked into the bathroom and stared at him. Her eyes got as wide as tomatoes. She stared at him, and Dale knew he had seen this look before, in the eyes of the children who got Happy Meals from their parents, in the eyes of their parents who allowed themselves to indulge, but just this once. And then once became another once, and another once after that, until once became always.
Paula kneeled down next to Dale. “Oh, Paula,” Dale said, knowing she would not hear him, “Paula, what have you done to yourself?”
She licked her lips. She dug into his flesh with her hand, and she ripped herself off a piece. She chewed on the hamburger. She dug her face in him and bit off another piece.