Richard’s affliction first presented itself on his sixth birthday.
After a wonderful day at the playground with both of his friends, his parents took him home for apple pie. Apple pie was his favourite. Then, it was time for his bath.
Splashing about in the tub with his ducks and battleships, he was completely carefree. He liked to smother his lower face in bubbles and pretend he was Father Christmas, then wipe his chin clean and pretend he was Nietzsche. He had very mature reading habits.
During this bath, as it was his sixth birthday, his mother made it extra special.
“Would you like one last present?” She touched his nose with her finger.
“Oh, yes!” Richard was overjoyed. He loved surprises.
Karen left, leaving the door open behind her. She returned a minute later, and when she did a strange aroma filled the room. She held a round object, covered by a tea towel. Richard marvelled at the strange object.
“Can you guess what it is?”
“Umm…” He couldn’t.
“I thought, because you like apples so much, you might like to try a new fruit.”
“OK!” That did nothing to explain the peculiar whiff which drifted up Richard’s nose.
“This is called a durian. It’s from south-east Asia. Would you like to try it?”
“Mm-hm,” said Richard. He was cautious because of the smell, but nothing could ruin his sixth birthday.
Karen unveiled the fruit. It was a greenish-yellow, and covered in spikes. It had a split down the centre, and emitted an odour incomparable to anything Richard had ever smelled. The smell intensified as the cover was lifted, and grew stronger and stronger. It wafted about the room and tingled in his nostrils. When Karen wrenched the fruit open, the smell became unbearable.
At once he felt his innards contract—he thought he needed to sneeze, then to be sick, then… His bowels reacted in the most formidable way. A rush of gas built up in his colon and burst through his anal canal, carrying with it all the diluted, unprocessed brown fluid which was being held in his intestine.
In an instant, the bathwater turned a murky ochre. Richard squealed as soft pulps of shit floated up to the surface. Not knowing whether to laugh or cry, Karen ushered him out of the bath. Then, when he started to drip the soiled water on the tiled floor, she panicked and pushed him back in.
“Sorry, mummy,” Richard said. He didn’t know what else he could say. It was all his fault!
“Oh darling it’s not your fault.” He felt sure that it was. “Stand up and let me hose you down,” Karen stifled a giggle. “That’s it. Now, one foot up.” Masterfully, Karen ensured that no more poo drops made it onto the floor. She wrapped him in a towel and gave him a big hug. He began to cry. Karen drained the tub and rinsed it down while Richard went to the kitchen and stared at the fridge, shaking occasionally with a sob.
A cup of hot chocolate cheered him up, and his sniffles subsided. Karen sat with him and watched him drink it, wondering what had occurred within him to prompt such a violent outburst of faecal matter. Could it have been an allergic reaction? She’d never known that to happen, and so suddenly too. Something to do with bad smells? It was a mystery. She resolved to ask her friend Elisa the next day; he knew lots about these kinds of things! Then, Richard surprised her with a question.
“Mum, why am I called Richard?”
“What? Oh, your name? That’s a good question. How long have you been thinking about that?”
“Um, a few days. Everyone at school’s been talking about it. Frank was named after a boxer, and Isabelle was named after an explorer.”
“And what do you think you were named after?”
“Well, everyone says I was named after one of the instruments used when I was made,” Richard looked up, and Karen saw that he was puzzled. “But I told them you and dad don’t play any musical instruments.”
“And then they laughed so I went away.”
“Oh, darling!” Karen’s parental urge kicked in, and she squeezed her son’s little cheek.
“But can you tell me who I’m named after, so I can tell them?”
“I’d be glad to. You were named after a man called Richard Sterling. He’s a travel writer! He writes about all kinds of things. He’s how your dad and I found out about durian fruits.” Richard’s stomach lurched at the thought. Seeing his skin turn a shade paler, Karen decided to veer away from the subject.
“His writings will shake the earth, they really will. He leant us some of his notes and they are, well, extraordinary.” Richard swilled the end of the hot chocolate in his mug. Tea, chocolate, Mum and Dad’s coffee. Some of humanity’s favourite beverages are brown, he thought. Why did it have to be so?
“What do you think?”
“Um, so I was named after a writer?”
“Yes. So now you can turn around to your friends and say I wasn’t named after a boxer, or an explorer, I was named after—well, I suppose he is something of an explorer. So, you can say, I was named after an explorer too. That’s much more interesting than someone who fights for a living. Don’t you think? Richard?”
But he was lost, once more, in the dregs of his mug. He put it back on the table and saw the image printed on the side: Winnie the Pooh sitting merrily in a field of orange flowers. Richard didn’t feel so merry, but he did like knowing why he was called Richard.
“Much cooler,” he said. And then he went to bed. Thankfully, he didn’t dream of the durian. It never even crossed his mind, until one October morning, six years later.
If you enjoyed this, read more excerpts at the following links:
EXCERPT [Reveries]: Richard goes to his first Masturbators’ Anonymous Meeting
EXCERPT [Reveries]: Richard shits in the bath, is upset
EXCERPT [Reveries]: Richard, Jenny, and a pair of antediluvians
EXCERPT [Reveries]: Josie Haybottom is late
Buy the book here.