“Mind Over Bladder” by Christie Munson

   It was another busy day in August. The park was always packed this time of the season. Being a supervisor in food service at an amusement park certainly keeps me on my toes; there’s never a dull moment.

   I was heading toward the Old Mill ice cream stand, which holds my boss’s office on the second floor and is sort of the headquarters for the department. In front of the building there’s the water wheel by which the stand is named; it churns water endlessly from the small stream surrounding it. I caught sight of a young girl getting a penny from her mother. She tossed it into the water, probably wishing for a pony or ice powers, whatever it is little girls wish for these days.

   As I watched the penny fall into the water and make a “plop” sound, I became intensely aware of the running water from the wheel. I realized something very important.

   I could really go for a piss.

   I turned away from the hypnotic wheel and started walking around the building to get to the staff-only side entrance. I crossed the threshold; the bathroom is within sight. I had my hand on the door knob when I heard a voice calling behind me.

   “Pete!

   I turned in response to my name and saw Gina, one of the Mill girls working the ice cream stand.

   “I’m glad you’re here,” she said. “There’s something up with the register, will you come fix it?”

   “Of course!” I answered.

   I guess my bladder will have to wait. I followed her through a doorway that led to the front of the ice cream stand. “What seems to be the problem?” I asked. At first glance there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with the register.

   Gina tapped the screen a few times, but the screen didn’t respond. “This one’s been frozen for about five minutes now, but the other one is fine.” She covered one side of her mouth with one hand and whispered, “This guy’s getting pissed with waiting.” She jerked her head to a man waiting in front of the counter. Weren’t we both, I thought.

   I made eye contact with the man, and before I could explain the situation he scowled and said, “Hey! What’s takin’ so long? I’ve been waiting here twice as long as the people in that line!” He pointed at the line to the other register. A woman in that line was being handed her ice cream, and looked a little frightened at the angry customer.

   The man was balding, a little overweight, and I could smell his body odor, which disturbingly reminded me that I still have to go to the bathroom. I wanted to get this situation handled as quickly as possible.

   I smiled at the man and assured him, “Don’t worry, sir, there is just a small issue with the register. I’ll have it back up and running in no time!” I started fiddling with the touch screen. “We just got these things new this year, they’re a bit finicky.” I looked to him with hopes for an understanding expression, but he still had a vein bulging on his forehead.

   Ignoring the man, I focused on the register. It didn’t look like it would unfreeze anytime soon. Hell, maybe that girl did wish for ice powers and she’s using it for evil. I resorted to flipping the power switch off and back on again.

   After a very painful minute of waiting for it to reboot, the home screen reappeared. Please let this work! I tapped the “New Order” button, and it immediately went to the menu items. Thank God!

   Gina reappeared beside me. “Thanks, Pete!” she said and began to take the angry man’s order, much to everyone’s relief.

   I looked to the line of people waiting for ice cream, it grew a lot in the time it took to get the register working. I felt a pressure on my bladder again, but I decided to help with a few orders first. I would feel bad leaving them to deal with all of these customers by themselves.

   After scooping several ice cream cones, I heard a voice crackling from my walkie-talkie.

   “Can we get a supervisor down to the Barn immediately? I repeat, immediately.”

   The “Barn” referred to the Potato Barn, which is a stand that mostly served baked potatoes and pulled pork. The voice belonged to Catherine, an older woman who worked here every single day for as long as I could remember. The Barn would be a wreck without her.

   I took the walkie from my back pocket and spoke into it. “I’ll be right there, Catherine!”

   She replied, “Thank you, honey” in her oddly southern accent. I called it odd because I was pretty sure she was from here in Pennsylvania. Then she added, “Over.” She somehow always came across as motherly, proper, and urgent when she spoke on the walkie-talkie.

   As I left the ice cream stand to get to the Barn, I passed by the restroom again. For a second I considered making a quick stop, but Catherine had stressed “immediately.” I couldn’t keep her waiting. I can wait another ten minutes or so, no big deal.

   I rushed over to the Barn, which wasn’t too far. It was just past the water wheel and some picnic tables. I went through the side entrance and found Catherine chatting with a customer, a middle-aged woman wearing a wide-brimmed sunhat.

   Catherine saw me coming. “Ah, here he is!” She gestured me over to the register. She pointed to the customer and to the register and said, “I accidently charged her for two potatoes and it was with a credit card, so I need you to use your fancy card to refund it.”

   I nodded. “Sure, that’s an easy fix.” For situations like these, a supervisor has to come and scan a card, which is the only way to provide a refund for a credit card. It was kind of a flawed system, because the customers had to wait until one of us got there. They couldn’t just get their order and leave because their credit card needed to be re-scanned.

   I was bobbing up and down as I scanned my own card, and then the customer’s. I only realized after Catherine thanked me and asked, “Do you have ants in your pants?” I stopped hopping around long enough to say farewell to Catherine and to thank the customer for waiting.

   Once I exited the Barn, I bolted to the Mill to use the bathroom. I’m really gonna burst if I don’t get there now!

   I weaved through the crowd of people, keeping my head down to avoid eye contact. I looked up when I was just yards away. That was a mistake.

   Coming toward me was a family of four, looking like they just came out of an audition for a sitcom. The mother caught my eye; she glanced at my visor and staff polo shirt.

   I smiled at them. Please don’t ask me a question.

   She waved at me. “Excuse me, uh,” and said as she squinted at my name tag. “Pete. Can I ask you a question?”

   Ugh, she was being courteous and she used my actual name.

   They stopped in front of me, blocking my path to the Mill and to my salvation. I shifted my weight from foot to foot. I quickly said, “Of course! What can I do for you?” I pressed my lips together, waiting for their response. I realized that I could hear the sound of the water wheel past the noise of all the people, past the noise of the kids screaming on a nearby ride.

   “Son, did you hear my wife?”

   I kind of shook my head, I hadn’t realized that anyone was talking to me. The father of the family stared at me, waiting.

   My face grew hot. I finally found my voice and replied “Oh, I’m sorry sir, ma’am.” I looked to each of them respectively. “What was your question?”

   The mother was starting to get irritated. She said, “I asked if you knew where the Haunted House is.”

   I screwed my lips up into a smile. “Oh yes! It’s actually right over there! Around the corner! You’ll run right into it!”

   I darted around them while they were thanking me.

   “No problem!” I shouted over my shoulder while I made my way to the Mill.

   Oh, thank God! I finally made it!

   I reached the door and turned the handle, only to have it stop part-way. It was locked.

   Oh no! Someone is in there!

   I frantically knocked about ten times.

   A voice came from inside. “Occupied! It might take a while, sorry!”

   I threw my hands up to my head and pulled at my hair. I turned around to the counter and slammed my fists down on it. I screamed into the counter top. “Ughhhh!

   There’s no way I can wait any longer! I will piss my pants.

   I made the decision to go use a public bathroom; it wasn’t worth waiting in the Mill.

   I sprinted out the door, heading to the nearest restroom which was behind the pizza stand. I ran around the Mill, trying not to look at the water wheel as I sped past. I ran past the Potato Barn and rounded the corner where the Haunted House was located. The pizza stand was within sight and the restroom was right next to it, but now there was a crowd of people headed in that direction. I had to slow down to a walk, which turned into a crawl.

   I was able to dodge around a few people. I felt like I was driving on the interstate. These people need to move! It took everything I had not to push past everyone while flipping them off.

   Finally, I saw an opening between two groups of snails—I mean people. I took the opportunity and rushed through the gap.

   I came out on the other side; I was in front of the pizza stand. I jogged the last bit until I got to the restroom, and stopped dead.

   My mouth fell open. The line for the bathroom had at least thirty people.

   There’s no way this is happening.

   The women’s line had at least double that of the men’s, but the men’s line was not in any way moving quickly enough.

   I started to panic. My bladder was weighing on me so heavily that I couldn’t think straight. This is crazy! This never happens to the men’s bathroom! That’s not how this works! Just take a piss and leave!

   Forgetting my manners as an employee, I marched through all the men to see what the holdup was. I heard various wait-your-turn’s and get-to-the-back-of-the-line’s. Not wanting to upset anyone, I smiled at them and said that I was just “doing my rounds.” Once I got inside I saw the problem: there were only two out of six stalls without “out of order” signs. Just my luck.

   I rushed back out of the restroom and spun around a few times, wondering where to go from there. If there weren’t so many people around and my job weren’t on the line, I might just pee right here and now! Is this what it feels like to be a woman?!

   I felt like my last hope was to go back to the Mill. I couldn’t keep running around forever. To avoid the crowd in front of the pizza stand, I went around the back of the restroom. This path mostly had games; it wasn’t much of a high-traffic area. I started walking faster. I passed the fish game where guests could win a goldfish by tossing a Ping-Pong ball into cups of water. No one was playing, the employee running it sat on a stool and played on his phone. Why couldn’t I be hired into Games?! It’s the easiest job here!

   I kept going. Once I rounded the next corner, the Mill would be in sight. I made the turn, and—oh shit. A family was getting ready for a photo op. This time the family included more kids and even a grandma. I should have known this would happen. Of course it would happen here! There was a bench in front of a flower display, and there was a ceramic clown attached to the bench. When someone sits next to the clown, it looks like he has his arm around them and he’s laughing at his own stupid joke. There was no discernible reason as to why it was a clown; there are no other clown-themed things in this park besides this fucking bench.

   I tried to hurry by, but the grandmother waved me down. “Excuse me, young man, would you mind taking our picture?”

   I stopped dead in my tracks and turned toward the woman. “No problem!” I heard my voice rise to decibels I thought were only capable in my pre-pubescent youth. I took the camera offered to me by the old woman. I positioned myself in front of the bench, finding it very hard to keep still. “Alright, everyone,” I called to them. “Gather in close and show me those teeth!” I bobbed up and down, waiting for all of them to find a spot. My hands twitched as I raised the camera up.

   Suddenly, a hand clapped onto my shoulder. I jumped three feet in the air, and I very nearly pissed myself. I turned to find the devil himself.

   It wasn’t Lucifer, it was Ryan, who was potentially even worse than a dark angel fallen from grace. He was the park owner’s son and he ran the nearby golf course. Although, he seemed to spend most of his time perusing around the park instead. He was the most despicable human being I had ever met. He knew it, too; he knew I hated him but he also knew that I couldn’t show it because I could lose my job if I did. The bastard.

   “Petey!” he exclaimed. “Let me take that for you!” He took the camera from my hands before I could protest. He looked to the startled family, and explained, “Not to worry, dear guests! I’ve got this under control!” He began to snap their photos.

   That’s fine with me. For once, you’re doing me a favor, asshat. I started to walk away when I felt Ryan grab my elbow.

   “Now, hold on! I want to speak with you, Petey,” he said.

   I wrung my hands together as I waited for him to finish with the photos. He gave the camera back and the family thanked him and moved on.

   He turned to me, “Ah, Petey!” He looked me up and down. He must have noticed how I kept bouncing from foot to foot and how my fists were clenched.

   “Listen. It’s a busy day, I don’t really have time to—” I started.

   “What’s the rush, Petey?” He interrupted. “You look nervous. Why’s that? You have a hot date or something?”

   That’s it, I’m out of here. I began to back away. “I really have to—”

   “Don’t walk away from me, Petey.” He stepped toward me.

   “—Go. I have something important—” I took another step back.

   “Why are you avoiding me?” Another step.

   “—To take care of.” At this point we looked like we were rehearsing a dance.

   “You’re up to something.” He furrowed his brow at me as we both took another step. For a moment we both stared at each other. The noise of the park seemed to drift away and if there was anyone else around I didn’t notice them. He squinted at me. The whites of his eyes matched his pale, bald head. Just before I decided to break the silence myself, it was broken for me.

   “Pete!” The gruff voice came from my walkie-talkie. It was my boss, Ed. He continued, “Get to the Mill, we have things to discuss.” I had never been happier to hear him.

   My eye contact with Ryan didn’t break as I took the walkie from my back pocket and responded, “I’ll be right there.” I smirked at Ryan. “Looks like duty calls. It was nice catching up you.” I waved at him as I turned and continued to the Mill.

   Ryan called after me, “Tell Eddie I say ‘hello.’ I’ll see you later.”

   I didn’t bother looking back. God, I would love to punch him in the face someday.

   I hurried back to the Mill. I was hoping that I could make a quick stop to the restroom before going upstairs to meet with Ed. I made it across the threshold and reached for the bathroom doorknob to my immediate left.

   “Pete!” Ed said. “That was quick. Get over here!”

   Dammit! I winced as I withdrew my hand and turned around to find Ed leaning behind the island counter. “What did you want to talk about?” I tried to control my voice, but I think it was louder than I intended. I could feel my blood boiling, but mostly I could feel my bladder. It was swollen, like a balloon about to burst. And I never noticed it before, but I could have sworn that I heard the water wheel from where I was standing inside the Mill. My eyes were bulging as I listened to Ed.

   “Alright,” he began. “So I think we’re going to be expanding this little empire…”

   I glanced toward the bathroom. Just as I did, an employee from the Mill walked into it. Suddenly I felt like I was in a movie, and like I was listening from somewhere else. His voice faded and all I heard was ringing. The feeling passed quickly. I heard a flushing sound from inside the bathroom.

   “…We’re going to start with an expansion on the Mill, and we’re beginning the plans for a whole new building which will be specifically for waffle ice cream sandwiches…” He made sweeping gestures with his arms.

   I stared at him anxiously as I gripped the counter. I was bent at the waist, crossing my legs. He made no indication of my discomfort. Can’t he tell I’m dying here?! Jesus Christ! Get on with it! My eyes darted to the bathroom as I heard the door swing open. Out came the employee, back to work.

   “…I know I’ve been asking a lot of you lately, but I’m really going to need you on your game for this. What do you think, are you excited or what?” He looked at me expectantly, an enthusiastic glint in his eye.

   I pressed my lips together and squeezed my eyes shut. I probably looked like I just ate a lemon. I pushed myself from the counter and yelled, “Hold that fucking thought, Ed!”

   I sprinted to the bathroom and slammed the door shut behind me. I frantically undid my belt and positioned myself in front of the toilet.

   I finally released my bladder. I let out a sigh. Holy shit. Finally. The sound of my urine splashing into the toilet bowl had never sounded so melodious. I would have groaned if I hadn’t realized that Ed could probably still hear me. It felt like an eternity before my bladder was empty.

   I zipped up and washed my hands. I looked to the mirror and laughed at myself. My face fell when I realized that I just blew off my boss. Oh God, he’s still out there. How can I face him? Will he fire me over this? I turned to the door. I got a sense of vertigo as I reached to open it. Just go out there and take it like a man. I opened the door with a pathetic creak and looked at Ed out of the corner of my eye.

   He looked slightly confused. “I get it, you’re pissing yourself with excitement. There was no need to be so graphic.” He snorted. “Jesus, kid. If you needed to go to the bathroom, why didn’t you just say so?”

   I laughed, “You have no idea!” I ran my hands through my hair and sighed. “So how’s the plan going to work?”

   He frowned. “There’s just one problem. We may have to get rid of the water wheel to make room. It would be such a shame to see it go…”

   My eyes widened. I tried to choke back a laugh. “It is a shame. The people love it, but I think it would be for the best.” I nodded sternly.

   He nodded. “Yeah. Besides, I think I would like to put in a new fountain instead.”

Posted on May 5, 2016, in Short Stories Spring 2016 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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