A Creative Collaboration
This composition is a creative collaboration between two students at Boston College–Melchior Bodnar-Dudley and Ron Durd. After agreeing on a basic plot — a porta-potty goes rogue and takes a homeless, compulsive liar through parallel universes — the two authors of this peculiar tale decided to take turns writing paragraphs of the story in a shared online document (including the title, byline, and this explanatory paragraph). Eventually, this document became their final submission for the 2018 Amateur Science Fiction Anthology of Massachusetts — the collection of stories from which you are reading now.
11:59PM WED. RON DURD
I wept endlessly over the loss of my dear porta-potty in this strange parallel universe, since i was now stranded on a planet so malicious that the people who walked the pale ground lacked the muscles needed to smile. I was the only one who could…
For this all to make sense, though, I must begin… at the beginning.
10:03AM SAT. MELCHIOR BODNAR-DUDLEY
My story actually begins on the outskirts of a small town near the perimeter of Hamilton. I had recently emigrated from Hamilton as a conscious choice to better my health — if you could call it a “move.” I am homeless, so there really isn’t much for me to move besides myself. I decided to leave the city a year ago because I was sick of the air and the noise and the chaos. Day in and day out, I trudged to work through honking traffic and blinding billboards. The only thing that made my daily pilgrimage bearable was having a home at the end of it all — a small oasis at the end of the day where everything made sense. When I was finally evicted (after failing to pay my taxes for 17 years) the city became a dirty and depressing thing; a rock and a hard place wherein one morning I woke up on the street to discover a parking ticket stapled to my back. And so I left. Over the mountains of concrete and yellow paint I went, across the car parks of glittering dystopia, and beyond the dusty bridges under which sewage trickled. It was a long journey, but it was important to me.
11:59PM WED. RON DURD
Soon I was in a forest. Soon I was hungry. And soon I was eating a salad out of a garbage can that was in the middle of the woods. Thats when I was struck with food poisoning. In that moment my guts felt as if a lightning bolt had shot through them, leaving just one quivering little muscle to hold back the hoover dam. I was in agony and anxiously I looked around for the nearest toilet. This was a difficult task, because
- I had to use 90% of my willpower to stop myself from shitting my pants, and
- I was in the middle of the woods with no sign of civilization anywhere. I glanced around in a fever and — behold! I saw a sacred blue porta-potty only a stone’s throw away. I’ve never believed in god, but jesus murphy christ, that was the holy Grail from the lord himself.
10:48AM FRI. MELCHIOR BODNAR-DUDLEY
I ran towards the washroom while yanking down my threadbare jeans. When my pants suddenly dropped to my ankles I nearly tripped, and frantically I lunged the final few metres until I slammed against the washroom. I took a breath (and held it, because portable toilets have a notorious stench), and yanked open the door. Immediately the washroom revealed itself as more pristine than any that I had ever been in before. No cobwebs, no faint odour of previous human defecation, not even a thin layer of dust to add depth to a strobe of sunlight drifting in through a small ventilation opening at the top of the toilet. It was a dream for a man in a predicament like mine, and it was with substantial pleasure that my gluteus maximus graced the white, squeaky-clean toilet seat. And later, after nature had taken its course (my body had served only as a vessel for the power of nature’s physics), I washed my grimy hands in the sink. It was the first sink I had ever seen in a porta-potty, and it was the same ceramic white as the toilet. Together with the blue of the porta-potty, I observed that they formed a nautical colour scheme.
11:53PM WED. MELCHIOR BODNAR-DUDLEY
I relished this strange and detailed little observation as though I was the author of moby dick. For those unaware, Hemmingway took great joy in filling his prose with long rambling inventories of unimportant marine equipment. I had just now done the same in my reflections of a goddamn toilet. Wondering where I got my weirdness, I laughed, shook my head, and opened the porta-potty door to the shining world outside.
11:00AM THURS. RON DURD
The world outside the porta-potty was vastly different. The first thing I noticed was that my thought composition was altered. In this strange new world, my diction became sharper, my vocabulary broadened, and my grammar improved noticeably. The second thing I noticed was that I was on the side of a road in swarming, honking, grey metropolis. I shut the door. Certainly this was not happening. Just a moment ago I had entered the porta-potty on Earth, in the deep of a black woods. There was a green canopy over the sky and dark oaks surrounding my squatting figure. But then, just now, I had opened the door to traffic on a busy city road, and this was puzzling. A chill tickled my spine and I was suddenly afraid to open the door again. What if it was true that I had seen a city? What would that implicate? But then the more logical side of my brain snapped back that such an idea was preposterous. It was impossible that I went from a rural to urban environment in the blink of an eye. I sighed relief for the logic of my internal voice, and even let out a little giggle at my stupidity. How silly it was to think such a thing. The sweat on my hands already drying, I opened the door again, expecting to breathe clean forest air once more.
11:56PM WED. RON DURD
Because the last paragraph was awkwardly long, this one is shorter in order to better keep the attention span of the reader. Interestingly, shocked attention was exactly what I felt in the moment I opened the bathroom door for the second time, because when I opened that swinging hunk of blue plastic, the scene had changed again. I was on a construction site in the middle of a foreign rainforest. Around me, about 50 tanned workers hustled about lugging lumber, whacking wood, or chopping trees, all of there efforts were towards the ends of renovating one open giant wooden building which shadowed even the tall green jungle trees behind it.
9:56AM THURS. MELCHIOR BODNAR-DUDLEY
Sometimes, the author’s quest for minimalism in the economy of words works counterintuitively: a lack of description, for example, blurs the reader’s vision of what is happening in the story. Imagery disappears and the mind’s eye develops cataracts. Thinking of this back in the jungle, I slammed shut the bathroom door in fright and questioned with deep horror as to whether my own eyes had developed problems, or perhaps my mind’s eye had become deranged and I was developing visual hallucinations. The even worse alternative, of course, was that I wasn’t seeing things, although this conclusion was paled by the most ominous possibility by far: that my eyes and mind were perfectly sound, but the world around me was not. I considered these possibilities and then revoked all of them for a more sound principle: I had breathed in a lot of the methane that I had passed in the washroom, and it had caused me to become lightheaded and confused. Thus, I concluded, I must go into the strange new world and embrace the oxygen it provided; soon my head would clear and my vision would once again perceive the rich mossy woods of my realistic home.
11:50PM WED. RON DURD
alright, you whack. this is gonna stop. “the author’s quest for minimalism in the economy of blah blah blah…” This back and forth bs is taking away from the story. stop it, mel, or your gonna ruin the project. okay? now let’s move on.
9:48AM THURS. MELCHIOR BODNAR-DUDLEY
First, you are the one who started this. I quote, three weeks ago this Wednesday, you described my writing of the main character’s observation as “strange,” and compared my writing to the (compositionally effective) “rambling” of Melville (not Hemingway, which is actually spelled with one m) as if it were a simple aside between you and the reader and I could not see (which is an obvious fallacy). You were the one who wrote the first paragraph and I followed your lead in the direction you took; I also followed your lead in the disgusting subplot with the washroom you created, and again I followed your lead when you created this “back-and-forth” game through the text. You are the one who detracted from the story. I followed your direction. You are to blame. And don’t call me “Mel,” or I will start to call you “Ron Turd.” Call me by my full name, you ignorant clod.
7:38PM THURS. RON DURD
what are you even talking about? you think you write so clearly but I can’t understand a word your saying. you think you wield prose with the grace of Lancelot but really your writing is boring. and you do ramble. your only good paragraph was the first one you wrote, because it was the shortest. you’ve got verbal diarrhea and there’s nothing I can do for you. your doomed.
11:59PM FRI. MELCHIOR BODNAR-DUDLEY
First of all, you can’t even name a concrete noun without forgetting to capitalize, or throw in a comma without making a splice error, and second, I don’t have verbal diarrhea, because this is a written work, you moron (same also applies to your comment of “not understanding a word you’re saying,” blah, blah, blah). I rest your case.
11:59PM SAT. RON DURD
you think your so amazing… “oh, look at me, i can use a fucking semicolon, i know what a dangling participle is, oh my god, my mom loves me — but knowing these rules don’t make me write good, duh!…look at me, mom, i can write blocks and blocks of emotionless prose like i’m a goddamn machine. Boop, boop, boop, i write at the same time every day, every week, and i use a planner to make sure i poop on time, too, cuz you gotta stay consistent! i live my life like a robot, and what i write might as well be written by a robot too, cuz there definitely isn’t any spark to my life, that all died years ago when the terminators invaded and dropped a chip in my head.” man, you’re sad.
11:33PM SUN. MELCHIOR BODNAR-DUDLEY
Alright, you wanker, how are you any better? You write at the last minute every week. We set your deadline for 12am on Wednesday, and — like a goddamn machine yourself — you submit your paragraph at 11:59pm every time, written with as little detail or effort as possible. Your prose is weak and sucks booty. I rest your case.
11:43PM SUN. RON DURD
fuck off, i submit on time, don’t i? better than sitting down at the same time each week like it’s a chore and barfing up garbage. i’m done with this, your an idiot. and piss off with your italics.
11:57PM SUN. MELCHIOR BODNAR-DUDLEY
Alright, see you later Mr. Irony. Good luck entering anything in the competition on time. You know what? I knew this would happen, and I had a backup story that I wrote by myself that I just submitted. The deadline is in two minutes, by the way. Who’s the idiot now?
12:00AM MON. RON DURD
you apparently! thanks for reminding me about the deadline! Ha! I just submitted a story, too! I knew this would happen because you are a rigid asshole and i figured you would ruin our story. talk about karma, man oh man…
12:04AM MON. RON DURD
12:04AM MON. RON DURD
i submitted the wrong story
1:03PM MON. MELCHIOR BODNAR-DUDLEY
What??????? What story did you submit???????
1:08PM MON. MELCHIOR BODNAR-DUDLEY
Answer me now!!!!
11:22AM THURS. RON DURD
11:45AM THURS. MELCHIOR BODNAR-DUDLEY
FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK YOU IDIOT MY NAME IS ON IT
12:02PM THURS. RON DURD