Just tore over this story for like the 20th time since I first came across it for an issue of New York Tyrant. The issue was called Lady Tyrant and it was all stories written by women. At the time I thought, “If I put out an issue with all female writers I can avoid, or at least postpone, getting any shit from people about the fact that most of the writers I publish are men.” I don't fucking know why most of the stories in the Tyrant turn out to be written by men. We just pick what we like. Not much more to it than that. Maybe it's a fag thing? Like I'm able to somehow sense cock through prose? Unlikely, but possible. Obviously, women can write fiction just as well as men. Probably better. Rachel B. Glaser, for instance, can do the shit out of fiction. This story has legs. You can tell it will be around forever. Pee On Water is the type of story they'll be saying, "Dang, this shit is, like, classic," about in 500 years.
Pee On Water by Rachel B. Glaser
Though alien to the world’s ancient past, young blood runs similar circles. All those bones are born from four grandparents. Baby teeth and baby teeth all down the line. Jackets didn’t used to zip up. There wasn’t a single door.
Earth is round and open, whole and beating in its early years. The stars are in a bright smear against the blackboard. A breath pulled so gradual the breath forgets. Winds run back and forth. Clouds idly shift their shapes. Stubborn ice blocks will not be niced down by the fat sun. Melted tears run, then freeze. Tiny cells slide into tiny cells. The wind learns to whistle. The sun starts setting in a colorful display. Ice melts into oceans, lakes, and ponds. Plants have their first batch of leaves. Guppies shiver in the lake. Shiver, have babies, babies shiver. Crawlers. Diggers. Stingers. The plants get bit and chewed. Leaves grow more intricate. Beings start dragging with them, little lives. Moments where they crawl on sand. Moments where they look behind them. They eat plants. They eat stomachs. Lick bones. They pee on grass. Pee on dirt. Pee on snow. Their skin is cut by teeth, by claws. Water fills their lungs. Blood cries itself in a blind pool. Blood dries on leaves. Blood browns on fur.
Creatures big as mountains stomp on top of mountains. Then new ones. New ones. Feathers, spikes, hooves. Clouds crawl smugly. The air smells cool. Atoms bump and lump. Birds have sex. Bears have sex. The sun gets better at setting. Monkeys play with sticks. Monkeys eat ants. They get sexy about each other’s butts. The monkeys fuck from behind. They sleep in leaves, in mud, in trees. They protect their babies and teach them. The sun glares in their eyes, making spots. Ants amble on, self-consciously changing direction. Rain makes them flinch, makes them happy. The monkeys make faces. The monkeys get smart. Two monkeys look at each other with knowing eyes. The trees sway. The birds chat. The knowing eyes are locked in a gaze. They look away. They look back. They have sophisticated children. The new monkeys need less and less protective hair. They have babies. They fight, throw punches, show teeth and bite. They think each other are sexy. Raise their babies away from the others. Males try sex with females from the front. Boobs get bigger to remind males what butts felt like.
This is the nice time of early men and monkeys, before cigarette butts cozied fat into the grass. No plastics, no prayers. Wood isn’t sliced into slats, it’s still living it up in trees. The rain is surprising, usual. Men and monkeys leave their lives with their bodies. Early men paint, cry, stare into fire meditatively. Pee on grass. Pee on dirt. Wear furs, have babies, catch dogs. Fall in love with dogs. Pause at oceans and their rambling edges. Sticks complicate grass. Grass complicates sand. The ground and every thousand thing on top of it. Curves and lumps. Uneven clouds. But click the clock radio through am to pm, the leaves live the leaves fall, the leaves live the leaves die.
Men ride horses, roam plains, live in trees, in caves, wipe the sleep out of their eyes. They dance to a beat, carve wood into arrows. Pleasure and fun plus boredom and loss. The fun of hands gliding on top water. Of mud oozing between toes. Knotted hair is pulled back. Dirt gets comfortable on skin.
A band crouches in the bushes. Horses down, blood on ground. Blood on grass. Blood on brains. Legs are separated from bodies. Trees stand still, sway, stand still. The first restaurant opens. Families look alike. Caught dogs love man back. The middle of the night waits for people to run bravely through it. A toothbrush with bristles is invented. Dandelions lose petals, grow big fluffy heads.
Days of work. Hands on rakes. Hands on shovels. Hands on rocks. Hands in clay. Hands in water. Aches in bones, aches in muscles, aches in head. Night chases day. Seasons switch slow. People pee in bushes, in open trenches. There are jobs, schools, songs. There are Moms and Dads. Young and carrying their children haphazard down the street. Older and with their hands in dough. Men feel cool riding horses. Arrows are pulled on tight bows, yanked back near ears, released in wild flight. Blood dries in sand. Blood dries in hair.
The sun casts pyramid shadows on packed sand. A girl awakens to be seventeen. The heat is hot on the street. Sand in teeth. "Sister!" her boyfriend says. He gives her love poems written with the picture language. They are about bathing together in the river, touching and holding red fish. The girl laughs, "Brother, what fish?"
"The ones that feel right in hands." He nudges her. He hunts honey all day. He and others sacrifice an animal. Remove its lower entrails and fill the body with loaves and honey and spices. They offer it to a god. The boyfriend sneaks out to meet the seventeen-year-old girl. They get drunk, tongue on tongue, tongue on lips, tongue on cheeks. She puts honey and crocodile dung in her vagina to block out sperm. They sniff water lilies, get high, fall clumsily asleep.
Chairs are rare. They sit patiently in rooms. Mutton fat is boiled to make soap. Rocks are fired out of bamboo poles. Condoms are made from fish and animal intestines. Men feel cool playing the lute. They pee in private. Fish are caught with hooks. Held in rigid hands. Unhooked with fish eyes wide and watching, wishing for water, wishing for water. Diseases wriggle, latch onto cells, to genes, to skin. A bishop writes a book that recommends letting children have a childhood. He says babies should have their spirits stirred "by kisses and embraces," that "children should learn to play." Children say their jokes a few more times aloud. They balance their spoons on their noses. They lie in the flower field and hum.
A lake sits still and wet, creating dynamic calm. Girls no longer swim lakes. "Fish bite our thi-ighs!" A collective whine. The ducks don't give a fuck. "More for us." The ducks stick their face in their feathers. "You've chay-yanged!" They eye the girls, "You used to wear your hair in knots."
"Don't remind us." The girls watch the lake with the others, for the dynamic calm.
A rebellious inventor is sick of shit on the street. Of shit in bushes, of pee in puddles. He takes his evenings by himself, working hard on a "necessary" for his godmother, the Queen. His wife laughs. His friends laugh. He tinkers with pipes. Meanwhile, he shits in the outhouse. He smells pee on the sidewalk. He wants a machine that will whirl it all invisible. He succeeds in making a flush toilet. A plumbing wonder! He tries it out. Pees into the toilet. Each drop twinks. A pull of the flush and the toilet answers, a magic wave! The sewage system is not advanced enough to handle the water disposal. A smell creeps out the pipes. The inventor’s friends laugh. He never builds another, though he and The Queen both use theirs.
The first chocolate factory. First personal ad. Friends add onto long running jokes. Young Beethoven goes deaf from his father beating the shit out of him. Dogs get annoyed at having their ears inspected. Deadly fever epidemics kill thousands. A band of adventurers plot to overtake something. The year without summer. June snow comes down in sheets. The seventeen-year-old girl gets arrested for wearing pants. First safety pin. First saxophone. A pencil with an eraser attached. Two people say the same thing at the same time and laugh. Diamonds are discovered in Africa. Diaries discovered in underwear drawers. First White House Easter egg roll. First train robbery. Boxers start wearing gloves. Flush toilets work with new sewage systems. Everyone begins to pee on water.
At the World's Fair, someone rolls a waffle and scoops ice cream in it. Plastic is invented. Neon lights. 127 kisses in a single movie. Fire department horses retire. Men feel cool riding cars. Chuck Berry fucks time into place, pulls it into beats and it hangs. It plays. Women use Lysol disinfectant in their vaginas to prevent pregnancy. Crowds of bodies are buried in the ground. Bombs are made with chemicals about to freak out. The seventeen-year-old girl looks into the toilet at the shape of shit that sits there, complete as one thing, a size similar to her boyfriend’s penis. Not right, but close maybe, and she puts her hand above the water, widening her fingers to remember the length.
Cars come close to smashing. Flags paraded around, then stuck on the moon. A little sister orders her baseball collection by cuteness. Wild animals have no more room. Land gets so full of buildings, when town girls and city boys escape into the open, ‘God’ is waiting in the fields. Cars smash, glass in a crowd of shards. Huge ambivalent teen models lounge across highway billboards. Dust gathers between VCR remote buttons.
A bunch of 5th grade girls hang out with 5th grade boys and the boys start looking through the videotapes for something to show the girls. The girls don’t know what but they giggle and try to sit up so their stomachs don't bunch but they bunch anyway. A boy sticks in the video and it's of a man raping a woman against a pinball machine. The 5th graders stare, leaving the potato chips alone in the bowl. A boy laughs. A girl tries it out, laughs a little too.
Dog walkers pick up after their dogs. Shit in plastic. Shit in trash. Shit on grass. Pee on grass. Pee on pavement. Pee on pee. Cars come close to smashing. Ketchup proudly won’t leave bottle. Underwear inches up in butts. Bullets find their snug way into bodies. Moms and Dads talk in whispers while children pretend to sleep in the backseat. Snow falls all night, everyone wakes to good moods.
Harper dribbles the ball down the court, guarded by Ward, head fakes right, passes left to Pippen. Pippen up against Oakley, looks to see if Longley has posted, but Longley hasn't posted, Longley is tangled with Ewing. Longley’s arms curl around Ewing while Longley's little eyes look to lock with Steve Javie's eyes, but Javie's eyes follow the ball. Pippen drives by Oakley, then passes to Kerr who bounces it to Jordan. Jordan holds the ball, his eyes twinkle. He passes it back. Alone behind the three-point line, Kerr takes a breath, grimaces, shoots the ball into a spiraling three-point attempt, which hits the rim and sails out of bounds.
Someone is killed wearing a Mickey Mouse shirt. Blood on head. Blood on mouse. Blood on pavement. The mouse still smiles. The sun is in a rhythm. The sky stays put. Babies grow into sturdier shapes. The rocks stay. The paintings stay. The people leave. Blood slows and then sits. Tongues get hot and hurt in their mouths. The sitcoms play on. Newly dead bodies get put in wood. Spacemen invade space. Dog catchers catch dogs. Then the sound, dirt on wood.
Girls sit outside a mall in the cold. One girl is sure life stops at dirt on wood. Black like outer space. But the seventeen-year-old girl says firmly, “When you die, you watch movie remakes of your life.” The girls smile, but the cold tells them it is dirt on wood. A boy rides loops in the parking lot, his butt high off his bike seat. Sperm bite eggs. Wet new eyes. Tongues on tongues, dirt on wood.
Cell phones are used as weak flashlights. City teenagers discover grass. People strap bombs under their outfits and enter buildings. Religions are dragged through time. A pet dog catches a rabbit, hears his name called, turns around, loses the rabbit.
The buildings get straighter, sturdier, simpler, shinier. On New Year’s, everyone looks funny in their 2020 glasses, 2050 glasses, 2086 glasses. Every famous person born finds the time to die. The newspaper isn’t on paper. Scientists are still trying to make pain less painful.
Wake to half thoughts and a dirty mouth. Remember your first name and last. Toothpaste on the toothbrush. The day cut into hours. Stream your pee onto water. Remember the fields of trees, the wayward grass? We couldn't help crowd everything with squares. Dictionaries, mattresses, apartment complexes. All buildings with flat faces, with rows and rows of square eyes. Pages, screens, tiles. The curves got covered with lines. The birds have sex. The bears eat trash. Life still runs enough years. Plenty more than before. Fur ruffles in the wind. Candles coy and shy their hot face. Many parts are still the same. The day is light and easy to see in. A soap bar slims down to a sliver.
Rachel B. Glaser is the author of Pee On Water, a collection of short stories from Publishing Genius Press, and "Heroes Are So Long," a Minutes Book chapbook. Her work has been published in New York Tyrant, McSweeney's, and others. To read more writing or check out her animations and NBA paintings, visit her blog.