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a newspaper sat beside it with a streak /// New Fiction by Elizabeth Green


I handed him his coffee and he was disappointed it wasn’t in his favorite Saturday morning mug. He didn’t say anything, but I could see it in his eyes.

     I went outside to get the mail to find wet, runny human feces under our mailbox. That was the third time in a year that someone had smeared his waste up against our apartment building, directly under our mailbox. A newspaper sat beside it with a streak on it, slightly bloody.

     I stood there staring at it, daring myself to be less shocked and grossed out this time, but it didn’t work. I leaned over it and got the mail from the box, careful not to drop any bills in the pile. It was the feces of a sick man: watery, light of color with globs of blood. Someone coming down from a heroin high, maybe. It was intense.

     I brought the mail inside, which consisted of an ASPCA postcard, my Victoria’s Secret catalogue and my husband’s Verizon bill. I tried to imagine what the man might have looked like. I pictured a big man with a beard in brown raggedy pants and a dumpster coat. For some reason, I didn’t think a woman could create a thing like that.

     

     My husband came down to refill his coffee and he still wasn’t happy about his mug.

     “There’s bum shit under our mailbox again.”

     “Are you sure it’s bum shit? Could be dog.”

     “I know the difference between dog and human poop.”

     “You should put that on your resume.”

     “I’m serious.”

     “Well, I’m not cleaning it up.”

     There’s nothing like waking up to human shit and knowing no one was going to clean it up. Once, we cleaned it up with gloves, plastic bags and a snow shovel and it was one of the worst experiences of my life, no doubt for him as well. After that we pledged that we would never again deal with it ourselves. Unfortunately it also meant we wouldn’t deal with it at all. It’s not like you can call the cops. You could put a sign up reading: DO NOT SHIT HERE, but that would probably just encourage them.

     “Don’t you want to go look at it?”

     “Why would I want to look at it?”
     “Because it’s disgusting.”

     He kissed my forehead. “Relax. Let nature run its course.”

     And this was supposed to be a nice Saturday.

     He went to the sink and replaced the mug I gave him with his favorite handmade mug that he’d bought from hippies in Upstate New York. He filled that and turned to me.

     “What?”

     “You just dirtied two mugs.”

     “You know I like this one on Saturdays. It throws off my whole day if I don’t use it.”

     He went upstairs. I thought about the shit. He would ignore it while I thought about it every day, monitoring its minor changes as I came home from work: a little drier, a little more congealed, then a solid cake, until it was nothing but a brown ring on the pavement, and that’s just the way it worked.

     
     
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Elizabeth Green lives in Philadelphia. She works on the editorial committee for Philadelphia Stories and is a mentor for the PEN Prison Writing Program. You can find out more at http://elizabethgreenwriter.com or follow her on Twitter: @egreenwriter.