The Captain was apoplectic. Apparently, my old intern had gone over to his postage-stamp-sized studio apartment and dropped a deuce. When it comes to anything involving the human colon, The Captain is extremely squeamish. In a feat of remarkable bad luck, he has had to endure a treacherous string of unfortunate incidents, beginning with an out-of-work actor accidentally forgetting to flush in his previous apartment, and now this insult from the intern. Recently, he had to spend time with a friend of mine, a novelist/actor/performer, who couldn’t stop talking about his “explosive bowels.” I had also hooked him up with a producer who had Crohn’s disease and was thus in chronic need of bathrooms. The Captain goes out of his way to avoid any discussion of human activity of this sort. He was horrified recently when his fiancée’s girlfriend, a former contestant on The Bachelor, refused to go number two at her boyfriend’s apartment because it was still “too early in the relationship.” She was constantly cruising by his fiancée’s apartment instead to avail herself of the facilities. It was your basic “dump and run” tactic, and it was giving The Captain ulcers. Now, for the second time in as many days, my intern had deuced in his apartment.
His outrage was justified. The Captain lives simply at a nondescript two-story apartment complex in Santa Monica—cursive letters on the façade announce its name: “The Patio”—and his studio simply can’t harbor any ill-advised gases or human waste product, because of its limited square footage. There is just enough room for a laptop, his Power Bar stash, supplements, religious paraphernalia, a glossy photo of Sean Hannity, and a twin bed. There are a few kitchen appliances against the west wall, a refrigerator that looks as though it were made by Hasbro, a hot plate, and a miniature oven. Over the summer, he was convinced that neighbors were spying on him, so he bought blue translucent film and carefully sealed it over his windows. The benefit of the Patio is its proximity to the Catholic cathedral where he takes Communion daily. His apartment doubles as an office, and the intern had, in a moment of sweet and urgent release, nuked his workday. The Captain had been gracious enough to help the intern with a script he had written, a memoir of the intern’s harrowing childhood, and his aid proved the theory that no good deed goes unpunished. Over the next four hours, as the intern’s gastrointestinal perfume suffused the studio, The Captain paid for his charity.
I myself am not immune to this rampant behavioral problem in modern culture. Where I grew up, bathroom activity was restricted to the home, and polite society dictated that if one had to absolutely tend to one’s business, then one should go outside at least 100 yards away in the solitude of a grassy field or knoll and as silently as possible satisfy Nature’s demands. In the Rotarian Midwest, home to decent people, many friends’ residences had cross-stitched signs in their bathrooms that read “If you sprinkle when you tinkle, please be neat and wipe the seat.” Sound instruction, I think we can agree. There were no analogous signs for actions such as the intern’s. Why? Because it was unfathomable to the Midwestern sensibility that any sane person would commit such an act. I was routinely victimized by unconscionable West Coast behavior before Saturday-morning pickup games, when my realtor would drive over in his BMW X5 and, within 10 seconds of entering my home, bolt straight for the bathroom. Los Angeles is apparently a collection of itinerant turd layers, residents incapable of expressing fidelity to their own toilet. After I heard him exclaim “Cherries and nuts!,” I banned him from my home.
The Captain isn’t easily moved to anger, but everyone has his breaking point, and being victimized in his own home was enough to make the intern the object of his opprobrium. It made The Captain cantankerous, and, every day at Bodies In Motion, he couldn’t stop talking about it. “Who would do that to someone? What kind of person? You know I don’t like that kind of thing. And to do it twice in a row?” He seemed to experience some deep-rooted Catholic guilt relating to bodily processes.
“You’re too nice. You shouldn’t have given him access.”
“First Johnny comes over and does it. And now your intern.”
“Why does Johnny use your bathroom?”
“You know how he is. He’s a gypsy. It’s like I’m the neighborhood outhouse.”
“You take in too many people.”
“The first time, your intern says, ’I’ve really gotta take a shit.’ And then he did. Right in my bathroom. And it smelled.”
“I wouldn’t tolerate it.”
“Then, the next day, he fixes himself some cereal and I go to the laundry room and when I come back the bathroom door’s closed and he’s at it again.”
One of the female trainers came around and we were forced to change the topic of conversation.
“Who are you gonna start?” I asked.
The Captain had been getting some pressure from one of Tha Wiseguys. Then there was The Silver Fox, a good friend who had seniority but was perhaps getting a bit long in the tooth. The Fox did, however, have a deadly midrange jumper that was incredibly consistent. Bigs didn’t always show up, but we could use his athleticism and his big frame down in the post. He tended to cause a lot of chaos, but he also freed the rest of us to do our thing. Coach’s Son was clearly one of our best players, but he could, at times, be a chemistry killer with his selfish play, and The Captain had decided that maybe he would be better coming off the bench, staggering his time with English, who also liked to have the ball in his hands. We weren’t the most athletic team in the league, but when we play well we can beat anyone.
I rolled to the gym with The Captain, and Rickets arrived shortly thereafter. We got loose, ran some sprints, stretched. Tha Wiseguys showed up early, and I could see The Captain was a little deflated when they appeared. They don’t enhance the team chemistry and their defense is porous. Coach’s Son and The Silver Fox strolled in next, about five minutes before game time. The contest that preceded ours ended and we took the court for warm-ups, running a lay-up drill. The horn sounded and we huddled at our bench, put our hands together, and yelled “team” on three. We broke and there was still no English. He loves ball and it’s odd that he wouldn’t show up for a game.
Coach’s Son started and was the primary ball handler. The rest of us would have to pick up the slack. The Captain was looking to take his aggression out on anyone who came in the lane. He swung his elbows and lowered his shoulders. Maybe someone should defile his bathroom more often.
After the first few minutes, it was clear that the Philadelphia 76ers were no match. They had two good athletes, an actor who was recently in the football film We Are Marshall and a soap actor who was forever trying to break his contract to perform in features. The rest of their squad wasn’t really up to snuff, and we quickly built a 20-point lead. At the end of the game, we held them below 40 points and cruised to a 30-point victory. With no sign of English, I could only wonder what manner of Hollywood craziness had befallen him the night before. I gathered my shooting shirt and warm-up pants, feeling energized by the victory, and called his cell phone, but it went straight to voicemail. We got by a bad team without him, but the following week was going to be a much tougher affair.