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Funny Contemporary Fiction

This story contains sensitive content

Content Warning: Mild foul language


The paper product aisle is a barren wasteland. All of it, desecrated by desperate, panicked consumers. Every square of toilet paper, every sheet of facial tissue, every quilted fiber of paper towel has been snatched up and hoarded by greedy, overreacting defecators. Even the vehicle interior polishing wipes have vanished from the shelves. The absurdity is unparalleled; now I’ll have to try another store.

I can think of no logical reason why there should be such a drought of toilet-tissue. The product has never had to vie for popularity or assert its usefulness. It remains seemingly unaffected by the ebb and flow of supply and demand, as all require it and absently consume it. There can be no explanation as to why everyone within a 20-mile radius suddenly requires thrice their standard portion of toilet paper. It’s simply baffling.

As a lifelong toilet paper consumer myself, I have spent years carefully logging my personal usage and have calculated the precise amount of paper necessary to keep on hand for a one-month supply. I do not hoard an indulgent excess, nor do I cut it so close that I’ll unexpectedly run out. My spreadsheet accounts for fluctuation in eating habits, water intake, and time in and away from the home. I don’t know why more people don’t adhere to some kind of tracking system or logging software; no one should be caught off-guard by the sudden need for a product they will never choose to stop using.

My last girlfriend informed me that my obsessive tracking habits made her uncomfortable, and she refused to participate in my cataloging efforts. I stopped asking how many squares she used after every trip to the restroom, and things were fine for a while, but she eventually caught on to the fact that I’d started numbering each square of toilet paper, and that was the end of it. I still think about her sometimes, but I just couldn’t continue living with someone who had no appreciation for accuracy.

My life is ordered now, and I leave nothing to conjecture. I buy my toilet paper on the last day of every month. I specifically and exclusively purchase Happy Bum’s ultra-soft, quilted, fresh-scented, two-ply, premium jumbo-pack toilet paper. No other paper will suffice, as it does not cooperate with my calculations, nor is it as delicate on my derriere.

Like much else in my life, buying toilet paper has become somewhat automated, and for years now the errand has proved relatively obstacle free—barring a rebelliously reluctant scanner, or the occasional chatty cashier who prolongs the process. I’ve been dealt the out-of-stock card a handful of times, but only at certain stores, and I’m always willing to drive to the next closest supermarket to obtain my brand. Until today, I have never been met with this level of resistance in acquiring my toilet paper.

I have driven to seven stores now, and no one is carrying my brand. In a moment of panic, I had considered settling for an inferior package of one-ply toilet paper available at store number five, but its flimsy quality and tiny rolls would have had me reworking my entire spreadsheet. I’d heard rumors that the gas station downtown still had my brand in supply, but when I stopped in, all they had left were bulk-sized rolls of economy paper with the texture of a Brillo pad. I respect myself too much to even allow it in my home.

Here at store number eight, it is much less crowded, less frenzied. I assume most self-respecting suburbanites have gone home to their families to watch the news and enlighten themselves on what to panic buy next. I just hope it isn’t mayonnaise or I’ll have to scrap my whole sandwich spreadsheet next.

I’ve sanitized my hands 31 times tonight, and now they are feeling a bit raw as I weave my shopping cart across the tiled floors, but I cannot risk sickness, especially if there isn’t a single scrap of sanitary tissue in this entire county. If I were to develop flu-like symptoms, I’d have to resort to blowing my nasal fluids into what, a dishtowel? To be thrown into my washing machine to contaminate a week’s worth of laundry? Never. I feel itchy at the thought; another pump of Purell can’t hurt.

As I near the paper products aisle, my heart races with expectation—and potential disappointment. Have the gluttonous excreters ravaged this establishment as well? Have the frenetic locusts already come in droves and picked the shelves clean? The front left wheel of my shopping cart is twisting and jerking sporadically, oblivious to the gravity of the situation. It announces my arrival with an echoing squeak as I turn onto the toilet paper aisle.

Fluorescent light flickers above me, casting uneven shadows across the barren shelves. But in the quivering dimness, my eyes detect the unmistakably cheery logo of Happy Bum’s ultra-soft, quilted, fresh-scented, two-ply, premium jumbo-pack toilet paper; there are two packages left.

My heart leaps in my chest; my search has finally ended! The cart jerks and shudders as I gain momentum toward the end of the aisle. I can almost feel the lush paper across my cheeks. Tears sting my eyes in sudden appreciation for this commodity I’ve so long taken for granted. I’m only paces away when a figure turns the corner—a hawk-eyed she-predator with the toilet paper locked in her sights. I begin to run.

The woman is donned in head-to-toe, color-coordinated athletic wear and looks like a stuffed sausage in a visually assaulting display of magenta spandex. She boasts a face of makeup that appears like it’s never encountered sweat, and she’s wearing a trash bag—a transparent, commercial sized, garbage bag with a giant breathing hole poked into the facial region. I’m momentarily distracted by the ludicrous illogicality of her safety precautions, but then I remember the toilet paper and abandon my cart altogether; I must get to the toilet paper.

Her fleshy arm collides with mine as we reach for the packages in tandem. The plastic wrapped rolls of toilet paper move in her direction as she pulls both packages forward and drops them into her cart.

The nerve.

“Excuse me, ma’am, I do believe one of those is mine. If you could just—"

The woman then has the audacity to lift a finger and shush me. Shush me! It seems she is in the middle of a phone call, and I am disturbing her very important conversation. She turns her cart and begins to wheel away.

With my toilet paper in her possession.

I’ve always considered myself a reasonable person—even tempered, civil, not prone to violence. But something within me begins to crack, like a tree branch bending under the weight of a large bird—a pink spandex wearing, disrespectful, fat, greedy bird who has just stolen my deluxe toilet paper and is about to fly away with it and take it back to her hoarder’s nest of paper products and waste it on the unappreciative members of her selfish little family of defecators.

Well, not today, bitch.


August 27, 2022 01:51

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23 comments

Amanda Lieser
00:58 Dec 01, 2022

Hey Aeris, Wow! This one was exceptional. It made me laugh and smile and relate hard core. I loved the way this character was a bit obsessed even before the pandemic. I also love how this MC was very reasonable in their thought process around having enough for everyone. Hats off to you on that final line. I loved it. Nice job!

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Aeris Walker
12:40 Dec 01, 2022

Haha thanks for reading Amanda! I had kind of forgotten I’d written this one—it was something silly to get through a bit of writer’s slump, but I enjoyed creating this neurotically hilarious character. 😉

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Jim Firth
14:20 Aug 27, 2022

One of the funniest things I've read in a long time. It's just flawlessly written. I was laughing like a lunatic throughout, especially at these lines: 'No other paper will suffice, as it does not cooperate with my calculations, nor is it as delicate on my derriere.' . . . Nice job with the alliteration. 'She’s wearing a trash bag—a transparent, commercial sized, garbage bag with a giant breathing hole poked into the facial region.' . . . A literal garbage person. And the penultimate sentence with 'Selfish little family of defecators' is ...

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Aeris Walker
14:37 Aug 27, 2022

I think I’ll just dedicate this one to you Jim lol. I was thinking about that when I read your story, that we both must have had “sewage” on the mind this week!!! I really appreciate your positive feedback and am glad the story brought you a good laugh ;)

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Jim Firth
16:14 Aug 27, 2022

lol, I will gladly accept the dedication. It's an ace story. Perhaps the modified proverb 'great minds think of shite' applies to us this week. I've been catching up the with the Blue Marble Storytellers podcast. Roxie Gone Rogue sounds great read aloud, great job on that!

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Aeris Walker
23:24 Aug 27, 2022

“Great minds think of shite” I have been giggling at this all day. Aw, thank you for listening! Reading stories is a whole different animal 🥴

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20:45 Aug 31, 2023

https://taplink.cc/tgotery

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Graham Kinross
03:21 Sep 08, 2022

Toilet paper hoarders. Some people are going to be stuck with rooms of TP that they can pass on to their children. It was mad. If people kept their heads it wouldn’t have been a problem.

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Aeris Walker
02:12 Sep 09, 2022

I believe it!! Garages full of water damaged TP: “this here is all for you, kids…been saving it since 2020…” Thanks for reading ;)

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Graham Kinross
04:00 Sep 09, 2022

“Mum, your insane. No one ever needed this much toilet paper. It’s why we want you to see a therapist.”

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Aeris Walker
11:41 Sep 09, 2022

😆😆

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Zack Powell
18:11 Sep 01, 2022

I'm late to the party (what else is new, right?), but I wanna say that this story is hilarious, Aeris. Transported me right back to 2020 with the toilet paper wars, LOL. I know Covid is one of those iffy topics that people are divisive about when it comes to fiction/reading, but I really enjoy seeing how many ways it can be written. Take this, for example: You took a serious, depressive topic and turned it into something fun and relatable. It was easy reading this to look back and think how silly it was to be so anal (no pun intended) about ...

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Aeris Walker
18:47 Sep 01, 2022

I agree, writing about Covid can be risky and the last thing I wanted was to offend anyone, but I felt like we could all agree that the toilet paper wars were ridiculous lol. “I feel seen” haha!! I honestly agree with you with the ending. I think I just got lazy with this story and let it just fizzle out, as i wasn’t super invested in it. This last week has been crazy with my regular classes/ activities starting back up, so I am probably sitting this weeks’ prompt out. Thanks for reading and I’m glad you got a laugh ;)

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Riel Rosehill
11:28 Sep 01, 2022

If I ever read a good covid story, this is it! (Also the MC is like a parody of my boyfriend who loves spreadsheets LOL) My favourite details were the numbering of the toilet paper squares and the sandwich spreadsheet 🤣 I don't know how you came up with this story for this prompt - it's such a good, unexpected take! And I never expected a pandemic story to be this fun - it was such a good read! PS: Loved listening to your interview on RLWL! You and your husband sound like the ultimate writer power couple :)

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Aeris Walker
18:57 Sep 01, 2022

Hi Riel! Hey at least your boyfriend is organized, that’s always a good trait 😉 I think this one was born out of being able too preoccupied to come up with anything serious ha ha. Thank you so much for listening! I’ve really enjoy hearing everyone’s stories on there, so it was cool to be on the flipside. “The writing power couple”: taking on the world one adjective at a time… 🥴😆

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Daniel Allen
12:53 Aug 30, 2022

This was a brilliant read! A hilarious protagonist with a unique and engaging voice. I honestly can't believe I ended up caring so much about toilet paper.

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Aeris Walker
17:37 Sep 01, 2022

Sometimes you just have to follow up emotional stories with some thing purely ridiculous… lol. Thank you for reading!

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Daniel Allen
19:09 Sep 01, 2022

Hahaha yes, totally understandable. It came off really well anyway!

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Tommy Goround
20:28 Aug 28, 2022

Pardon. The narrator seems very attractive. You just had me reading several pages about toilet paper. That's amazing.

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Aeris Walker
12:57 Aug 31, 2022

Haha I never thought I’d write several pages about toilet paper, but here we are…

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Tommy Goround
01:45 Sep 01, 2022

How are the little defecators doing?

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Michał Przywara
18:06 Aug 27, 2022

Ha! What a hilarious story :) The tone is just perfect here. It starts off with the ridiculous panic buying, but then we hit the spreadsheets :D I laughed out loud at that, as I'm someone who tracks a lot of things in apps and spreadsheets. Not TP though, but... hmm... I can see the appeal :) Great narrator here. A real kind of quiet, growing frustration that really sells the last line. Whatever happens next, we know it's glorious. A couple lines stood out: "hoarded by greedy, overreacting defecators" LOL "The cart jerks and shutters" ...

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Aeris Walker
20:11 Aug 27, 2022

Hahaha I appreciate organization too, but life is much too short to make a spreadsheet for TP! Thank you for catching that word!! English… As always, thank you for taking the time to read and share your thoughts.

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