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Sequencing timeline photos is essential to a strong social media image. There had been a mix of fun as well as cultural and educational experiences to create a well rounded family vacation. The goal was to project perfection and emphasize family while arousing envy. There were too many shots with only one of the twins. Devin had been camera shy and tended to wander. Her mother-in-law might make some comment about her favoring one twin over the other. There was a nice one from the museum day. There were good candid pics from the cave tour. The amusement park roller coaster picture was workable. It was the zoo pictures that reminded her that sometimes, it’s best to just stay at the hotel. The pictures of her, with her husband’s abysmal framing, managed to capture how horrible she felt. The one with the newborn snow leopards was a feeble best. The giraffe pictures, she wanted to delete and empty the recycle bin and forget had happened. Cropping out the background wasn’t cutting the bitterness.  

The morning of the zoo started before five a.m. The tortellini at the restaurant the prior evening must have contained a variety of cheese that had a violent disagreement with her digestive system. David had meant well, but the croissant he brought her from the hotel’s continental breakfast broke the temporary armistice and put them farther behind schedule. Being stuck at the hotel when she should get to see newborn snow leopards was unacceptable. David was mobilized for supplies.   

The kids squealed like it was like their dad had returned from a months long sabbatical instead of a twenty-minute run to the nearest place with a pharmacy aisle. He had to fight them back as she reached for the doorknob from her hideous perch to let him in the bathroom.  David presented her with a two hundred tablet bottle of anti-diarrhea pills and a freaking two liter of ginger ale. Having to shoo him back out vexed her more than him asking why she required a cup to drink the ginger ale. The equivocal directions on the pill bottle were equally perplexing.

Take one, or perhaps two. Then, if the first one, or two (if you want), didn’t have the desired effect, take a third. Her symptoms were cruising through green lights, and she needed a clear stop sign. Lunch at the zoo might run late if she sent David back for some old-fashioned pepto. The twins would get hungry and Devin would get cranky. They would have to park in the next state if they couldn’t get to the zoo soon. The only admonishment about time between pills was not to take more than four in twenty-four hours. Three seemed the logical starting point.

She deleted pictures of the twins hovering over her feet with bottles of nail polish. TV wasn’t keeping them quiet while they awaited a miracle. The moment now seemed a creepy omen from the pharmaceutical gods that two at once is plenty.   

The picture with the baby snow leopards was the only one from the zoo excursion of her standing. The pills had stopped the need for a bathroom, but not the urge. The fourth and final dose for the day remained in her pillbox when not so much as wind was brought to pass. She left one privy scouting the map for the next with the animals as mere navigational landmarks. Rests at each skirted stick figure grew to include every bench and convenient retaining wall to recover from agonizing bloating that rivaled advanced labor. Her smile while sitting across the glass from an orangutan was so forced and clenched, David had titled the picture ‘Jaws’. It was not going in the timeline.

She played it off as the decision to show off her very amateur pedicure and wear the overpriced, rainbow-colored sandals she found in the souvenir shop at the cave. Not that they hadn’t chafed her achilles like a son of a bitch, but that pain fell in the dark shadow of the bison stampeding through her belly. The way the excess vapor kicked inside her set of paranoia that she could actually be pregnant. The pills worked so well they prevented the expulsion of anything lurking in her digestive tract. Not that she was about to risk tweaking the release valve even if she could shift blame to the elephants. While she wasn’t with child, what she carried had equal vacation and outfit wrecking potential. She toted her change of clothes like it was a talisman warding off humiliation.

She deleted an image of her glaring at David through the lens, bracing herself on the submarine glass containing the cobra. Taking her picture while she was riding another wave of suffering felt like mockery. It captured a point when laying down in the threatening openness of the boa constrictor enclosure was more appealing than forcing herself onward. The herpetology exhibit did feature the best bathroom in the place. She had begun assigning each a star rating. The intensity of her pain found no relief and she was barely able to eke out even a satisfying whizz no matter the review. The one by the giraffe paddock ran away with the prize for most mortifying. Four and a half out of five stars based on quality of the facilities. It was clean, well stocked with paper products and she’d found some relief from her malaise. It was the people who torpedoed the experience.  

Her husband had gotten a great picture of her repulsed sneer and the giraffe’s prehensile tongue wrapped around her finger. She was sure it was aiming for the blade of romaine and missed, but the image captured the devious spark in its eye she saw as she jerked her hand away. The sweat in her hair, her sun-reddened nose, and stupid expression were not why she felt the need to delete the picture. This was when it was still the heat and Devyn’s behavior making her miserable. The bathroom between the giraffes and water buffalo made her question her intelligence.

She’d dragged Devyn along to ensure their group stayed together. Her husband distracted her to say they would meet up at the rhinos and Devyn ran into the bathroom ahead of her. She parked in the stall next to Devyn’s shoes and willed her dehydrated self to pee so she could wash off the giraffe drool and flush handle germs in one trip.

A small trickle leaked out as reflex when a high pitched toot honked from the next stall. She bit her lip, but still sputtered a chuckle when Devyn started giggling. Another air biscuit squeaked and she had to let the laughter out because holding back threatened to blow snot out her nose. Her belly ached with the effort to supress her sniggering. If their busy vacation wasn’t so exhausting, she might not have laughed like a preschooler. The hilarity grew as they both laughed with the crescendo of the drawn out rhythmic quacks. The harder Devyn laughed the harder it was to contain her herself.

A loud blat, probably amplified by fart reverberating off the toilet bowl, echoed on the concrete block walls. Her body shook, but the stress relief of a decent laugh was superior to a glass of wine. She and Devyn both fell silent with the creak of a stall lock turning. She stayed silent with the mortifying realization that there was someone else in the restroom who might judge her mothering and maturity. She didn’t venture out to wash up until the footsteps had faded out the door.  She grinned in the mirror and let out a giggle wondering how red Devyn’s face was.

“Are you okay?” she asked, looking at the reflection of the shoes under the stall.

“Leave me alone,” the person in the stall said.

She swallowed with the dryness of hours in the heat making it hard to gulp. The hostile voice was not her daughter’s. As she looked closer at the rainbow sandals under the stall door, she remembered Devyn hanging her feet out the car window to dry the fire engine red polish on her toes. This pair of sandals, just like the ones Devyn blew her allowance on at the cave gift shop, had toenails painted pink on the left and blue on the right.

She ignored the paper towels and dried her hands on her capris. She caught up to Devyn and hurried her up the walk. She pulled at her husband’s arm, saying they were missing feeding time at the gorillas and she’d seen a rhino before.

November 20, 2021 02:36

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1 comment

Lin Macredie
12:34 Nov 26, 2021

This is cheap humor, but my teenage son loved it. I'd love to hear how the story came across and if I made the ending clear enough or how I could make it better. I get emails saying we should critique each other. That's a scary venture but I would love suggestions on how to do it better. Thanks for checking this out!


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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

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