Benediction by Alex Koplow


Buckets filled the front room of Henry’s apartment, scattered on and around the old furniture as if his ceiling did nothing but leak. But it was Henry who’d fill the translucent buckets. He was going to piss into them so he could believe in God.
     Stacked in his kitchen were more than a dozen flats of bottled water. He stared at the cellophaned heap. Still in his faded suit from the morning’s funeral, he imagined the many gallons of water passing through him at once.
     I am a vessel, Henry vowed with the first bottle at his lips. A cheap funnel, a yard sale coffee maker.
     Days earlier his mom’s friends had called him with throaty condolences. They’d said in God’s name, things would make sense. Henry had nodded into the phone, wondering what God’s name really was.
     He gulped through the first package of water, dropping the empty bottles at his feet. He tapped his belly and eyed the empty buckets. Timidly he peed a puddle into the one behind his TV. His urine was almost clear.
     Clarity, Henry thought, is a good sign.
     Henry spread his pee among the buckets. Like he was watering plants, he developed a pattern, bobbing his hips as he spoke to the strong, pale stream. He arched his back and peed from several feet away. Sideways on the couch, he peed lying down. He peed and drank at the same time, feeling a sort of equilibrium. It took him three days to drink all the water.
     To drain his system, Henry stopped. Without drinking and filling buckets, the boredom made him miss his mom. Henry hoped that life with faith would be busy. He’d heard there were all sorts of services and maneuvers and responsibilities.
     Before the funeral, the old women, slight variations of his mother, had filed into his apartment. Henry had watched them sip their tea and point at each other with cookies as they told stories about his mom. He’d made several cups himself, mesmerized by the way the tea’s cloudy color left the bag and infiltrated the water.
     After a day without drinking, Henry opened his front door for the first time since the funeral. The overbearing brightness seemed like validation. He walked to the nearest gas station, nodding back at the bright sky as if it were telling a mostly amusing story.
     Ignoring the glowing fridges of water, Henry picked a quart of oil off the shelf of car supplies in the back. The way it fit in his hand made Henry think that it had been put there exclusively for him. He bought a dozen quarts and a pack of mints.
     Returning to his apartment with the oil, Henry was swarmed by the vinegar smell of his urine. He recalled a line from a movie about loving the way things smelled. He slapped the oil’s red cap down like it was a game show buzzer, and spun it to the left. With the cap off, the oil suddenly felt heavier. He switched hands and scratched his scalp.
     In the future, Henry realized, this is when I’ll pray.
But instead of praying, Henry thought back to the moment after the funeral when he’d wondered if water and oil would maintain their rigid separation if he peed them both into buckets. Henry had decided that if he could do one thing that basic without corrupting the laws of nature, he’d accept purity and God and all the other things that seemed to satisfy his mother’s friends.
     Henry lifted the silvery plastic to his lips and gulped. In his throat it felt like the opposite of oil, sticky and thick. But he sucked it down, collapsing the sides of the quart.
     He drank another, gagging, quickly, coughing some up. In the mirror his teeth and tongue and gums were outlined with a layer of black like he was a cartoon. He drank another quart; the taste made him twitch. He knocked over a bucket of his urine and watched it spill, racing down the grooves of his hardwood floor.
     And now he is waiting.
     
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Alex Koplow is originally from Virginia and now volunteers with the 826 LA writing tutoring center. His fiction has appeared in Monkeybicycle, Metazen, decomP, and Smile Hon You’re in Baltimore.