The Golden Streams of Babylon

by Andrew Frankel

I was desperately in need of a piss so I ducked into The Burrito Palace.  There were many people inside; I asserted my way to the counter and asked the girl behind it where I’d find the bathroom.  She shook her head, saying that it had been out of order all day.  I swore aloud.

“But there’s a unicorn out back, in the alley, who’s just begging to be pissed on.  You should go piss on him.”  She smiled, sexy.

This struck me as terrible, but I knew that I’d heard her right.

“But why?” I demanded.  “Why would anybody piss on a unicorn?  In an alley?”

The girl narrowed her eyes at me and spoke in a tone at once sharp and vague.

“You’ll see,” she said.

Out back, just a quick moment later, I was having the time of my life pissing on the unicorn in the alley.  I looked at the heavens and laughed a hearty laugh.  When I’d rushed into the alley and come upon this unicorn, I’d realized at once that the Burrito Palace girl had been right.  Here was a unicorn who truly was just begging to be pissed on; he spoke with a pissy rasp and had that defiant “piss on me” look set hard in his eyes.  The soot all over his coat and his Cockney accent suggested to me that perhaps he was a down-on-his-luck chimney sweep, one who had fallen from grace for the sake of cheap thrills.

“Well, what’s this then?  Man about town, out for an evening piss?”  He winked.

“You bet your unicorn ass,” I said.

And I pissed on him.  I think it delighted us both.  After, we had a seat, he in the piss and I beside it, and smoked cigarettes.

The unicorn seemed to revel in a feeling of contentedness.  He swayed, spoke of summers he’d spent in his youth.  When he paused to sneeze, I asked his name.

“Larry,” he said, “Larry Green the Third, sir.”

“But you’re red,” I said, chuckling at the small irony.

He turned his Cockney unicorn eyes to the night sky and drew long at his cigarette.

“That’s because I’m a bloody failure.”

He sniffled, coughed, and spat on the alley floor.

I felt as though maybe I ought to say something to Larry Green the Third.  His change in mood had been abrupt; perhaps he was unstable.  It had occurred to me earlier that this probably wasn’t the first time he’d been pissed on today.

“Listen, Larry.  It’s not all that bad.  You know.  Maybe you just need a change of scene.”

Again he sniffled.  His gaze looked thoughtful and I followed it, and saw two policemen rushing toward us with angry faces.

In the jailhouse, there were strange biblical screeds and illustrations scrawled on the cell walls.  I considered them.  Maybe I had gone wrong somewhere.  I had never intended to get locked up for something like this.  Larry smelled like pee.  The charges were public urination and eliciting a lewd act in public, respectively.  Larry looked crushed when they saddled him with his charge, and I understood.  There was nothing sexual about what we had been up to in that alley when the policemen happened by.  Just a unicorn who wanted to be pissed on, for reasons that were his own, and me obliging him.

“But why are you locking us up?” I asked the policeman.  “Can’t we just pay our fines and be on our way?”

“Yeah,” Larry added defiantly.  I glared at him, wishing he would shut up for a while.  He’d started running his mouth as soon as they cuffed us, and I felt this could only affect our situation negatively.  They don’t much care for Limeys in these parts.

It turned out my feelings of anxiety were not unfounded, as the cop got up from his desk, pulled his gun from his belt, unlocked the cell door and proceeded to savagely pistol-whip Larry.  The unicorn collapsed and spit blood on the cell floor; the cop turned to me but I only shook my head and raised my hands.  He returned to his desk and reclined into his seat, a look of disdain and repugnance on his face.

“The reason I’m locking you boys up,” he said, “is I don’t like the idea of some freak and some unicorn roaming the streets of my city and pissing on each other in alleys.  I don’t know where you degenerates come from, but that’s not how we do things around here.”

I felt the need to defend my honor.

“Sir!  Please, listen!  This unicorn never pissed on me!  The girl at the Burrito Palace said their bathroom was out.”

And then I stopped.  How could I make this policeman understand my story?  Until I’d tried it a few hours ago, I myself had never dreamt of the thrill that came with pissing all over a willing unicorn.

Larry spoke up again.

“Listen, please.  Do you have any Three Dog Night?”

The policeman turned slowly to face him, pulling his pistol and leveling it at the piss-soaked Cockney.  Larry shrunk into the back of the cell.  For a long time no one spoke, and I took advantage of the silence to try to clear the tequila from my mind.  There was no way in hell I was spending the night in this damned cell.  The smell was almost too much; it would have been too much already if the piss on the unicorn had belonged to anyone but myself.  I’ve always prided myself on the clean, somewhat minty aroma of my own urine.  But a fat lot of good that urine had done me tonight.

Some hours passed and, failing to come up with anything intelligent to say to the policeman to clear our names, I decided to get a little sleep.  I was dreaming about a cat that turned into a spider and wanted to bite me when I awoke to a quiet beseeching from Larry Green the Third.

“Shut the fuck up,” I hissed at him.  “You’ve gotten us into enough trouble already.  Just go to sleep.  We’ll figure something out in the morning.”

“But look,” he whispered, pointing a hoof toward the cop’s desk.  The policeman was dozing, his feet up on the desk, left hand tucked neatly into his pants.

“What’s your point?” I demanded.

“We have a chance.”

My gaze met his, and I fell headlong into his crystal green eyes.  All of a sudden, my bladder was furious, ready for action.  I guess one more couldn’t hurt, I thought to myself, and instructed Larry in whispered tones to assume the position.  Then, very quietly, I pissed on him once more.

With the morning light came the changing of the guard.  The new officer reviewed our paperwork and stared at us a while.  At length a smile cracked on his round face.  I feared trouble.  He sauntered over to the cell door and cleared his throat.

“Well,” he drawled, “I imagine you boys have about learned your lesson by now.”  He looked me in the eyes, and there was a flicker of something like kinship behind his glasses.  “You pay your fine, you can be on your way.  A hundred dollars ought to do it.”

I felt as though a great load had been lifted from me, and for a moment I was filled with happiness at this fortuitous turn of events.  Then I heard Larry shuffling around beside me.  It occurred to me that the policeman had said that I was free to pay my fine and go; there had been no mention of Larry’s charges.

“Well, then,” Larry began, trying to sound casual.  “How much will this little adventure be setting me back?”

The policeman looked Larry up and down, the slightest trace of a smirk detectable on his face.

“Well, son, your charge isn’t quite so light as your friend’s here.  But seeing as you seem to be an intelligent enough unicorn, and Cockney, I think we could work out some sort of work release program for you.”

Larry hesitated.

“Work release?”

The policeman opened the cell door and beckoned to me to step out, telling Larry Green the Third to sit tight a moment.  I paid the cop the hundred dollars and retrieved my possessions, and he told me good-heartedly that he hoped it would be a while before we met again.  As I left the jailhouse, I turned to look at Larry one last time.  He winked at me as the policeman entered the cell with him, hand to his fly.

After that night, I did a lot of soul-searching.  It seemed to me that my life was headed in the wrong direction.  Unicorns, Cockney accents, nights spent in jail—what was I hoping to accomplish, traveling such a path?  I decided to go straight.  It was really hard at first.  The urge would rear its ugly and relentless head on certain nights, and I wouldn’t know how to assuage it.  Once I cornered a cat behind a warehouse and pissed on it, but it wasn’t the same.  And the hurt look in the cat’s eyes as he ran away afterward had burned straight to my heart, telling me that this was not the way.  No, I told myself, harshly.  This will be the last time.

I went to see a therapist the afternoon after the episode with the cat.  He listened to my story with his back turned to me, gazing out the window at a lush courtyard below.  When I’d told all I had to tell, he waited a while and then spoke.

“You know,” he began, “your story is not such a unique one.  Since the dawn of man and unicorn, the temptation has been there.  And many great men were known to urinate on a unicorn or two at some point in their lives.  Abraham Lincoln, for example.  And Donny Osmond.”

I was relieved to hear this.  He went on.

“The thing is, all of these men, sooner or later, came to realize what you must come to realize.  Pissing on unicorns won’t solve your problems.  No matter how great the thrill, that is all it will ever be.  Look out this window.  There’s so much life to be lived out there, and it’d be a crime to piss it all away.  Even on unicorns.”

The therapist’s words struck a chord deep inside me.  He was right; it was time to pull up my fly once and for all, and step into the sun.  But first, there was someone I had to find.  I thanked the man sincerely, left the office, and headed downtown to the Burrito Palace.

It was night by the time I reached my destination.  Again it was busy, and again the same girl stood behind the counter.  I could tell by her eyes that she recognized me.

“Well, hey,” she said, eyelashes fluttering.  “I was wondering if I’d see you again.  Was I right about that unicorn or what?”

For a second I was overcome with nostalgia, but I fought it back and spoke.

“You were.  But it was all wrong.”

She gave me a look that said she didn’t understand.

“What do you mean?”

“Listen,” I said.  “Have you seen that unicorn?  I need to find him.  It’s hard to explain.  Has he been in?”

“Yeah,” she said with a confused smile.  “About a week ago.”

“What did he say?”

“Not much really.  He ordered a bean burrito and three margaritas.  Then he asked to use the bathroom.”

My eyes widened at the mention of the bathroom, but again I beat back the wave of longing and asked the girl: “And then he left?”

“Then he left.”

“And he hasn’t been in since?”

“Not while I was here.”

I felt at a loss, thanked the girl and on an impulse asked if I could use their bathroom before I was on my way.  She handed me the key and I made my way back and unlocked the heavy door, flicked on the light.  I couldn’t believe what I saw.  A giant mural drawn with a thick red pen spanned the entire wall behind the toilet.  There was Larry Green the Third, rolling on his back in ecstasy.  And there I was, pissing on him with a celestial smile.  The drawing was crude, but in a way I’d never seen anything so beautiful in my entire life.  The mural was signed, at the bottom, with a brief note.

“Drew,” it read, “here’s wishing you well, and a little something to remember me by.  We lived like kings in our time, but every king’s reign must sooner or later come to an end.  I’m hanging up the old piss racket, and I hope you will too.  Keep looking for grace, and I know someday you will surely find it.  Until then, keep the faith, and stay dry.  Larry.”

I reread the note a few times, then shut off the light and left the bathroom.  Never before had a unicorn so changed my life, nor has one since.  When I handed the key back to the girl at the counter, she flashed me another sexy smile.

“You want to go ice-skating later?” I asked her.

“Sure,” she said.

ANDREW FRANKEL was born and raised among the pines of Southern New Jersey. He lives in Boulder, where he has been studying the writing of fiction for the past several years at the University of Colorado. He is currently working on an honors thesis in creative writing.

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