When J. D. Wiswall arrived outside the building of the Texas Department of Unemployment and Benefits in downtown Austin, Texas, he already needed to go to the bathroom, his bladder full from drinking thirty-two ounces of soda during lunch—something that sounded good at the time but had become an unfortunate inconvenience. He was excited to start his first day of work but his excitement had gotten the best of him. He simply ate and drank too much, something he was prone to do all too often.
Dang it! he thought. Even when he cussed in his mind, his cussing was toned down as if someone might hear him.
He ascended the granite steps to the building entrance with trepidation, his left hand over his gut, his right hand clinching his lunch box full of afternoon snacks: roasted pecans, pecan rolls, and pecan pralines. He loved pecans; they fondly reminded him of his rural hometown: Brady, Texas. Inside the great, granite building, the mustiness of decades of public service molested his nostrils, but he was determined to relieve his bladder before starting his new job. He approached the only person he thought could help him: a security guard. The black fellow in uniform manned a desk—holding a telephone receiver to the side of his weary head with one hand and supporting his body with the other hand planted on the desktop—and spotted J. D. as he frantically approached him. The security guard’s name was Emmitt, as stated on a name tag pinned to his starched white shirt. Emmitt raised a patient index finger to J. D., indicating silently to wait for him to get off the phone. J. D. danced impatiently. Soon, Emmitt hung up.
“Can I help you?” he said, flashing a pleasant, toothy smile.
“Is there a restroom I can use?” J. D. said, still dancing a urination two-step.
“Well, that depends if you have business here today.”
“Excuse me?” J. D. said, his face flushed.
“Do you have business here today at the Texas Department of Unemployment and Benefits?”
“I start my new job today.”
“Well, well! A new face for a new day! That’s wonderful. Who is supposed to come down and get you?” he said, lifting a guest log from a drawer in the desk. He waited with a shiny grin for J. D. to answer.
“Mr. Baker,” he said, tiptoeing in place. “Can I use the restroom now? I really have to go.”
“I’ll call him while you use the restroom,” he said, pointing over J. D.’s shoulder. “It’s right over there, down yonder.”
“Thank you!” J. D. said, running down the hallway in the direction Emmitt pointed, except when he got to the restroom, a sign perched on the door declared it closed for repairs. A similar sign was taped to the ladies’ room as well.
Dang it! J. D. thought. He couldn’t wait another minute. He speed-walked back to where Emmitt guarded the entrance.
“Mr. Baker isn’t answering his phone,” the guard said. But J. D. didn’t respond. He quickly turned and left the building. “Where are you going?!”
Outside, the warm afternoon sun hung high over the great Capitol lawn, an expansive garden of grass, oak and pecan trees, statuary and monuments, and shrubbery that separated the Texas Department of Unemployment and Benefits building and the Capitol Building of Texas. J. D. hoped to find a building to run into so he could relieve himself but, being from a small town in the country like Brady, Texas, he also wasn’t opposed to peeing in the out of doors if the need arose—emergency situation, accident, or otherwise. He preferred avoiding humiliation almost above all else, though, particularly on his first day at work. Why is this happening to me? he thought, as he scrambled to find a business or building.
Seeing a nondescript building just beyond the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, he ran in that direction, pressing his palm against his belly. The St. Augustine grass was thick and lush, and treading across it was akin to running in wet sand. The pressure in his bladder increased to emergency level. But as he rounded the monument, something caught his eye that stopped him in his tracks, something very strange to see laying in the grass jutting out from behind a granite bench: a foot. The pressure in his gut dissipated as he stared at the well-worn, leather, men’s dress shoe.
What the heck?! he thought, looking around to see if anyone else had seen what he’d seen, but no one was around except an uninterested squirrel a few feet away in the grass, juggling a pecan in its paws.
He slowly stepped toward the foot, thankful that it was still attached to a leg, which belonged to a man, laying on his back in the grass, a stranger sight J. D. had not seen in years—maybe even stranger than seeing one of his pet dogs trying to mate with a goat a while back at his parents’ home. He knelt next to the middle-aged, white man to see if he was alive, and it seemed to J. D. that he might be sleeping, except for the weird angle his head rested, twisted and bent at the end of his neck as if he had been sucker-punched by Mike Tyson and left for dead. His chest slowly raised and descended with his breathing but he didn’t look good. J. D. looked around again for someone to call to, someone to help him, but only the squirrel was close by and it was more interested in cracking his pecan nut than helping this poor guy in the grass. J. D. wished at that moment that he was somewhere else—far away—ripping open the packaging of his own pecan snacks.
Also, J. D. knew deep down that he had to do something, anything to help. So, being the good young man he was, he ran back to the building of the Texas Department of Unemployment and Benefits to tell the security guard about who he had found outside in the grass and hoped—by God, he hoped—that the restroom was finally available for him to relieve himself before he started his new job.