Strange Story Saturdays: “Dear Customer Service” by Rich Bottles Jr.

After an unillustrious print journalism career in southwestern Pennsylvania, Rich Bottles Jr. moved to West Virginia at the age of 32 to pursue a career in technical writing. He spends his free time visiting and hiking at the many state parks in the MountainState, which is also where he develops the concepts for his novels. He is producing a trilogy of WV-themed “humorrorotica” and is currently working on a bizarro novel set in the vicinity of the West Virginia State Penitentiary. His previous novels include LUMBERJACKED and HELLHOLE WEST VIRGINIA. He was also a co-editor and contributor to the infamous anthology THE BIG BOOK OF BIZARRO. His only regret in life is that his out-of-state secondary school education prohibited him from earning West Virginia’s prestigious Golden Horseshoe Award.

 

“Dear Customer Service”

By Rich Bottles Jr.

 

Dear Customer Service,

I experienced my first encounter with your product when I was invited to attend my grandfather’s 90th birthday party. Knowing that the elderly gentleman enjoyed sweets, I decided to buy him the five pound bag of your sugarless gummy bears.

Of course, when I arrived at my grandparents’ home, the spare tables were already strewn with piles of cookies, candies and other confectionaries (none of which, I might add, appeared to be sugar free). Consequently, I surreptitiously added my artificially-sweetened offering in amongst the cane sugar and corn syrup infused treats.

Later that afternoon, after having completely forgotten about my five pound gift, I was shocked to see my grandpa in his favorite easy chair eating handful after handful of the gummy bears I had brought to the party.

“You like those, do you?” I asked, extremely proud of myself.

“I sure do, whatever yer name is,” he answered. “I love the fruity flavors and they don’t stick to my few remaining teeth.”

My grandmother, in her never-ending wisdom, soon snatched the half-empty bag from my grandpappy’s clutches with the stern rebuke, “Gimme those candies, you old fool, or you won’t wanna eat nothin’ for supper!”

“Go to hell, woman!” joked the old man. “Can’t a fella enjoy some sweets on his birthday?”

Everyone in the room laughed at the innocent exchange of ancient civility, glad that they only had to witness such elderly etiquette a few times a year.

A bit later, we all started smelling the aroma of the re-heated casserole-laden meal, which the womenfolk were dutifully preparing in the kitchen.

Once we were all at the dinner table and had said our heart-felt words of grace, worthy of the preachiest Duck Dynasty episode, the rich aromas of re-cooked mayonnaises were suddenly overcome by a much fouler stench. Of course, everyone seated at the feast immediately turned their heads toward grandpa.

“What-a y’all lookin’ at me fer?!” he exclaimed. “Is my bag leakin’ ag’in?”

Many of us seated near grandpa stood up to peer at his right side, where his colostomy bag was hidden beneath his night shirt. We stared at the area in awe as the bag seemed to be getting bigger and bigger and bigger, eventually making the seams of his shirt separate.

“My god, what’s wrong with yer bag?” grandma blurted out, holding her nose in protest.

“How the Sam Hill am I supposed to know, woman?” he answered. “Somebody needs to get this thing off me afore it blows!”

“Well, take yer lazy azz into the bathroom!” she commanded. “Don’t be messin’ with that bag here at the table. Don’t you have any sense?”

“I don’t think I can make it to the damn bathroom. Somebody’s gotta help me now. And I mean now!”

Having felt partially responsible for the situation, I volunteered to help. I lifted up grandpa’s night shirt, only to find a basketball-sized colostomy bag filled with brown fluid and chunks of cheerfully-colored gummy bears. “How do I detach this thing?” I asked as the rest of the family ‘eewed’ and ‘ahhed’ at the sight of the monstrous ball of excrement.

“It’s just held on with glue, but you gotta take it off easy, ‘cause it sticks to mah stomach hairs,” he instructed. “Someone has to git me a new bag from the bathroom too. Woman, you know where all the supplies is!”

As my grandmother begrudgingly left the dining room, I slowly tried to peel the bag from his hairy stomach. To my surprise, the bag came off rather easily and actually sealed itself (I don’t know if it was self-sealing or if the adhesive nature of the sticky contents sealed the balloon-like pouch).

I allowed the bag to roll away on the floor as we all casually waited for grandma to return with the replacement. But in the meantime, grandpa started mumbling, “I don’t feel so good.”

A large stream of sepia-toned sludge shot from the slit of his stomach, coating many of the dinner guests on the opposite side of the table and knocking little Joey off the back of his high chair.

Everyone began screaming and jumping up from their seats, while my grandparents’ dogs and cats scampered into the dining room and began lapping up the putrid puddles of poop. My grandmother then rushed into the room and my panicked grandpa turned in her direction, spraying her with a fire hose strength stream of shit and blasting her off her feet.

Many of my relatives tried running from the room, only to slip in the slimy sludge or trip over the pre-occupied pets.

One of the dirty dogs then jumped onto the abandoned bag, exploding the device instantly and covering the entire room in filth. Crud was dripping from the chandelier, and waste matter masked the wall-paper and window-dressings. Now everyone was rolling on the flooded floor, drenched in dung and moaning in agony. “Oh lord save us,” were the last words I heard my grandmother say before she passed out.

A few hours later, we were all cleaned up and gathered at the hospital bed of grandpa. He had also passed out during the turmoil and we had called 9-1-1, mainly because we were worried about his health after such a gut-busting excavation.

I was closest to his bedside when the old man awoke. He looked straight at me and asked, “Hey, do you got any more of them gummy bears?”

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