[The annual West Side Stories Grand Slam competition, hosted by Petaluma’s Dave Pokorny, was held Wednesday, Dec. 6, at the Mystic Theatre. Out of 13 competing storytellers, all delivering true five-minute stories inspired by the theme “When We Were Young,” the audience selected Brandon Spars as the first-place winner. Here is the story he told with impressive animation and commitment. Readers should be warned that the subject matter, while hilarious, includes some strong language, and situations some might find, well, kind of disgusting and pretty darn gross.]
BRANDON SPARS: This is a story about a youthful thirst for adventure.
Thirty years ago, I was a tender twenty, and I was a volunteer English teacher, in Indonesia. I was boarding a ferry that was going to take me from the island of Sumatra to the island of Bali, which should have taken about 30 hours. When I got into the hold of the ship, there in capital letters, read a sign – “MAXIMUM CAPACITY 50 PEOPLE.”
I began to count.
And I stopped at 150.
And that was just on one side of the hold.
If this happened now, I would get off the boat. But at the time, I chuckled. This is what I found so thrilling and exciting, so liberating about living in Indonesia. The total disregard for technicalities. Technicalities such as “MAXIMUM CAPACITY 50 PEOPLE.”
Just six-and-a-half hours into the journey, it happened. What happens when you get more than 150 people on a boat that’s supposed to hold 50?
[Grins out at the audience, where a few people shout out the words “It sinks!” He shakes his head and continues]
The toilet jams.
Now, the toilet was little more than a hole in the deck, leading down a sewer pipe directly into the ocean. When I tried to use the bathroom, I couldn’t see the hole. It was buried under human sewage.
Several older women tried to take maters in to their own hands, and they began to knock insistently on a door labeled “CREW ONLY.” And eventually, a bearded man – I assume he was the captain – opened the door, and they issued a barrage of complaints, about the lack of places to sit, and the condition of the toilet.
He just slammed the door in their faces.
She caught my attention, as she paced to-and-fro in front of the room with the toilet. She was young and beautiful. She wore a flowing white gown, with a matching white Muslim hijab.
I knew she had to go to the bathroom.
Finally, she slipped inside.
Now, when two waves meet, they don’t cancel each other out. They add their volume together. It’s physics. There must have been one wave from the bough, and one wave from the stern, and they met directly underneath that sewer pipe, and together went right up it!
[Makes a sound something like “chub-dub BOOSH!”]
The door was nearly blown off its hinges! And a briny mist filled the hold.
The passengers began to cough and gag! And then, coming out of the mist, no longer white, was the woman. I remember how she stood there for a moment, perfectly still, her arms outstretched, her mouth a cavernous hole, and a strand of sewage hanging down, slowly connected to her lower lip. And that was when she began to wail.
WEST SIDE STORIES 2018
What: The popular story-swap event continues for another year.
When: The first Wednesday of the month
Where: Sonoma Portworks, 613 2nd St., 7:30 p.m. (Doors open at 7 p.m.)
How much: $25 in advance. Tickets sell out consistently, so advance purchase is recommended.
Tickets: Click on West Side Stories at DavePokornyPresents.com
Upcoming themes: January 3, 2018 – Careful What You Wish For; February 7 – If the Shoe Fits; March 7 – One Person’s Trash is Another Person’s Treasure; April 4 – Fight the Good Fight