Writing on the Wall 

Constraint is an interesting thing. “Ten-Minute Test” had the limitation of ten minutes and death.

Samuel Pepys, that irascible English diarist, wrote that the thought of one’s impending execution focuses the mind wonderfully.

So there was another session of Bad/Ass. Another constraint, though not so much a limit as a chance to explore something outside our accustomed way of writing. The exercise was to write a song outside of our familiar genre and to write in that genre about a subject not usually associated with it.

We were assigned the genre. Theme chosen at our discretion. Ad libitum, as it were.

I got Country and Western. I don’t like country and western. At least anything that was written after Hank Williams.

I picked up the phrase “writing on the wall”. Its original meaning refers to a biblical story about Daniel (the lion’s den guy) brought face to face with the Babylonian king Balshazzar who had heard that he was good at interpreting dreams and such. A mysterious hand had written a cryptic message on the palace wall and none of the king’s astrologers could interpret what it was. Turns out Daniel could and did.

The message means, “Your days are numbered. And your performance has been found wanting. Your kingdom is toast.”

I paraphrase, but you get the idea.

Ah, I thought. Graffiti in a toilet stall. And the thought of a guy situated appropriately and contemplating life and the universe.

I mean why not? Where else to set social commentary about scribbles from frat-bro dick-swinging misogynists than in a male toilet stall? Then to put a bit of a twist?

And not to put too fine a point on it, I dump the punch line at the end.

(Side note: when I was studying French at Laval University in Quebec I had occasion to use said facilities. Of course, there was graffiti in the stalls. In French, naturellement. I wasn’t paying tuition to learn English graffiti. On the starboard side of the toilet stall,(right side facing the door when seated) inscribed in a Sharpie penmanship to die for, in the middle of the wall, away from everything else on the wall, at eye level, were the words:

Si ces mots sont à ta gauche, t’es mal assis.”


“If this is on your left, you’re seated wrong.” The English translation doesn’t quite make it go, but hey, I think it’s funny.)

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