THE FACE ON THE BATHROOM FLOOR • by Carl Steiger

People see Jesus all the time. They see him on grilled cheese sandwiches and in patches of mold. They see him on walls with the paint peeling off. Even Linda said she saw him on a burnt tortilla once, and she just wouldn’t give up on the idea, even after I told her it really looked more like Willie Nelson. She was mad as hell when I ate it anyway.

What I’m looking at now sure as shit ain’t Jesus. Jesus has long hair and a beard. Everybody knows that. And he don’t have pointy ears. And no horns. This is a devil I’m looking at.

All the blood drops on the bathroom floor are nice round circles, except for the one I stepped in. Now it’s a face. It’s a snotty little face. Yeah, I’m talking about you. You got your lips all puckered up, and you’re looking off to the side with your big, big eyes. You look just like a little kid that just got caught doing something he shouldn’t have been. Except for the pointy ears and the horns.

You look kind of embarrassed. Oooh, did I just do that — is that what you’re trying to say to me, Mister Face on the Floor? Look at me when I’m talking to you. Anybody with horns on his head is up to no good, I know that.

What, am I being too hard on you? Well now, maybe those aren’t horns after all. Maybe they’re antennas. Like that blue alien I saw on Star Trek once. ET phone home, is that your story?

No, I was right the first time. Those are horns, and you’re a devil. And you’ve done something awful and you don’t even have the decency to be ashamed. You just sit there looking embarrassed and kind of stupid.

I guess I ought to clean this mess up. Linda would bite my head off if she saw it. I know there’s a mop around here somewhere. Thank God for linoleum floors.

I got to do it all myself, don’t I? I don’t suppose you’re going to lend a hand. Are you, Horn-head? You’re just gonna sit there and let me do all the work, and hope I don’t notice you. Well, I won’t forget you’re there. I’m gonna keep my eye on your ugly little face. You sorry son of a bitch. This is all your fault, isn’t it? I ought to take this mop and smear you to hell right now.

But don’t worry, Mister Devil Face. I won’t wipe you up off the floor just yet. I’ll save you for last. You and I got unfinished business. I want to know what you did. I just want to know, what did you do?

Look me in the eye, you worthless sack of shit. You’re not even sorry you did it, are you? You’re just sorry I know you did something. Or maybe you don’t even give a damn. You think it’s funny, don’t you? You know something I don’t know and you think that’s funny?

Well, I give a damn, and it’s not funny. I’m on to you. You’re a wicked, wicked devil, and I hate you. I hate your guts.

God damn you, what have you done?


Carl Steiger’s efforts that have appeared at EDF include a story about a little girl, one about a little boy, one about a guy who was not a vampire, one about a teddy bear, one about an upper-class headhunter, one about some ghosts, one about another little girl, and now one about a dirty floor.


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Every Day Fiction

  • Hi Carl – I guess we have a “the devil made me do it” scenario here. I regret to have to say that it really didn’t do much for me.

    For me, successful short writing needs 3 elements: Character, conflict and resolution.

    Here we only get an inkling of the character, an unidentified male with a folksy voice which really added nothing to the story.

    There is a hint of conflict in the blood pool and splatter but we never find out what happened.

    As to resolution, the story just limps off the page.

    Jeff

  • Hi Carl – I guess we have a “the devil made me do it” scenario here. I regret to have to say that it really didn’t do much for me.

    For me, successful short writing needs 3 elements: Character, conflict and resolution.

    Here we only get an inkling of the character, an unidentified male with a folksy voice which really added nothing to the story.

    There is a hint of conflict in the blood pool and splatter but we never find out what happened, or why.

    As to resolution, the story just limps off the page.

    Jeff

  • disqus_5RXgycx5ff

    I enjoyed the voice enough to like the story, but I also waited and waited for the plot that never happened.

  • disqus_5RXgycx5ff

    I enjoyed the voice enough to like the story, but I also waited and waited for the plot that never happened.

  • I enjoy comedic stories. Tongue-in-cheek mayhem. This story starts as a nice one, but lacks a punchline.

    I so, wanted it to work. Not only because of the challenge of it being a second person POV, but because of the dark humor added to that.

    I think that story ramps up the “anger” well. Add another paragraph or two to give us the “dirty” detail that we, the floor, are guilty.

  • I enjoy comedic stories. Tongue-in-cheek mayhem. This story starts as a nice one, but lacks a punchline.

    I so, wanted it to work. Not only because of the challenge of it being a second person POV, but because of the dark humor added to that.

    I think that story ramps up the “anger” well. Add another paragraph or two to give us the “dirty” detail that we, the floor, are guilty.

    Edit: The POV, isn’t really second the whole way through. It starts clearly with first person. I think it edges towards second as the story progresses with the prolific use of “You…” 🙂

  • Genghis Bob

    My guess is, Linda’s a goner. That’s all it is, though – a guess. ‘Cause this story is too cute by half, and cutes itself right out of being a real narrative. This story could have redeemed itself with just a passing reference to Linda at the end, tying things together while still retaining the aura of mad ambiguity.

  • Genghis Bob

    My guess is, Linda’s a goner. That’s all it is, though – a guess. ‘Cause this story is too cute by half, and cutes itself right out of being a real narrative. This story could have redeemed itself with just a passing reference to Linda at the end, tying things together while still retaining the aura of mad ambiguity.

  • This is risky business trying to pull off a complete story without actually writting one, and I understand your effort but settlement for an ending would have done a world of good.

  • This is risky business trying to pull off a complete story without actually writting one, and I understand your effort but settlement for an ending would have done a world of good.

  • This story left me wanting more. That is a lot better than leaving me wanting less 🙂

  • This story left me wanting more. That is a lot better than leaving me wanting less 🙂

  • S Conroy

    I was rivetted fromt the start of this one, but still not too sure I’ve got it. I’d put my bets on Take 1: He’s got a terrible illness (the demon cancer) and is keeping it from the family. ET phone home. Take 2. He’s been sniffing white powder and has a nose bleed. Another demon altogether.

    • Samantha

      The white powder you mention is laundry detergent/powder, right? Or even baking soda can be caustic….

      • S Conroy

        Yes indeed. To clean his nose :-). But unluckily for Linda this was a red herring.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      I think he murdered her in a blackout (rage? drunkenness? white powder?) and is just waking up…

      • S Conroy

        Think you’ve got it. By jove you’ve got it.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    I’m assuming Linda slit her wrists in the bath – hence the round (gravity) blood drops. I enjoyed the characterisation, but was left waiting for the story to develop more.

    • S Conroy

      Hadn’t thought of that one..

  • S Conroy

    I was rivetted fromt the start of this one, but still not too sure I’ve got it. I’d put my bets on Take 1: He’s got a terrible illness (the demon cancer) and is keeping it from the family. ET phone home. Take 2. He’s been sniffing white powder and has a nose bleed. Another demon altogether. Thought of attempted suicide or self-mutilation too, but it didn’t really feel like that. Just one more clue, that’s all I want.

    • Samantha

      The white powder you mention is laundry detergent/powder, right? Or even baking soda can be caustic….

      • S Conroy

        Yes indeed. To clean his nose :-). But unluckily for Linda this was a red herring.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      I think he murdered her in a blackout (rage? drunkenness? white powder?) and is just waking up…

      • S Conroy

        Think you’ve got it. By jove you’ve got it.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    I’m assuming Linda slit her wrists in the bath – hence the round (gravity) blood drops. I enjoyed the characterisation, but was left waiting for the story to develop more.

    • S Conroy

      Hadn’t thought of that one..

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    I regretfully concur with those who were unsatisfied.

    Carl, each of your previous stories conjured up its own unique magic conveyed in an authentic voice. I’m not big on folksy so that was a first barrier for me to overcome. I think that’s a challenging voice for revealing increasing madness and terror (old “Twilight Zone” episodes notwithstanding). I needed more iciness in the paranoia here.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    I regretfully concur with those who were unsatisfied.

    Carl, each of your previous stories conjured up its own unique magic conveyed in an authentic voice. I’m not big on folksy so that was a first barrier for me to overcome. I think that’s a challenging voice for revealing increasing madness and terror (old “Twilight Zone” episodes notwithstanding). I needed more iciness in the paranoia here.

  • Samantha

    The Mel Gibson film The Beaver came to mind…The MC definately did something he wasn’t supposed to do and had to clean up “his act” for Linda mainly – if, in fact, she was alive and kicking…My bet is he did something to himself…

    I liked the story especially the introduction (and him eating the “holy tortilla). There is no hint that he is nuts initially. I also liked the narration as it was how a lunatic would think especially the natural language.

  • Samantha

    The Mel Gibson film The Beaver came to mind…The MC definately did something he wasn’t supposed to do and had to clean up “his act” for Linda mainly – if, in fact, she was alive and kicking…My bet is he did something to himself…

    I liked the story especially the introduction (and him eating the “holy tortilla”). There is no hint that he is nuts initially. I also liked the narration as it was how a lunatic would think especially the natural language.

  • Diane Cresswell

    This is an interesting concept – mind wandering over drops of blood that take on a face that looks like the Devil. I do like the way the story was introduced. I was caught reading through the whole story then wondered at the end what was this about. Where did the drops of blood come from? Why was the dialog with the ‘face’ go on for so long? What was the person’s frame of mind doing this diatribe – alcohol… drugs… mental…? I could see this story fleshed out and be quite good. A more indepth ending would definitely complete this one. Liked it anyway.

  • Diane Cresswell

    This is an interesting concept – mind wandering over drops of blood that take on a face that looks like the Devil. I do like the way the story was introduced. I was caught reading through the whole story then wondered at the end what was this about. Where did the drops of blood come from? Why was the dialog with the ‘face’ go on for so long? What was the person’s frame of mind doing this diatribe – alcohol… drugs… mental…? I could see this story fleshed out and be quite good. A more indepth ending would definitely complete this one. Liked it anyway.

  • joanna b.

    I like the writing, I really do. Clean, crisp, clear. (And I do remember so well the upper-class headhunter story.)

    Here, all we get is a glimpse of Linda in the beginning and then know she is dead by the end. Otherwise, it would be, “Linda will bite my head off when she sees this mess,” rather than “Linda would bite … if she saw this mess.”

    I’m 99% sure the mess is Linda.

    I love the title. I would like to see the murder. Or if not that, I would like to see both the MC and Linda more clearly. Not necessarily in dialogue even, but what set him off to murder her. Was Linda a bitch or was she a woman hard put to handle a husband with anger issues? Or both?

    Also, it the story starts with Jesus, maybe that circle should be closed.

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading it, and gave it 4 stars.

  • joanna b.

    I like the writing, I really do. Clean, crisp, clear. (And I do remember so well the upper-class headhunter story.)

    Here, all we get is a glimpse of Linda in the beginning and then know she is dead by the end. Otherwise, it would be, “Linda will bite my head off when she sees this mess,” rather than “Linda would bite … if she saw this mess.”

    I’m 99% sure the mess is Linda.

    I love the title. I would like to see the murder. Or if not that, I would like to see both the MC and Linda more clearly. Not necessarily in dialogue even, but what set him off to murder her. Was Linda a bitch or was she a woman hard put to handle a husband with anger issues? Or both?

    Also, it the story starts with Jesus, maybe that circle should be closed.

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading it, and gave it 4 stars.

  • MPmcgurty

    What’s here is deliciously disturbing! Someone – maybe Linda – was murdered, and the character did it but he’s convinced himself the devil on the floor caused it.

    I agree with Jeff’s view that conflict and resolution are missing. A bit more detail in those areas would also allow you to pace his anger. The first paragraph is amusing and has good voice, but it jumps from that to snarling so quickly and maintains it for so long without revealing much else. I think a more evenly spread transition over well-placed hints to what happened would make this a chilling piece.

  • MPmcgurty

    What’s here is deliciously disturbing! Someone – maybe Linda – was murdered, and the character did it but he’s convinced himself the devil on the floor caused it.

    I agree with Jeff’s view that conflict and resolution are missing. A bit more detail in those areas would also allow you to pace his anger. The first paragraph is amusing and has good voice, but it jumps from that to snarling so quickly and maintains it for so long without revealing much else. I think a more evenly spread transition over well-placed hints to what happened would make this a chilling piece.

  • Carl Steiger

    I was really, really dreading reading the comments today, especially after yesterday’s mob scene. So thanks to all for the instructional observations. There appears to be a consensus that more was needed in the way of an ending, and I’ll take that to the Bank of Lessons Learned.

    As for the voice, I was aiming for “grade school education” rather than “folksy,” but perhaps I missed the mark.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      I think removing the fourth and the second-to-last paragraphs would sharpen the impact here.

    • MPmcgurty

      I got grade school education way more than folksy.

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

        It’s Jeff’s fault. He put that word in my head and then I couldn’t get it out. I keep rereading the story to mitigate the damage…

  • Carl Steiger

    I was really, really dreading reading the comments today, especially after yesterday’s mob scene. So thanks to all for the instructional observations. There appears to be a consensus that more was needed in the way of an ending, and I’ll take that to the Bank of Lessons Learned.

    As for the voice, I was aiming for “grade school education” rather than “folksy,” but perhaps I missed the mark.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      I think removing the fourth and the second-to-last paragraphs would sharpen the impact here. The final line did work for me. I wanted less rambling and more menace in the rest of the story.

    • MPmcgurty

      I got grade school education way more than folksy.

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

        It’s Jeff’s fault. He put that word in my head and then I couldn’t get it out. I keep rereading the story to mitigate the damage…

  • joanna b.

    oh my. i just realized that if my hypothesis was right, that it’s Linda’s blood on the floor and the MC was the murderer, then the devil he’s yelling at in the story is really Linda. he’s saying Linda killed herself. wow!

    Carl, i do appreciate the comment you’ve put on here already but if you want to ring in to say who was whom and what was what, feel free.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      I think he killed Linda in some sort of blackout and now he’s perceiving her blood on the floor in a sort of hallucinatory horror, trying to distance himself from culpability. The evidence of his crime is mocking him…

      • Carl Steiger

        Bingo! There’s plenty of room for other interpretations, but that’s the one I see as most likely.

        • Samantha

          turn it into a novel…great defense to get him of the hook….but wouldnt there be more blood all over the place? Tiles, mirror etc? Where’s the body?

          • Carl Steiger

            I’ll have to enlist Paul Freeman for technical advice on blood spatter. (Actually, the modest amount of blood on the floor could be taken as hopeful sign that Linda may have survived the incident and run far, far away. But this severely unreliable narrator doesn’t have anything to say about that.)

          • Samantha

            that’s what I thought – she’s alive and he must clean up before she “gets back” – in my language Buckley’s chance….

          • Samantha

            The blood on the floor could be all from a dog to hemorrhoids….here’s another twist!

          • MPmcgurty

            She’s dead to me.

        • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

          I know other readers wanted more detail, but I feel that streamlining this–underscoring his awakening horror and trying to escape the blame for his own actions–would be a powerful enough read to do the trick. But of course I thrive on the ambiguous ending…

        • S Conroy

          Thanks. I can finally get closure. 🙂

  • joanna b.

    oh my. i just realized that if my hypothesis was right, that it’s Linda’s blood on the floor and the MC was the murderer, then the devil he’s yelling at in the story is really Linda. he’s saying Linda killed herself. wow!

    Carl, i do appreciate the comment you’ve put on here already but if you want to ring in to say who was whom and what was what, feel free.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      I think he killed Linda in some sort of blackout and now he’s perceiving her blood on the floor in a sort of hallucinatory horror, trying to distance himself from culpability. The evidence of his crime is mocking him…

      • Carl Steiger

        Bingo! There’s plenty of room for other interpretations, but that’s the one I see as most likely.

        • Samantha

          turn it into a novel…great defense to get him off the hook….but wouldnt there be more blood all over the place? Tiles, mirror etc? Where’s the body?

          • Carl Steiger

            I’ll have to enlist Paul Freeman for technical advice on blood spatter. (Actually, the modest amount of blood on the floor could be taken as a hopeful sign that Linda may have survived the incident and run far, far away. But this severely unreliable narrator doesn’t have anything to say about that.)

          • Samantha

            that’s what I thought – she’s alive and he must clean up before she “gets back” – in my language Buckley’s chance….

          • Samantha

            The blood on the floor could be all from a dog to hemorrhoids….here’s another twist!

          • MPmcgurty

            She’s dead to me.

        • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

          I know other readers wanted more detail, but I feel that streamlining this–underscoring his awakening horror and attempt to escape the blame for his own actions–would be a powerful enough read to do the trick. But of course I thrive on the ambiguous ending…

        • S Conroy

          Thanks. I can finally get closure. 🙂

  • Rohini Gupta

    I liked the voice on this one, and I also thought he had killed Linda. The unreliable narrator voice was well done but I was hoping for a bit more from the ending.

  • Rohini Gupta

    I liked the voice on this one, and I also thought he had killed Linda. The unreliable narrator voice was well done but I was hoping for a bit more from the ending.