Adam Prince


The Profane and the Sacred

One time, my high school girlfriend wanted to shit on me. Or maybe she wanted to shit on me all the time, and here was the moment the thing was expressed.

We were trading fantasies, one for one. And, really, I should have been cautious from the start, since, in my opinion, she’d never been good with one for one.

There was the time, for instance, when she’d asked me to dance around wearing only her pine-needle green silk panties. In exchange, she said she’d dance around wearing only her pine-needle green silk panties. But after my dance, she changed her mind, explaining that the see-saw of the sexes was so far off she was entitled to certain compensatory jerks. Which was hard to disagree with, but made the relationship complicated.

So there was that time and this time, trading fantasies.

“I want you to wear dark red lipstick and give me a blowjob,” I said.

And she said, “I want to shit on your chest.”

An awkward silence then, while I tried to control the muscles in my face from yanking toward an expression of open-mouthed horror. Which is another way of saying that no, I didn’t let her do it. Another way of saying that though I generally saw myself as an open-minded, unconventional person, sensitive to the desires and identities of others, there must be limits even to that, and I’d just arrived at mine. The edge of my visible universe.


Years later, I ran into her at the Denver airport. She had a baby and a small, well-dressed husband: tie and everything. I asked about the baby, and she used words like fulfillment and meaning, while I kept thinking about shit. Her shitting on the husband. The baby shitting on her.

This was before I had a baby of my own, in the days when shit was distant. I didn’t then know about the tar that comes out at first or the breast-fed prelapsarian honey-brown like something you’d put on toast.

And later, the ones that drag the diaper down or run out the back onto blanket and pacifier. Or the hard, ghastly ones, big as her head. You help your daughter grunt them out like some kind of poop doula. Your disgust has somehow jagged into pride, and now you’re sending photos of shit to family and friends.

One day it occurs to you: as the baby gets bigger, so does her shit. It seems the most profound thought you’ve ever had, the most widely applicable and true.


And you remember a time before, when you excused yourself from the restaurant table to go to the bathroom alone for something that happened under you. You washed your hands: finicky, unrushed. Then back to the braised octopus with scallions and tomato confit, the Belgian farmhouse ale, the dust-freckled blonde in a crepe dress who would someday be your wife.






Adam Prince’s fiction has appeared in The Missouri Review, The Southern Review, and Narrative Magazine, among others. His collection The Beautiful Wishes of Ugly Men was published with Black Lawrence Press in 2012. A former Tickner Fellow, he was recently named one of the twenty best new writers by Narrative Magazine. He is married to the poet Charlotte Pence and lives in Charleston, Illinois.