“Oh man, come here! You have to see this,” Dave says, as he often does, because he’s an enthusiastic guy. And I like enthusiasm, but right now he’s in the toilet, and I’m wary. In fact, based on the previous forty years’ experience, I’m confident I do not need to see this.

We’re not shy people.  I guess there are people who never look at their own poop, but we are not those people. It’s your own creation! Sometimes it’s more Jackson Pollack than Michelangelo but either way it’s something to behold. I’m significantly less interested in beholding someone else’s opus, even if I like that person very much. I never feel the same fondness for the work. I’m perfectly happy to hear a lengthy description, or even a widthy one, but I don’t need to actually lay eyes on it.

“No, really, you have to see this,” he said, emerging from the bathroom and gripping my forearm in such a way that I acquiesce immediately, in order to save time. And he was right. I did need to see this.

The water in the toilet bowl was a deep, saturated viridian green, verging on charcoal.  I glanced at him in alarm but he seemed acceptably perky, and not in the last stages of a legacy disease such as Black Death. Holy shit, I thought, although this was more satanic. And to think some people might  have missed it.

“It’s the ice cream,” he said.

We get our ice cream around the corner. We’ve seen licorice ice cream that was a creamy white, so we know it’s possible. But this stuff is inky. I’d already stained the kitchen sink when I rinsed the bowl. Obviously Dave was deep viridian green all the way through. If he were to have emergency surgery today, they’d slice him open and run away screaming. Dr. House would still be leaning over him with a curious look but the rest of the staff would be halfway across the parking lot.

There might be more food coloring than cream in this ice cream. Why in the world was it necessary to put so much food coloring in the ice cream? There’s no need for black ice cream. We have a fancy ice cream shop down the way that specializes in odd flavors. And sometimes you can taste their ice cream and legitimately wonder which is the lemon verbena + hair conditioner, or the watermelon pickle + mushroom. But licorice isn’t like that. One taste of licorice and you know what you’ve got. If you mistake licorice, you don’t know Barney the Purple Dinosaur from Godzilla.

Well, there’s talk the ancient Egyptians were coloring sweets ages ago, but food coloring didn’t hit its stride  until the 1800s, when people were routinely poisoned by the additions of heavy metals such as lead and copper and arsenic, not to mention bituminous coal. In Germany there were some regulations put in place by 1882 when important people were found to be affected in the form of dropping dead, and in America, the Pure Food And Drug Act of 1906 reduced the number of acceptable food colorings from 700 to 7. Goodbye, Powdered Baboon Butt! So long, Pus Pocket Yellow! Hit the road, Hemlock #5!

Licorice ice cream is colored black in order to meet our expectations for it, just as oleomargarine is dyed yellow to meet consumers’ expectations for proper butter hue, since there’s no improving the flavor.  Now our food additives are strictly regulated for consumer safety, except for Orange B, which has been designated for use only in hot dog casings, where it’s not the coloring that’s going to get you. The remaining acceptable colorings produce only fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, empathy deficiency, and other ailments that the health establishment has determined are imaginary.

Dave’s alarming output continued apace for four days before the toilet bowl contents subsided into a pleasant aqua, but I’m going to report the ice cream company to the FDA. I think they brought back bituminous coal.