Devil’s Triangle—that’s how he remembers it, though he discovers later that it’s actually Satan’s Triangle. They watch it at Granny Laws’s house with their cousins on a slow summer day when their parents head out to be with each other.
The TV is ancient—you can change channels by jangling keys in the air. It has maybe six channels. On summer days, if there’s not wrestling entertainment to watch, there are soap operas and reruns of old movies. On this day, they choose the rerun.
What the boy remembers most is that the devil lives in bodies of water. They live in San Antonio, Texas—totally landlocked, and he has not yet even been to a lake.
When they are back home from Utah, he is getting ready for bed one night when he flushes the toilet, watches the water spin around the bowl three times, and then disappear. A terrible thought occurs to him. When he is in bed, he says, “You still awake, Stephen?”
“You gotta be careful if you go to the bathroom during the night.”
“Because the devil lives in the toilet.”
“Nah ah. You’re lying.”
“No really. Remember that movie about how the devil lives in water?”
“The place with water in our house is the toilet.”
“Yeah, and the most dangerous part is when you flush. When the water is going around, that’s when the devil can reach up through the pipe, grab you by the butt, and pull you down through the toilet to hell.”
“What should I do?”
“Jump off and close the lid quick and run.”
“Ok, got it.”
That night, at 3 am, Stephen awakens needing to pee. He bolts from their room, sprints down the hall, crosses the dark and shadowy family room, runs to his mom’s side of the bed, and jumps on her.
“What do you want?” she hisses.
“I need to use the bathroom.”
“Then use the bathroom!”
“Can I use yours?”
“I guess. Just hurry up and get back to bed!”
Stephen will do this every night for the next two years. Their mother will not find out why until the boy is at BYU and writes an essay about stories he used to tell his brother, which will result in a furious call from his mother who will say, “I hope you get similar from your first.”