In August, we bring a set of new full-time writers to the blog. Please welcome Gabrielle Eisma (’22), who will be writing for us on the 11th of each month. Gabrielle graduated Calvin with a BFA in studio art and writing in 2022. She’s from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she now works as a writer and illustrator for books for (mostly) children.

We gathered in holy silence in the driveway.

My dad had a grin on his face—the one my brain, regardless of circumstance, read as potential puppy surprise. His calloused hand was on the back of the suburban.

The trunk crept skyward, the glass reflecting my mom’s terrified face. The surprise was unveiled.

“And it was free!”

The side of the road in the Grand Rapids Metropolitan area was my father’s excavation site, a carefully constructed map of Craig’s List car parts and discarded Johnny Cash CDs—and right in front of us sat the holy grail of roadside finds.

A gently-used, porcelain toilet.

“A free. Kohler. Toilet. You’re looking at a catalyst here,” Dad said, arms wrapped around the seat as he waddled it into our house’s unfinished basement. “Imagine walls, a wood floor instead of cement. Imagine being able to have the cousins over, or having your own room.”

I could imagine it. My two sisters and I slept in the same room, me on the bottom bunk. Each night, before I could sleep, I would count the wooden slats holding the mattress above me. There were twenty-seven. I’d count, then close my eyes. Twenty-seven.

Then my throat would constrict, and I’d count again.

I looked back to the toilet.

“I bet Noah started his ark project with a toilet, too,” dad said.

He looked at the toilet, catching my eye with a light that told me he already saw the heavenly cubit instructions.



I’d taken an indigo crayon one night, glaring at those twenty-seven bunk bed bars. Crawling along my bedspread, I wrote each individual number out. Twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four. They were crooked in the neighborhood’s single streetlight. Twenty-seven.

There were always twenty-seven. And now, I could see the undeniable proof in blue lettering.

And it hadn’t fixed it.

My face burned.


I learned how to use a nail gun. We wore safety goggles my dad brought from work. Noah’s sons probably didn’t get as much instruction from their dad before their boat project began. And, while our toilet-inspired project was met with the same amount of skepticism, the drywall shipment came. Miraculous.

As dad held the nail gun, we were the buttresses holding the sheet flush to the wall. My sisters and four-year-old brother would then rotate for nailing privileges.

With a nail gun in hand, I was unstoppable. I figured as long as I could bring my dad, building the New Heaven and Earth would be easy. I wondered why God hadn’t hired dad earlier—he’d be halfway done by now.

Then we had to drywall the ceilings.

My siblings and I went from buttresses to columns, wobbling under the drywall weight on the commandeered kitchen table, books, and our Uncle Dan.

My tip-toes cramped then collapsed. The drywall rocked under the nail gun, which missed the board beneath with a crack. 

Then the drywall was coming down, my siblings were shouting, and Uncle Dan was holding everything and my dad as he and the nail gun threatened to fall off the edge of the dining table mom didn’t know we were using.

When the dust settled, I decided it was best if the New Heaven and Earth was built by professionals.


The basement was so close to finished—the drywall, caulking, painting, electric, and floor completed. That day, Dad would work on installing the final piece of his master vision—the roadside toilet.

I was upstairs with mom. She looked at me, then my numbered bunkbed, then back at me, her face changing to an emotion I couldn’t place.

Then a crash rumbled the earth—the sound of a thunder clap after lightning struck your backyard. Mom and I ran down the stairs, down the basement to where dad was working.

I skidded to a halt behind her. She­ had both hands over her mouth.

I didn’t know porcelain could crumble like that.

“Give me a minute,” Dad said. “Just… give me a minute.”

The toilet had nearly proved those biblical no-flood promises wrong, water seeping into the new baseboards and floor. Only the lid of the tank was left behind in the destruction. The toilet itself had returned to dust.

“We’ll pick up the pieces,” my mom said, padding through the wreckage.

“I can do it,” Dad said.

“That’s not what I mean.”

We’ll pick up the pieces. Because our catalyst was in shambles, and my socks were soaked, but I was staring at drywall that I had helped paint, standing on a floor Dad and I had built together. I had learned how to face impossible odds with improbable solutions. He had taught me. We did hard things—really hard things—faced them head on with our tool belts of crayons and nail guns. Now Mom—the emergency contact after the drywall cracked over our heads, after I didn’t think I could do one more night in my head, when the toilet was reduced to nothingness—would teach both of us how to move forward.

“I know,” Dad said.

And I knew it, too.


  1. Geneva Langeland

    Love the little comic!

  2. ashlyn

    I remember you telling this story in grade school but I think your perspective then was a little less deep and more just about the craziness of the toilet falling apart 🙂

  3. Hannah Riffell

    As always, Gabbie, you write with so much love and wonder and humor. It’s been such a joy to read your writing, from freshman year to hopefully forever.


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