November 19, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the toilet. You can be funny, serious or prim-and-proper. Any variation of toilet is fair fodder (loo, privy, outhouse, shitter, porcelain throne, potty, latrine, necessarium, little girl’s room, the water closet, powder room, comfort station, etc.).
Toilets. Really? For me? The man described by a colleague as having the epitome of a scatological sense of humour (I had to look it up – new word learnt). Toilets are the centrepieces of our lives. How long do we spend there, I wonder. Someone must have undertaken a PhD on the subject.
For me toilets loom large in the memory bank. The huge high cistern at my grandma’s that, when flushed emptied like the hounds of hell going out to party. I was so traumatised that mum attached string to the chain to enable me to pull it from outside the toilet.
In our toilet in Surrey – I would be about 8 – we had a card saying ‘Wash your hands NOW’ I stared at that NOW, knowing it meant, if I didn’t, Mum would somehow know. I was fastidious through fear ( a theme developing you might think?)
The availability of soft paper for the masses came, like votes for women as something begrudged by the ruling patriarchy. When was that I wonder? Before this giant leap for the rights of man, we were challenged to clean ourselves with this grease proofed rubbish manufactured by Izal. It was even scented to smell like a freshly laundered turd. The sole plus was you never needed more than a sheet at a time – no errant finger poking through – Amongst the many minuses was that it had the absorbant qualities of sealskin. I thought it had died out completely by the mid 80s until, sometime in the 90s I played rugby somewhere near Isleworth and in the corner of the loo stood a veritable Izal mountain – the remaining supplies. It felt like squatting next to an archaeological dig. Or taking part in some bizarre piece of performance art.
At 13 I was dragged into the girls toilets by two girls who terrorised me. I kind of loved it looking back though the memory of the fear-induced sweats still remains fresh (if that isn’t oxymoronic). The sister of the hero in my book, Dina, is named after the chief protagonist.
At uni I shared a flat that had been a squat before I moved in – we had fun trying to find all the hypodermic needles as we cleaned up. My flat mate and I had our 21sts there. About 1am a piece of porcelain fell out of the bowl. ‘Gentlemen are asked to aim left’ read the sign someone wrote. So sophisticated.
I’ve been locked in loos and trapped in toilets. I’ve dropped into the bowl, in no particular order – a watch, three pairs of glasses (not at the same time), a paperback book, two mobile phones, in excess of thirteen pens and pencils, enough newsprint to repaper our house, a packet of mints, four handkerchiefs and a shoe. I’ve watched the water in the bowl drain away unexpectedly and, more worryingly keep filling before overflowing. I’ve stood at gentlemen’s urinals and been propositioned, asked for directions to Rome, questioned about the existence of God, and had my penis unfavourably compared to a gherkin.
My father, from whom I acquired my latrinal fascination told many toilet related tales. I share two. In the army he watched as someone ignored the warning sign saying ‘no smoking, paraffin’ and light up, blowing the latrines and themselves into orbit. Paraffin was used to kill the wildlife that thrived in the open pit. At the other end of the spectrum, he was dining in the House of Lords and went to use the gents. They are, appropriately over the top with velvet walls, deep pile carpets, flunkies to offer you every assistance from the reluctant fly to the resilient drip and brass everything else. An old boy staggered in from some other do and stood next to Dad. He looked around. ‘Never seen the like.’ ‘Dad acknowledged the truth of this assertion. The old boy shook his head. ‘It’s all very well, this opulence but it really does make one’s prick look really shabby.’
And so to the flash.
Mary has decided she will find out who her mother really is but Rupert has teased her with the idea he knows more than she. Will she ask him? Or will she go it alone? And whichever route she goes will she regret her actions?
Mary hesitated before opening the email. Dare she look? She’d had enough shocks already. She regretted rising to Rupert’s jibes. Her bloody half-brother.
‘Mandy Johns is your mum, right? Well she’s also my mum’s cousin.’
He told Mary. ‘She died of eclampsia hours after you were born.’
He showed her a photo; Angela and Mandy were almost identical.
‘There’s more,’ he’d said but she’d thought, ‘Sod you, I’ll not rely on you anymore.’
It had taken her weeks. She scanned the email.
….our records show in 1967 Amanda Johns gave birth to twin girls….
Mary ran for the toilet.
Here’s the link to the rest of Mary’s story so far.