Washroom Stories

Oddly enough, today I wish to reminisce about bathrooms. The idea came from Irene Waters, the illustrious writer and memoirist.

Her suggestion came at the same time a friend of mine is on vacation, a friend who keeps posting ratings for the various bathrooms she’s visiting. Little did I know that this is an activity she’s indulged in for a few years, supposedly stemming from a terrible experience with one. To this, I can relate. I did not realize how crucial a good seat for relieving oneself became until my first cross-country drive in 2015.

It inspired a star-studded poem:

I’ll tour this grand old land of mine;
I’ll drive from ocean to sea.
I’ll walk where millions walked before,
But,
I’ll not sit where they all …do their business.

Unlike some of the older participants in Irene’s prompt, I haven’t lived through a drastic era of change regarding toilets. Every house I’ve lived in has had what I have now: an indoor model that flushes with the aid of plumbing that enters and leaves the house. No water closets or outhouses. I do not believe I’ve ever lived somewhere with a septic tank.

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Yes, I’m spoiled. And young, I suppose.

I have stayed in less-posh situations. I recall a summer camp one year with limited water and sewage supplies. We were advised to follow the old poem, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.”

My family also spent a couple of summers at a cabin in the woods with its very own outhouse. I still recall the dread of midnight nature calls, shaking my flashlight through the dark and whooshing trees on the path and out to the pit-with-a-door. Due to active imaginations, two of my children are currently afraid of using the toilet alone. They said they imagine a head poking out of the hole and biting them. I don’t know what they would have done with the outhouse in the woods…

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For my part, my only childhood fear of toilets involved imagining an alligator in one. I’ve never lived in Florida nor visited beyond the airport, but had heard a news story to the effect in elementary school. I also feared for spiders and such. I think, as a female, one’s fears are more justified since one always has to sit.

The one advancement in washrooms I have experienced in my lifetime is the automation of its basic functions. Automatic toilets, sinks, soaps, and blowers make using the bathroom a breeze. They also made for many, many times of standing over a peeing child to block the sensor so he does not get flushed on before he’s ready.

In a somewhat-related experience, I recall a music trip to San Francisco in my senior year of high school. For the first time, I encountered public stores that did not offer a public restroom. Also for the first time; I was directed to a public toilet, on the street corner, that utilized two-way mirrors as walls. When inside, a visitor could view everything outside as if he were not within a building at all. My childhood experience of knowing one could see through this glass by getting close did not encourage any desire to use this facility.

I suppose, like my friend, I also note and rank vacation bathrooms. When in Rome, eh?

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Photo Credits:
Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay
Image by Luciana P. from Pixabay
Image by David Rinehart from Pixabay

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

A Serious Question Concerning Hygiene

In my usual tradition for a Wednesday, I wish to delve into a rather serious topic: showers or baths?

You may think this topic isn’t very deep. You may think you will get clean away after reading. You may even think, a quick scrub and a rinse, and Chelsea’ll be on her way…

Well, I’m sorry to burst your bubble bath; we’re going all in.

For one thing, I think one’s choice of one or the other is not as innocent as it seems. Preferring a sprinkle over a soak may point to deeper psychological issues or interesting character traits. Admitting to the long dip over the quick splash may mean more than an interest in ecology.

Think I’m trying to look too far past the surface?

Well! Let’s see. I mean, which do you prefer? Ask my neighbor round the block, and she will tell you she absolutely adores bathing. Ask my husband or I which we would pick and we’ll say, “Shower.”

If questioned further, however, I’d say I could do either. I pick the shorter method because of time constraints. Besides pressing matters at stake as a stay-at-home mother, I also have pressing fingers beneath the bathroom door if I’ve been away for longer than two minutes.

Actually, my husband may be in the same porcelain boat as me, since he showers as if it’s a bath. And turns the water hot enough to boil a lobster. He takes forever and comes out red. Someday I will write the futuristic sci-fi novel The Crustacean Man from Dimension S, and dedicate it to him.

I suppose this isn’t getting too psychological. I’ll just have to take more of each and let you know what other deep thoughts surface.

Until then, which do you prefer? Do you have a solid reason why? As an added query, how do you like your temperature?

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—————

Consider pondering the questions above as you do some field research. If you’re careful in the tub, you may also read up on my weekly update:
Wednesday, January 30: Does money buy happiness? Read “How Expensive is This Happiness Thing?” to find out.
Thursday, January 31: “The Cure for Depression: Get a Paid Friend,” the second suggestion in a series originally posted over at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog.
Friday, February 1: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Michael Fishman!
I also shared Peregrine Arc‘s writing prompt: a heist with a twist.
Saturday, February 2: Announced the eleventh Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. We’re doing nursery rhymes this week. Write one!
Sunday
, February 3: “The Case of the Kitchen Cacophony” for Peregrine Arc‘s writing prompt. I told you it would be fun.
Monday, February 4: An inspirational quote from Deepak Chopra.
Tuesday, February 5 (ish): Shared Susanna Leonard Hill‘s announcement that her Valentiny contest is coming up! It’s next week, so watch for it.
Wednesday, February 6: Today!

 

Photo Credit:
Holger Link

The Eye of the Beholder

Good day, fellow art-lovers. On this fine morning, as you are all well aware, we gather to consider the latest artistic offerings one might find in his local market. Our pieces this day are all found in a curious shop named KSL Classifieds.

Without further ado, then, ladies and gentlemen, let us begin.

Our first sample is titled “Orange.”

Orange

Yes, yes it is. ‘Twould seem the artist felt no other explanation was necessary, and the seller as well. For $45, this… erm, orange, may be yours for the picking. (So sorry; it was too tempting.)

 

If obvious statements are your cachet, then our second item (for a mere $10) will leave you feeling …fabulous.

Fabulous

No, madame, I will not pronounce it as written. Anyone who cannot spell, nor include a photograph instead of a screen shot deserves to be shot. What’s that, sir? No, no. I was simply mumbling about the weather. Terribly hot day, this.

 

Of course, we are not simply purveyors of paltry paintings at this establishment. Those who wish to open their pocketbooks slightly wider may appreciate an original …print of an artwork, crafted by a man known as The Painter of Light.

Kinkade

I can’t help but feel the vendor did little to forward that reputation, by want of a clear lens for photographing. Ah, well, perhaps you may all picture its beauty, and thereby feel compelled to pay the $250 price tag.

 

Although I have studied and promoted creative works for many years, I’ll admit that some popular items still elude my personal preferences. Therefore, if any here express interest in Colombian paintings for their bathroom (as suggested by the seller), I’ll do my best to back them up.

Bottom

I’d say to move quickly on this $135 oil painting, but I imagine she’s not going anywhere in a hurry.

 

Our organizers thought this wall “art” might do well to follow the woman at her toilette; I can’t imagine why.

Moon

 

But really, what better place to rid oneself of an entire paycheck than on secondhand art? Take this print, for example, at $300:

Urn

“(B)eautifully framed urn artwork in pristine condition” advertises the owner. I agree. Tai Pan Trading did an excellent job purchasing framed and glassed-in Chinese merchandise, selling them to willing buyers, then closing down once said buyers could pick up their own through Amazon dealers.

 

Esteemed collectors such as you fine people know the value of a good piece. You know, for example, that a Renoit or Rembrandt is worth its sticker -provided one may prove its authenticity.

Therefore, you also know that a piece by an up-and-coming artist no one has heard of (and a name the vendor himself will not list) is most certainly worth $7,000.

Expensive

Since it is also un-titled, we will refer it is as Bird Merchant with an Extra Hand in the Shadow of Random Nudity. Don’t be shy, now; step up and part with the minor sum post-haste.

 

All you fine patrons who have held out for true genius, this final artwork will not disappoint:

Twilight

Twenty-five dollars, ladies and gentlemen. Twenty-five United States currency is all that separates you from artistic perfection.

 

As our session draws to a close, I wish to thank you all for your kind patronage and generous manner. Please feel free to join us in future, whenever we may have material enough to promote once again.

Skinwalkers, I

Nathan’s watch beeped a warning chirp of impending tardiness; a friendly, authoritative sound. Frowning, he glanced down at its innocent display. He smoothed errant arm wrinkles near the expensive band, and returned to his mirror-task.

Cool, panicked eyes of blue looked out from a handsome, even-tempered face. He tried a confident smile, opening a seam near his cheekbone. Hastily, he brought large, artificially-fattened fingers to press at the sides of his neck.

Confidence was always a difficult one for Nathan to master.

He closed the worried eyes, gripped the stuck-down edge of countertop in both hands, and began his meditative-breathing exercises.

*Thumpety, thumpety, thumpet, thumpe, thump, thump, thump* slowed his heart’s percussion-nervous beat.

“I am the boss,” he whispered to the Formica. It dully echoed the end of his words.

Nathan cleared his throat. “I. am. the. boss,” he spoke aloud.

He opened his eyes again, telling himself they now looked self-assured. “I am the boss!” He loudly told them, the chipped sink, the splotched mirror, and himself.

“You sure are!” Came the muted reply from his wall-neighbor.

“Thanks, Franks,” he called, sarcastically.

“No prob, Boss!” Franks yelled back drunkenly. “Now, go to work and let us lazy asses sleep!”

Nathan took a breath in through his nostrils, and out slowly through his lips. Realizing a tingling feeling in his actual fingers, he released the countertop. He yanked convulsively at the top bathroom drawer; revealing toothwash, razor, eyedrops, and sundry hairs and paint chips. He withdrew the bottle of drops, dusted it, removed its stopper.

Carefully tilting his head back against its facial folds, he inserted a single drop into each twitching orb.

Immediately, a burning pain filled his ocular sensors. He tried not to wince nor rub at his eyes; resisted crying or yelling. Franks was trying to sleep off a hangover, after all.

Almost as soon as it had begun, the pain receded. That, or Nathan had acclimated. He was never quite sure. He glanced, again, in the mirror. A hazy reflection stared back at him with very solid, somewhat red-rimmed eyes.

Nathan tried to smile. Perfect.

 

Read Skinwalkers, II.

 

Sleep Tight, Continued

Continued from Sleep Tight.

I can only blame my grandfather. “You like antiques,” he’d told me, smiling. He didn’t smile often, so that should have clued me in. He also loved a bargain; to the point of renting the discounted room, that smelled of everything used, if the motel clerk knocked the price down so low that most people would smell a rat. Literally.

“You need somewhere to live for a while,” he’d added. “I won’t even charge you rent till you get back on your feet.” Being my own grandfather, most people would see this as generosity. In my present, stressful circumstances, I think I convinced myself of this as well.

“You like antiques,” I mimicked, as I re-tied the kerchief around my sweating hairline. I checked it in the hallway mirror, which returned a distorted, musty outline of my strained features. I heard Sam yelling outside, but he was calling his brothers to play in the mud pile. It was better than the potentially-poisonous foliage.

I sighed. I would clean the bathroom next.

The bedrooms had made my skin crawl. Well, they’d made it feel like something was crawling on my skin. My hesitant inspection of the bathroom, safely conducted from the doorway, had the added sensation of my stomach reacting. I never could handle mold. That was one reason why I would sleep in the car over the discounted motel room option. Grandpa would say I’d get used to it, but I didn’t. The mold would grow in my mind the way it was surely growing inside the walls, entering the air sacs of my children’s lungs and poisoning them for life.

I not only smelled mold, I could see it. Someone, somewhere along the line (probably another victim of a well-meaning patriarchal relative) had installed more modern plumbing in this room and the kitchen. By the looks of things; that person had cleared the space needed for improvements, installed them, then left them victim to whatever time wished for decades. I assumed that was the reason for the water damage.

Browning spots, circled darkly then fading to the middle, were splashed around the crumbling plaster walls. The floor looked sound, at least. It was filthy like the rest of the house, but whole. There were probably creatures holing up under the sink cabinets, but we weren’t going to fall through to the basement.

I didn’t see the bathtub until I was brave enough to stick my head in farther. It sat very solidly against the door-wall, and the sight of it was the first time I considered a word like haunted. Then, of course, I told myself I was too old to feed my phobias and I’d watched too many scary movies about bathtubs (two, to be precise).

Whenever I saw a free-standing antique tub, I couldn’t help but hyperventilate a little. My mind would detach just slightly from the concrete world at hand and, instead, see hands groping the air above the too-deep water as a murderer shoved a helpless body down into the porcelain depths where no human had strength to prise the ancient stopper from the drain.

Laughing and yelling, the sounds of play, the sunlight bravely glancing in through bubbled glass, all helped to bring me back to the crusted, spotted ground on which the tub sat. “Just a tub,” I told myself. I kept telling myself.

This mantra sustained me through sweeping, dusting, bleaching, and scrubbing. It barely hummed when I first turned on the water, though. “It’s just rust,” I added, for good measure. I impatiently watched the dark liquid splash around the bathtub I’d just sanitized. “Just a tub. It’s just rust.” I told my mind to stop seeing what the water really resembled, even as I couldn’t help but glance over my shoulder or around the room.

Maybe it would have helped me to know they didn’t like the bathroom, either.

Keep reading to Sleep Tight, III.