Not Allowed (Jane Doe Flash Fiction)

Carrot Ranch December 1 flash fiction challenge: In 99 words (no more, no less), write about something or someone not allowed.

Jane forks over a hard-won two dollars and tucks the Gatorade in her bag. “Can I have the code to the restroom, please?”

The man shakes his head shortly: No.

“But I’m a customer.”

“It’s after eight o’clock. Employees only after eight.”

They stare at each other, an impasse. Maybe if she’d ordered a sandwich. Too late now. Jane turns her back on his smirk.

Out on the street, she hands the Gatorade to shabby man by the door, curled against the dirty bricks. Westlake Tower is a few blocks away – maybe the shopping center is still open.

Public domain.

A week late and several dollars short, this post responds not only to Charli’s prompt, but to the United Nations World Toilet Day this past November 19, recognizing that ten percent of the world’s people lack access to sanitary toilet facilities. Go ahead, picture the ramifications. My thanks to Norah and Anne for bringing my attention to this, and encouraging me to break the taboo and at least begin to address this issue faced by my fictional homeless Jane Doe and billions of other people around the world, homed or otherwise. It is not just a homeless issue; it is a basic sanitation and human rights issue.

Most large cities and many smaller ones lack public toilets. Of course there also laws against urinating, defecating, or sleeping in public. Instead of doing something constructive about the problem (and remember that non-homeless people often need a restroom when they’re out and about, too), we issue tickets to poor people who have nowhere else to go and no money to pay the ticket anyway. Tickets like that pile up, become criminal summons and a record, preventing a person from qualifying for a job, benefits, or housing. And that’s just one way in which poverty has become a self-perpetuating, criminal act.

Like that’s going to make the problem going away.

Many years ago when I was a 911 dispatcher, we got a call about a bank hold-up. The robber was calmly and slowly walking away from the scene. He was an older man, in his eighties, who had just lost his wife and his home and had nowhere to go, no one to turn to. He wasn’t armed, although he’d said he was. But even tell a bank employee you have a gun and demand money, and guess what? You’ve got three hots and a cot for at least ten years. The arresting officer, a very kind man and a true good cop, was almost crying as he finished the booking.

This is a vignette from The Life and Times of Jane Doe. Fun and introspective flashes from other Rough Writers and Friends can be found at the link above.


Author: Deborah Lee

I like trees, dreaming, magic, books, paper, floating, dreaming, rhinos, rocks, stargazing, wine, dragonflies, trains, and silence to hear the world breathe.

7 thoughts on “Not Allowed (Jane Doe Flash Fiction)”

  1. Your literary work, The Life and Times of Jane Doe, is going to have a huge impact. This is what can be so powerful about literature. And your post is the kind or articles or essays you can write to support your book after it publishes. When I think of toilets now, I get angry. Yet, when I lost access to toilets, I felt so anxious. In fact, I developed pee anxiety at night where I’d actually wake up afraid I had to pee because I had no where to do it. And then there was the time a moose came between me and pooping…yeah, one day I’ll be able to write about that and laugh. Right now it still feels surreal that I almost got trampled by a moose because of a lack of access. If communities better understood the impact of criminalizing poverty they’d have healthier and happier communities. Great writing!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great post, Deborah, and I’m pleased you were able to combine both challenges in this one. Well done. That’s creative. The situation you described is appalling. I think the situation is worse in the States than here. We do have quite good access to public toilets, though sometimes we have to do as Jane did, and ask for a key, which I prefer not to do. It doesn’t guarantee cleanliness. I don’t see why they can’t be left open in business hours. Other council owned public toilets are always open, I think. I don’t really know. I haven’t used them much at night. When I was a travelling salesperson, I was always on the look-out for public loos. I judged a town by their cleanliness!
    Thanks for the mention and linking to my post. It’s good to keep toileting at the front of everyone’s mind. As it always is if you need to go and there’s nowhere to go.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Oh, Deborah, I’m so glad you managed to take Jane to the toilet – or not. When I was growing up there were lots of public toilets around town but now they are very rare. Some stopped perhaps because of drugtaking but it really seems to society becoming less civilised as time goes on. Both your flash and anecdote about the bank robber are very moving. Thanks for the read.

    Liked by 2 people

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