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.
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.