Friday, May 2, 2014

Pooh-Pee Power (Short Story)

I had wanted to participate in Tipsy Lit this week, but my first attempt was steering in a more morbid direction than I wanted to go and attempt number two was getting too preachy for my liking so I bailed on this week's prompt.

Instead I'd like to share with you all a little story I submitted to "Lightspeed" magazine for the "Women Destroy SF" issue.  Sadly it was rejected; but as it was my first real rejection letter I was actually quick thrilled about it!  As I have no further plans for this story I figured I might as well slap it up for for others to enjoy.

It's more speculative fiction than sci-fi.  The intent also was to be satirical but I don't think it swings far enough into the chuckle-realm.  If anything it's a cute idea.  Enjoy!

"Pooh-Pee Power"
Word Count: 1,034

“Mommy, I have to go to the bathroom!” Annette whined.

“Really Annette?” Jackie whined back.  “Can't you hold it?”

“No!” the eight year old declared with a pout.

“Fine,” the frazzled mother sighed, steering her shopping cart over to the nearest wall, wishing Annette would have waited till they were home.

Gone were the days when grocery store restrooms were tucked in the back of the warehouse or in some obscure corner, maintained in questionable states of cleanliness.  Now every business establishment larger than 5,000 square feet had at least one set of gloriously clean, publicly accessible restrooms located along every wall.

You no longer needed to leave your cart outside, you could take right into the stall with you if you so desired.  The contents of one's cart was registered by indifferent scanners before entering and double-checked upon leaving.  Contents could shift around in the cart, but if there was a discrepancy between the two scans, an associate would quickly come over and ask why something was added or removed.  Honestly it was rarely an issue though - people didn't use bathrooms for nefarious purposes anymore.

Jackie led Annette into the spacious ladies room.  She waved her phone over the reader on the nearest stall door and the girl quickly dashed in, leaving Jackie to park her cart in a little nook supplied for such purposes.  The mother flopped herself down on the plush couch next to the nook.  She noticed from the lower placement of the doors on the last two stalls in the row that this store even boasted a couple Eastern-style toilets – nothing more than a hole in the floor with a textured surface on either side so your feet didn't slip when you squatted over it.  This was reportedly a healthier way to relieve oneself than sitting on a pot.  She sighed at the one-upmanship that dominated the toilet industry.

“Are you done yet?” she called to her daughter after a few minutes.  Toilets no longer held water so you couldn't tell if someone was peeing or pooping.  Instead, the said waste products were caught in a beam on the way down and immediately vaporized - turning them into energy.  Yes, the world now ran on “pooh-pee power” – as it was jokingly referred to.

“Yeah,” Annette replied with a little uncertainty.  “There's no toilet paper though.”

Jackie sighed again.  “They're not going to have paper, hon.  There should be a blue button like the bathrooms at school.”

“Found it!”

It was hard for people used to cleaning themselves with toilet paper to give up the habit – Jackie and her family still used paper at home.  You could chuck anything you wanted down modern toilets; anything that wasn't human waste (or menstrual blood) would collect in the bottom of the toilet.  In commercial toilets, the contents would be quietly and instantly incinerated once the stall was vacated – the meager fumes and smoke gently wafted away by a built-in ventilation system.  The collection bucket for home-use toilets however was removable and had to be emptied by hand.  The die-hard toilet paper-users of the world would have their paper cleaned of poo and damp urine once it passed the beam, leaving the discarded paper to fall into the collection bucket, perfectly dry – in theory it was clean enough to use again.  Jackie had never tried that though.

The modern way to clean one's self was to hit a button which turned the beam upward where it would make quick work of any "remains" clinging to one's nether regions.  There was an odd tingling sensation when the beam hit something it could dissolve, but it was deemed safe and no studies had yet to conclusively prove that any harm came from direct contact with the toilet beam.  In fact, Jackie had to reach into a restaurant toilet once to retrieve her dropped phone with no ill affects to her hand or the phone.

“Annette!” Jackie warned after a bit more of a wait

“It's still tingly Mommy!” the girl called back cheerily.

Yet another long-suffering sigh escaped her lips.  “Open your cheeks a little so it can get everything.”  She actually kind of needed to go too, but she was going to wait.  Jimmy was away at summer camp so there was one less person using the toilet at home.  The house batteries were doing fine, but she really hated pulling off the grid any more than they needed to.  She had heard that cases of kidney, bladder and bowel problems were on the rise because people would only use the bathroom in specific locations (like home).

“Done!” Annette announced, leaving the stall and returning to her mother.

“Wash your hands,” Jackie said.

“Why?” the little girl asked, annoyed.

“Because it's a public bathroom; wash you hands!”

Kids weren't even taught hand-washing in school anymore.  There simply wasn't a reason to since hands never got near excrement.  Jackie was old-fashioned though and always insisted.  Sinks were still in bathrooms just in case a woman got some blood on her hands when changing her tampon.  People did still like to wash their hands before and/or after a meal and food prep workers also still needed to wash their hands before returning to work – though Jackie had a feeling that law would die out within the next decade or so.

Once Annette's hands were washed and dried, Jackie retrieved her cart and returned to her shopping.  The one consolation of the detour was she'd get a small discount on her purchase.  Businesses wanted people to use their restrooms as the energy produced went straight towards the onsite power.  Places that used to post signs sternly declaring “Restrooms for paying patrons only”, now displayed cheeky invites like “Get your butt in here”, or “Stop here if you gotta go”, or “We'd love your business after you do your business”.  To encourage restroom use, businesses almost always offered discounts for “contributions” – tracked via people’s phones.  When Jackie paid for her groceries by waving her phone over the payment node at the register, Annette’s use of the stall would take a few cents off Jackie’s total.

Kind of strange how commerce had changed so much because of pooh.

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