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November 19: Flash Fiction Challenge

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Wolferick III has claimed a crack between the wall and wooden frame that encloses a porcelain Yooper Pooper in the basement. Yes, I have a random toilet downstairs and a wolf spider on guard duty about five squares of toilet paper away from the seat.

It’s hard to know where to go next with this story. Do I tell you about the spider or the toilet? Today is World Toilet Day so porcelain wins top billing in this tale. At one time, my toilet stood alone in the open expanse of space where homeowners stored their coal for winter heat. A large antique sink, something I’d call a laundry tray, is mounted next to the toilet.

In 1859, the Quincy Mining Company founded the city of Hancock whose modern population is 4,549 people, give or take several hundred Finlandia College students. Quincy Mine with its massive hoist house sits on the hill above my house on Roberts Street. This was a working-class neighborhood where miners worked the shaft called Old Reliable for 83 years.

In the blip of existence, 83 years is a grandma still driving on her own. But in US mining time, 83 years was stability for two or three generations before it joined the boom and bust cycles prevalent out west where I grew up. Someone constructed my home when work felt stable enough to commit rock foundations and pipes to a family dwelling, around 1905.

My neighbor has a ghost of a toilet past in her basement. She reminded me that in addition to toilet and sink, builders included a drain. It’s handy because I can hose the toilet the way I used to clean bathrooms as a teen when I worked for a state park campground with six public restrooms.

While it makes sense that the lone basement toilet provided a place for a dirty miner to clean up before entering the upstairs living areas, the drain feature hints at another use. My friend and historian, Robin Hammer Mueller, shared an article with me that explains old-time plumbing. The toilet downstairs acted as an overflow in case of a backup.

Or, as other friend said, it was Grandpa’s toilet, Dad’s toilet, something to claim with pride in the dark recesses of the house.

If you read Robin’s shared article, let me explain the difference between a Pittsburg potty and a Yooper pooper — location. Da Yooper is someone from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and you can glean many insights from these authentic locals, including a brief look at an outdoor toilet also known as a Yooper pooper:

My local friends have also informed me that a baby from the UP is also a Yooper pooper, so it’s an informative phrase.

As for the lone toilet, Minnesota has dem too, ya, sure, you betcha (I still remember how to speak Minnesotan).

Maybe we laugh because poop is an uncomfortable topic despite the fact that everyone does it. Listen to Morgan Friedman. He reads Everybody Poops by Taro Gomi (I once heard an Elvis impersonator read this book at a Montana vaudeville show and it is burned into my brain as hilarious). Morgan is more dignified.

But for many, toileting is no laughing matter. Another friend informed me that over 850k people a year die because of a lack of proper toilets. In previous years of following World Toilet Day, I found out that girls and women are susceptible to rape when trying to find a place to go. Imagine the stress and worry.

When I didn’t have a toilet to call my own, I developed a hyper-vigilant bladder and once faced a charging moose to get to a vault toilet because I had to poop. Yet, I also wonder, how did everyone poop thousands of years ago? I’d love to know how Indigenous ancestors lived as one with the land, not contaminating their environment.

Would humanity solve toileting issues if we mentioned it more in literature? How often does a novelist mention toilets in a book? Do you? Well, now is your chance to practice writing about toilets. We will get back to Wolferick III another time.

TWO WEEK DEADLINE: due to the holiday in the US, Carrot Ranch is taking an extended week break. Stories are due December 1.

November 19, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that glorifies a toilet. Capture the marvel and status and love for a contraption we’d rather not mention. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by December 1, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

The Prized Possession by Charli

Opal prized something more than her grandmother’s Corning teapot. Leonard had hollowed a dead tree in spring after thaw. He and three pals from the mine heaved their backs and pickaxes to carve a year-round drainage system for their new home below Quincy Mine. It made the attic space above her uncle’s bar more tolerable to know she’d soon have a home for her children. The hardwood floors and oak staircase were fine craftsmanship, but the porcelain seat downstairs captivated Opal’s awe. Who’d have thought such privacy existed? For the love of God, she’d have her own inside toilet.



  1. Taking a potty break, Boss?
    The Saloon will remain open and remains a plumb fun place to hang out.
    Come by and take up a stool.

    Liked by 8 people

  2. denmaniacs4 says:

    Toi Let or not to Toi Let

    Sometimes the prompt is rather iffy,
    I rarely dwell on it;
    I jot down thoughts…in a jiffy,
    A flash, a song, a sonnet.

    Yes, I have raw writer’s remorse,
    A dose of white porcelain regret,
    You write your bit, stay the course,
    complete your work, your sweet vignette.

    And then one day, a newer tone,
    A wondrous prompt, a flash quite spiffy.
    An account of the basement zone,
    The tailback john, the backup biffy.

    We had but one in my long ago,
    It opened to the kitchenette.
    We would watch the traffic flow
    from table et to loud toilet.

    Liked by 7 people

  3. Chel Owens says:

    This is the oddest prompt ever, but I also can’t get over how you’d let Wolferick hang around. He’d be evicted at my place.

    Enjoy your break (please!)!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      I’m fine with Wolfrick, Chel. Wolf spiders eat black widows, so handy company to have around. He’s not troublesome. He did have a predecessor who caused a spontaneous rodeo in the kitchen one day but that involved a cat, too. My break begins in two days! Thanks!

      Liked by 4 people

  4. So excited to see this post, Charli. This is the first time in 5 years I haven’t put out a new post for World Toilet Day and you’ve done it! Will be back later to read the full post but your ff beautifully sums up why this issue is so important. Thank you for spreading the word.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. I’ve got spider living next to my toilet too. When I’m sitting there I watch the spider (I don’t know it’s name) explore the wall and the floor. They seem to like toilets…

    I can’t think I’ve mentioned any of my characters using a toilet. I’ve mentioned bathrooms though. I mentioned Melissa showering in My Life in Darkness and looking at herself in the bathroom mirror. I’m not aware of any fiction I’ve read specifically mentioning characters going to the toilet. In Lord of the Rings the hobbits go from the Shire to Mordor without needing to poop it seems. Maybe it was a lack of roughage in their diets.

    I didn’t know there was a World Toilet Day until now. I will have to think on it. It’s not something I particularly like writing about, hell I even try to avoid toilet humour…

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Gloria says:

    I didn’t know there was such thing as world toilet day! 850k people a year die because of a lack of proper toilets? Wow! We really do take our toilets for granted. When I’m travelling, I like to know I have access to a toilet. I can’t relax fully until I know where the toilets are in a restaurant or a pub.
    Actually, toilets feature a lot in my dreams. And they’re never private, always out in the open. Wonder what that means!
    Enjoy your week off Charli!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Anne Goodwin alerted Carrot Ranch to World Toilet Day five years ago and if she reads this, I hope she’ll share a link to a short story she wrote a correspondence between a woman inconvenienced by a bathroom renovation and a schoolgirl in another country who has no access to toilets.

      I understand the need to know where the toilets are when out, Gloria! Pee anxiety exists. I think it’s a basic need for safety. I’ve had such dreams, too. Like deciding, I’ll pee here and no one will notice even though it’s in the midst of people! I usually wake up and realize I have a real need to go.

      Thank you! I’ll enjoy my week!

      Liked by 4 people

  7. […] This was written with the prompt of story that glorifies a toilet provided by the Carrot Ranch November 19 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]


  8. […] Flash Fiction Challenge: Toilet […]


  9. Great post and prompt for a critically important day in the world. ❤️🚽🧻

    Liked by 2 people

  10. An interesting topic, Charli. H.R.R. Gorman asked a similar question a short while ago and I realised that I write about toilets quite a bit. I set whole scenes in toilets. Hmmm.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Perhaps living in a poorer country you’re more aware of the importance? Does SAfrica have Blair toilets in rural areas like they have in Zimbabwe?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Possibly, Anne. We do still have pit toilets here and every now and then there is a terrible story about a child falling into one and sometimes dying down there. Shudder! Government has tried to install chemical toilets in many of the squatter camps and informal settlements, but a large number of people share one toilet. Since C-19, government has tried to install water tanks in rural areas where people still didn’t have water [you wonder why they waited for a crisis?]. I am currently involved in a fund raising project to raise money to install a toilet block in an inner city school that doesn’t have one. I feel a need to say that the poverty in Africa is a real thing, but it is partly a result of government’s choices on spending. Private jets, expensive cars, and overseas trips for everyone working in government tend to deplete the resources available for upliftment of the masses.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Our poverty in the UK isn’t as extreme and we do have toilets, but corruption in government is no different. The most recent is millions spent on accessing PPE that wasn’t fit for purpose, but the ministers’ friends lined their pockets. Yet people voted for them!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Tanks Anyway

    “Pal, where ya headed? We need ta confer on the Saloon schedule.”
    “Stand jist outside the door if’n it cain’t wait, Kid.”
    “Ah, shift, yer headed ta the outhouse!”
    “Nope. Shorty’s brought plumbin’ ta the bunkhouse, got us a flush toil-it. Now shut the door or it’ll be a blush toil-it.”
    “Well don’t toil too long in there. What was wrong with the outhouse anyway?”
    “Don’t be anti-septic Kid. My home is my castle, an’ I reckon I’ll set on the throne a while.”
    “Jist hurry.”
    “Won’t be rushed. An’ no job is finished till the paperwork is done.”

    Liked by 2 people

  12. […] It’s been a long old while, but I thought, I have to get back to creating, and why not start with one of Charli’s 99-word fiction challenges! […]


  13. Ritu says:

    It;s been a while, Charli, but I’m back with my first fiction, since August!

    Liked by 3 people

  14. […] Author’s Notes: It’s a Friday. Revenge Awaits a story. Call it Friday Fact or Fiction. Some stories will be 100% fact (or close to it) while others will be 100% fiction. Most will be a little bit of both. You, the reader, can delight in speculating where the story belongs.Today’s entry is in a category known as flash fiction. There are many other names (micro, mini, nano, etc) and a variety of different lengths (one-word stories, six-word stories, 12-word stories, 100 words, 500 words.) Carrot Ranch is a dynamic online literary community for those practicing their craft, reading stories, and discussing the process. Charlie Mills hosts the weekly Flash Fiction challenge which limits stories to 99 words – no more, no less. This week’s challenge is to write with the prompt of “toilet.” […]


  15. How an’ Zen

    “Sorry, Kid, didn’t see ya in there.”
    “Well I am. Kin shut the door anytime Pal.”
    “Yep. Ya remin’ me a thet statue, The Thinker.”
    “Settin’ an’ thinkin’, Pal.”
    “Yep. ‘Cept might be more acc’rate ta call ya The Stinker.”
    “Funny. The door?”
    “What’re ya thinkin’ ‘bout?”
    “Was readin’ here ‘bout a Zen master asked a monk, ‘Where will ya go after death?’ Monk says, ‘’Scuse me fer a minute, I gotta go to the toil-it.’”
    “Deep shit, Kid.”
    “Yep. After, might go set in the Poet-tree, write an ode ta the commode.”
    “Pal. The door’s still ajar…”

    Liked by 1 person

  16. […] If you want to participate, here’s the link:  CARROT RANCH […]


  17. floridaborne says:

    Oh….this had so many possibilities. I settled on “sinister.”

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Ode de (bleep)

    In the fifties in the USA
    on TV this was a word you couldn’t say.
    ‘Powder your nose’ if you were a ma’am
    or ‘see a man about a dog’ if you were Sam.

    ‘Bathrooms’ were allowed but never an inkle
    that this was where you went for a tinkle.
    I suppose it was for our moral improvement;
    that ‘To Let’ was born from creative vowel movement.

    Here in Australia we were proud of our dunny*
    where we deposited our stools, either firm or runny.
    Amongst the redbacks* and the daily news,
    be it Number Ones or Number Twos.

    Dunny – Australian slang for (bleep)
    Redback – Venomous Australian spider, inspiration for the song ‘Red Back On The (bleep) Seat

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Hi Charli
    I remembered reading Mary Roach’s
    “Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void” (2010)
    — 😅hilarious as she writes about space travel & the human body — including going to the toilet!


    Liked by 1 person

  20. Norah says:

    Enjoy your break. May you find much to be thankful for on Thanksgiving Day. It was interesting to read about your Yooper Poopers. As Doug says, here in Australia we have the dunnies and, if anyone was lucky enough to have a flushing toilet, a redback on the toilet seat and a frog under the rim of the toilet bowl. What fun!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. […] Carrot Ranch 11.19 TWO WEEK DEADLINE: due to the holiday in the US, Carrot Ranch is taking an extended week break. Stories are due December 1.November 19, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that glorifies a toilet. Capture the marvel and status and love for a contraption we’d rather not mention. Go where the prompt leads! MLMM Sun. Writing ‘Tormented’ OLWG 183 she just gets it// she lies// all done with mirrors Imprompt 11.22 Down to Earth […]


  22. Jules says:


    I’ve known of other homes that had ‘Thrones’ in the middle of the basement. No walls. There’s actually one in a relatives home, but it also has a large basin and and open shower area for washing large dogs (though they don’t have any dogs at the moment. Maybe it was for ‘washing up’ before entering the main part of the house. But it is rather strange to have it there out in the open.

    Anyway… I was waiting for the right set of prompts to incorporate this into my running saga and I think I managed with another haibun with a tau ku opening:

    (35) Damned Family (Jesse’s Uncomfortable on the Golden Throne)

    tormented visions she sees
    all flushed
    her cheeks reflected in mirrors

    Jesse tried to use the fancy Presidential suites commode. There were just too many mirrors. Looking at her reflection – her thoughts were far from down to earth flopping between “She just gets it” or “She lies”.

    Norman’s journal wasn’t really revealing much. Even the pages with invisible words that she brought to life with ultraviolet light. It’s just smoke and mirrors – what was Norman up to. She found a name though that didn’t fit. She’d known him as Norman North… she’d found an invisible acrostic with ‘Mae Norwich’.



  23. Sometimes the only homelike comfort sits alone in the middle of no man’s land.

    Aged Timbers
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    His hat tipped back on his head, a visitor of years rests on a creaky wooden seat smoking his pipe. Wispy tendrils of smoke drift through the doorless entry. From behind relaxed eyelids, the memories sidle across the meadow.

    He appreciates the slightly askew structure. The only building still standing in these parts. A welcome respite after hours in the saddle. More comfortable than the log his bare behind would have sat on had he trailed the heifers across the creek.

    He wondered how long the aged timbers would stand. He’d miss this old friend and their quiet conversations.


  24. I skipped a lot of comments, but I wanted to say I really appreciate crappy posts like this one.

    Also, as your historical columnist, I will put what I can into context about Ancient Poopin’. While ancient man was all spread out, it was a lot like camp pooping today: dig a scat hole, cover it up. Use a leaf or – sadly common – your hand to wipe with. I’d assume New Worlders used corn cobs for quite some time, since that’s not too bad at all.

    Once you get cities, that’s when pit latrines start popping (or pooping) up. Those are the ones you hear about as being dangerous for women and girls, or the ones where tons of infections sprout up. Some of the most dangerous pit latrines are in India simply due to the overuse of the land for the purpose.

    How do I know any of this? Prof. Michael Hoffman (see here gave a lecture at my university about new toilet technologies for the developing world. Check it out – the tech is really neat, and they’re already starting to make a difference in faraway nations! When he gave the talk in 2017, they’d worked out a lot of bugs that still existed when the article was posted. They used electrochemical reactions to rid the wastewater of contaminants and recycle the liquid while pretty much vaproizing the carbonaceous material. The main problem at the time was the use of expensive catalysts, but that’s mostly been solved now. The other problem they talked about was how people in some places associate the smell of bleach with “dirty” rather than “clean”; because their initial design created a sort of chlorine byproduct and thus a bleachy smell, they had to rework everything so women, especially, would use their toilets.

    Really cool sh*t. Bravo!


  25. Ruchira Khanna says:

    My take on the toilet:

    Take a good rest Charli and let’s come back recharged. Lots to be thankful for.


  26. When I thought of a toilet, my first thought was the many times that I have escaped to the bathroom for a moment of peace. Being a mother of 4, I have had many moments of sitting on the toilet to have a moment of peace.


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