The Toilet Situation 2

by Patrick Cosgrove

The tsunami was just beginning. We knew the wave was coming. Already smaller waves washed over both sides of the narrow causeway between the mainland and the island. Eventually our bus managed to cross, though it was touch and go for a moment.

We arrived at the school overlooking the cliffs. I couldn't see the rocket but the three cosmonauts were waiting for us. They were small frail-looking men with strange teeth. When they laughed, which they did a lot, all you could see were those teeth, like dirty turquoise runes of different shapes and smoothness; uneven; slightly translucent; and far, far too many of them for each of their individual mouths. Their regulation boiler-suits were ragged, worn through at the knees and elbows. Worn too were their leather skull caps. Radio microphones attached by black rubber tubes dangled from the caps and swayed in front of their faces. They kept batting them away when they spoke. In broken English they proudly told me their names and ages: the youngest, Denis, was seventy five, Alexei was eighty two and Nicodemus was nearly ninety seven.

I decided to go to the shops near the school to stock up on supplies: Crunchie bars, cans of coke and lager, bags of cheese and onion crisps, a few packets of Refreshers. On the way I met Sue. We'd both trained together as student radiographers and, back in those days, she'd been a kind of father figure to me.

"Have you seen those cosmonauts?" I asked her.

"What about them?" she replied.

"They're not very tall," I said.

"No they're not."

"And they're quite… well old aren't they?" I added.

"Yes I suppose they are," she said.

"And I don't think Nicodemus has very good eyesight… he thought I was a woman. He's our pilot isn't he? Imagine mistaking me for a woman! Ridiculous isn't it?" I said.

"Yes," she replied.

She began to flush, red blotches spreading quickly from her face down her neck towards her deep cleavage. An edge crept into her voice.

"I'm sorry Simon but I really have got to be getting on, I'll see you back at the launch pad."

"Maybe it just means they're more experienced," I shouted after her.

Returning from the shops I was spotted by a crowd of locals. I walked on a bit faster down the hill and eventually managed to lose them by wandering into a sparsely wooded area surrounding a playing field. The trees were bare, the skies darkening ominously overhead. Alone with my thoughts, I pondered the toilet situation on the Mirabelle. If I could just go in my space suit (and on a recent visit to the Science Museum I'd seen that it was possible — though the technology was American) then that was O.K — but if I had to go in front of everyone else? In such a confined space? In a weightless environment? The skies cleared and the first stars started to appear. Venus twinkled seductively between the horns of the crescent moon.

Patrick Cosgrove lives and works in London and writes poetry and short fiction. He's been published previously on the Ghazal Page.