"The Boys' Toilets" by Robert Westall (first published in the anthology Cold Feet, edited by Jean Richardson, 1985; reprinted in Westall's collection Ghosts and Jurneys, 1988, and in an anthology edited by Westall, Ghost Stories, 1988)
The January term at a girls' school started with unanounced construction. heavy equipment invaded the school grounds, digging and cruching things and blocking the entrance to the science department. It turned out that there had been an underground leak in the central heating but no one bothered to inform the school officials of this. A quick and angry call to City Hall and arrangements were made for the school to move temporarily across the road to the abandoned Harvest Road boys' school, which had been closed for many years.
The boys' school was in a state of tremendous disrepair -- paint peeling, old equipment and furniture tossed about, dirt almost everywhere you looked, and, if possible, even more grafitti than dirt. The more virulent graffitti refered to someone called Billy Boko. Worst of all was the boys' bathroom tht had been assigned to the girls in 3A. Rust-streaked urinals (a mystery to some of the girls), old cigarette butts, pull chains replaced by thick string like hangman's nooses. every lock broken, toilet seats missing, and -- horror of all horrors -- no toilet paper! As the girls stood outdie the boys' toilet mulling over their terrible fate, the toilets began to flulsh on their own.
Yet needs must. And due to "the fatal weaknesses of feminity," soon the girls began to use the facility. The first was Rebeccah, who was a preacher's daughter. While occupied in her stall, she heard someone come in. No, it was several someones. And it was boys! While she sat, panicked, breathing softly and holding a handkerchef over her mouth, she heard them drag someone into thte stall next to hers. Whoever it was, the boys pushednhis head into the bowl and flushed. Laughing, the perpetrators ran out; a few miutes later, Rebeccah heard a final set of heavy footsteps trudge out.
When Rebeccah returned to the classroon, her friend Liza saw that something was wrong. Curious, she asked to go the the restroom. When she returned, she was flushed and tried to speak. Somehow the class knew then that there was something wrong in the restroom. Their teacher, Miss Hogg, remained clueless.
The next to go was Margie. She came back and reported that there were boys in the restroom. Mis Hogg fearlessly advance to the restroom, determined to put a stop to this nonsense. She returned and headed to the principal's office. Back in the classroom, Miss Hogg berated Margie for her imagination. Then Rebeccah and Liza said that they had heard boys also. Once again Miss Hogg headed to the restroom, with the class triling behind her. She ordered Rebeccah to go into the restroom and do what she would normally do. Rebeccah went into a stall, closed the door and sat down. When she returned nothing had happened. Miss Hogg was once again berating the girls for their imaginations as a toilet flushed. Then, another. And then, another. It started from the far end of the restroom and was getting nearer. More toilets flulshed. Miss Hogg said there must be a problem with the plumbing.
The following Monday, it was Margie's turn to go. Reluctantly she raised her hand. But she did not try to enter the boys' toilet; insead, she snuck outside and tried to used the janitors' toilet but was caught. Mis Hogg, visibly upset, ordered Margie to go to the boys' restroom. Margie went in and Margie came back and sat down. A short while later, Margie bolted out of the classroom. There was a puddle under her chair. She had not gone while in the restroom and valiantly tried to hold it in until it was too late.
The following day after recess, it was Fiona's turn. The shyest girl in class, Fiona came into class dumbstruck. there were wisps of yellow toilet paper wrapped around her arms. She tried to speak but then collapsed. As everyone gathered around the unconscious girl and someone called for an ambulance, Rebeccah snuck out to the restroom. Fiona must have been in the third stall, for the toilt paper roll was empty and the stall was littered with torn toilet paper. By all appearances, Fiona had to claw her way out of the toilet paper.
Rebeccah uses knowledge she learned from her clergyman father to summon who(or what)ever has been causing all the trouble. It is the ghost of a young boy who appears, mummy-like, wrpped in the toilet paper that had strewn over the floor.
A hidden cache, a sadistic headmaster, and a repentent (or vengeful?) ghost all lead to a disturbing ending for Rebeccah.
Robert Westall (1929-1993) was a British art techer and antique shop owner who wrote an amazing array of young adult and children's fantasy during the last decade of his life. He published some two dozen novels and twenty short story collections. He received the Carnagie Medal twice (and twice was a Carnagie Medal "highly commended" runner-up, ond once a "commended" runner-up), the American Library Association Best Fiction for Young Aduts Award, the Guardian's Children Fiction Prize, the Dracula Society Children of the Night Award, the Nestle Smarties Book Prize, and the Sheffield Children's Book Award. He was twice runner-up for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and his 1989 novel Blitzcat was named one of the Hundred Best Books for Young Adults in the Last 25 Years. Much of his fiction for children "cover complex, dark, and adult themes." According to Peter Nicholls and John Clulre, Westall "was at the forefront of those [children's] authors who had begun to respond to their audience's need for more direct confrontation with issues that concerned them." Although much of his writing was for younger readers, adults will certainly enjoy most of his work.
I'm a fan of ghost stories so I'll track this one down. I have a number of ghost stories ready for October leading up to HALLOWEEN...and some vampire stories, too!ReplyDelete
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
[Needed to correct the html.]ReplyDelete
I'll look for this as well. Looked it up at the ISFdb, it has only one rating but an 8.
I think I was not meant to read ghost stories. That one scares me and it is meant for children. And my husband is very fond of ghost stories.ReplyDelete