A short history of toilets

When I was four and living in Greensborough my family’s
toilet looked like an upright coffin in the back yard.  It had a hinged flap on the lower back
wall of wooden palings which the dunny-man lifted weekly to drag out the pan.
I looked up through the flap one day and watched the stuff
come out of my little sister’s bottom. 
And she watched mine in turn.
In our next house in Camberwell our toilet was stuck
outside at the back of the woodshed, alongside the briquettes shoot.  I collected discarded cigarette butts
from my father’s ash tray and stole a pack of matches from the kitchen mantel
near the stove.  I learned to light
the scrap of cigarette left above the butt and used the lit stump as a soldering
iron.  I pressed it lightly onto
the toilet paper to form the letters of my initials.  The edge of my ES had a tiny frilled border in copper brown.
In our next house in Cheltenham, an AV Jennings special on
the Farm Road estate, we had two toilets, one inside and one out.  My mother brought outdated Readers
from the old people’s home where
she worked along with the cast offs from dead people, things she thought might
one day prove useful.  Old
spectacles or empty spectacle cases, faded pink nightgowns, matinee jackets,
and hair rollers that had lost their pins. 
My mother brought home leather belts for my brothers and
father and sometimes the combs and hairbrushes that had moved through and
across old peoples’ heads of hair in a way that made me cringe.  My mother had no self respect when it
came to freebies.
I refused to touch anything but the Digests.  I took
them outside with me into the toilet above the back veranda and read about life
in America.  I looked always for
the salacious, which I usually found in the movie star section.  To this end I also collected my father’s discarded Truth
newspapers for the thrill of naked bodies.
When I was in primary school, a Catholic school policed by
nuns, I took it into my mind that the nuns never needed to go to the toilets,
nor did they eat.  Under their
habits their bodies were like those of my dolls, rigid and unyielding with no
holes for peeing or pooing and no digestive system at all.
The memory of potties – those enlarged cup like containers
which we kept under our beds to spare us the need for travel outside in the
middle of the night – stays with me, not so much for their beauty, as for the
stench they left in the bedroom when we woke and the dangers of spillage en
route to the outside toilet where we emptied them each morning.
It was hard to flush unwanted things away then.  They tended to hang around longer.