A Story From The Bathroom Stall

While out to dinner with my family, I excused myself to use the restroom. I entered the bathroom and immediately heard two ladies speaking to one another from separate stalls. There was an empty stall between them. I walked in feeling apprehensive. I felt like I was intruding  on a private conversation. As I sat there and went along with my business, I couldn’t help but pry.

They were discussing dentists and which one they were currently seeing. The conversation reminded one of the ladies of an exchange with her young son…

Here is a fictional version of the story she shared:

Bethany picked up her son, Sawyer, from his preschool class on Friday afternoon. She wore black yoga pants and had her hair pulled up in a bun on top of her head. She carried Sawyer’s shark themed lunchbox on her wrist. Her cell phone and keys were clutched in her hand. She pressed the button to unlock the car. Sawyer ran up to the black SUV in his black Vans and GAP jeans. He stood up on the tips of his toes to pull open the door to the back seat. Bethany walked up behind him and opened the door. Sawyer climbed up into his seat. Bethany set his lunchbox down below his feet and strapped him in. “Guess what?” She asked.

“What?” Sawyer said.

“It’s your turn to pick a restaurant for dinner tonight.” Every Friday night their little family of three went out to dinner. They tried to pick a new restaurant each week.

“Really?” Sawyer asked.

“Really.” She said. Bethany shut his door and entered the driver’s seat. She put her keys and cell phone into the empty cup holder beside her, fastened her seat belt, and pushed a button to start the car.

“Anywhere you want to go.” She said and carefully backed up the SUV. She saw Sawyer in the rear view mirror looking past the window. His face scrunched as he thought of where to go. She put the car in drive.

His face and eyes stretched open, “The Seal Restaurant.” he said.

“What did you say?”

“Seal restaurant!” Sawyer shouted. “I want to go to the seal restaurant.”

“Seal restaurant?” Bethany asked. “What’s the seal restaurant?”

“The seal with the sunglasses. The blue one.” He explained.

Bethany searched her memory as she made a right turn out of the preschool’s parking lot. Where had he seen this seal? Does Red Lobster have a seal? Maybe that new sushi place has a picture of a seal. Or was it at the beach the last time we went?

“Where is the seal, Sawyer?” Bethany asked.

“On the window.”

Bethany shook her head. No, no, she thought, that doesn’t help.

“I mean, where is the seal restaurant? Do you know where it is? Is it at the beach?”

She drove down the street waiting for Sawyer to answer. His face scrunched up again. Bethany stared intensely at the road ahead of her searching for an answer there.

“There! Sawyer yelled.

“Where?” Bethany stopped at a red light. She looked back at him in the rear view mirror.

“There it is! The seal!” he sat up straight in his seat and pointed at the window.

Bethany looked to the shopping plaza at their left. She realized she drove past it constantly. There it was, smiling back at her, a big blue seal with sunglasses painted on a large boxed window. Her eyes traveled up to the sign above it. “That’s not a restaurant baby,” she laughed, “that’s a dentist’s office.”

“Oh.” Sawyer said. He thought for a moment. “Can I get a prize there?” he asked.

Bethany smiled, “Sure, I’ll make you an appointment.” she said.

So, that’s my version of the story I overheard in the bathroom stall.

I love how observant and innocent children are and how they give us lots of fun stories to share. They inspire me.

Thank you for reading.

Ashley Kagaoan

Birthmarks

“Listen to mommy’s heart.” I told Abe. It’s something I came up with in order to get him to lie down for bed. He put his head on my chest and told me he heard the “boom, boom, boom.” He then slid his head down to my stomach. He likes to listen there as well. He pulled up my shirt and put his head on my bare belly. The noises he usually hears sound like wa-wa or bubbles. But he didn’t say what sound he heard that night, instead he lifted his head and examined my belly. He poked at the birthmark beside my belly button, “Red,” he said, “owie.”

“That’s not an owie, it’s a birthmark.” I told him. “You have one too,” I patted the back of his shoulder, “back here.”

In his toddler lingo, he asked to see it.

I picked him up out of bed and walked through the dark into the bathroom. I turned on the light and set him down on top of his light blue stool in front of the sink and mirror. I put my arms on his shoulders and spun him around so his back faced the mirror. I pulled up the back of his shirt. “There it is.” I pointed. “Can you see it?”

He turned his head over his shoulder and was able to see the brown mark in the mirror. I remembered thinking it looked like a little UFO when he was a baby. Now, it is longer, a little more stretched out just as he is.

Mark, my husband, watched us from bed and decided to join us. He walked into the bathroom and pulled up his shirt to show us the birthmark on his belly. It is big and round. Mine is still the shape of Australia, or so I’d like to think. It is curious how we both have birthmarks on our tummies. It’s as though we are two of a kind or belong to some secret society of people with belly birthmarks.

I’ve always been curious about birthmarks and if there is some meaning to them. I’d like to write a story about birthmarks one day. I started one once but threw it away. I’ve thrown out most of my stories because I thought I wasn’t a good enough writer or my ideas were not extraordinary enough. But it doesn’t matter that I’ve thrown it away, the idea is stuck with me.

I recently watched a YouTube video of Stephen King giving writing advice and he said he doesn’t keep a notebook full of ideas. He said:

“My idea about a good idea is one that sticks around, and sticks around, and sticks around. It’s like if you were to put bread crumbs in a strainer and shake it, which is what the passage of time is for me, it’s like shaking a strainer, all this stuff that’s not very big and not very important just kind of dissolves and falls out. But the good stuff stays, you know. The big pieces stay.”

People often ask writers where their ideas come from. “How do you get your ideas?” they say.

An idea is like a birthmark. You discover it as you observe and examine the body. And then you get curious about it. Why is it on the belly and not on the knee or behind the ear? And why is this one red and this one is brown? And how did it really come to be, and why does it matter? Does it have any meaning?

Life is strange. One day, I feel like I’ve got things figured out; the next day I realize, I know nothing. I don’t know what I’m doing. But, here I am discovering more little hints about life, such as birthmarks, and trying to make some sense of it, all the while enjoying the wonder and fun of not knowing.

Thank you for reading,

Ashley

Here is the link to the YouTube video of Stephen King giving writing advice: https://youtu.be/lwhOd65gGoY