By Larry Centor

Published by
Short Story Library, June 2009

Two of the three urinals had not been flushed. Naturally, I used the third, which happened to be on the left - and flushed. Then, acting from some sort of temporary compulsive neurotic disorder, I flushed the other two, something I would not normally do.

Which got me to wondering.

Who had used those other two urinals? Had two individuals walked in together, unzipped, urinated in unison, rezipped or not, and exited together?

It was certainly possible.

Or, more interestingly, had one man used both urinals, pausing in mid-stream to switch from one to the other? Then rezipping, or not, left the men’s room satisfied he had compounded the possibilities.

It was also possible.

He could also, of course, have used the lefthand urinal first, paused, flushed, then moved on to the other two, diabolically leaving the latter two unflushed.

And then there was the question of which order the urinals had been used or not used. If all three had been used by one slightly noodled person, there were six possible combinations - left, center, right; left, right, center; center, right, left; center, left, right; right, left, center; right, center, left.

All of which would have involved quite a bit of hopping around, particularly if you were swinging, as it were, from extreme left to extreme right.

If two people had planned the project, and urinated in concert then the combinations change depending on whether they urinated together or one at a time. And then perhaps one urinated while the other flushed or failed to flush.

It was possible. Now I was caught up in what appeared to be a deliberate effort to confound the pollsters who track the percentage of men who do not flush public urinals.

Then too, there were no cigarette butts in any of the urinals, so we must presume that these were non-smokers, or smokers who smoked with one hand, or no hands - unless they held the cigarettes in both hands and urinated hands-free. Which, of course, meant the smoker had to drop at least one hand from the cigarette in order to rezip, or not drop a hand if he did not rezip.

Unless one was a smoker, one not, and the non-smoker rezipped, or did not zip, for both - but in which order? Or perhaps they were both smokers who had another method, such as placing the cigarette on top of the urinal momentarily to rezip.

It was possible.

Perhaps they were smokers with an aversion to smoking in bathrooms, or maybe they had run out of butts - an unlikely scenario in a bathroom.

But what if there were three or more involved in the plot?

What then? Who stood behind whom? Who waited for what combination of urinating and flushing or not, rezipping or not, smoking or not? Was someone watching the door to warn of an approaching potential urinater who might compromise the scheme?

And what of the possibility, albeit remote, that it was a woman or women, in disguise or not, despite the obvious physical difficulties? Perhaps they smuggled the specimen, or specimens, into the men’s room. Could they have been contortionists?

And how come it’s specimen in the plural instead of speciman, or speciwoman? It’s to ponder.

What about a man and a woman? Huh?

Or could the porter have been called away suddenly, after cleaning the lefthand urinal? And I entered at just that point.

What about the possibility that the urinals were programmed not to flush every so many pulls of the handle?

Who was sophisticated enough to realize it was a problem that would perplex the most inquisitive of minds?

Who realized the problem was a pisser?