Sunday afternoon shift

“Before you go, can you check something for me? Someone has left a ring on the basin in the ladies’ toilets. It’s big, ornate, silver….there was someone in one of the cubicles but I didn’t knock or anything”.

It was half an hour until my shift finished. In that time I ironed some linen and poured fresh water into the font while it was blessed by the Priest. I’d check on the ring before I finished up. It wasn’t urgent.

My male colleague had arrived to start the afternoon shift, and was having his lunch in the kitchen.

At 2 pm I went to sign off, and remembered the ring on the basin. Sure enough, it was still there, a big silver butterfly. One cubicle was also locked but all was silent. I knocked on the closed door. The red engaged sign was turned around as far as it would go. Who could be in there? At this time on a Sunday there weren’t many people at all in the building, and this occupant was being very quiet, too quiet in fact. This silence was the silence of…no life.

“Hello? Is there someone there?”.
Complete silence was the answer. This required assistance. Whatever it was that was behind that door I did not want to face alone. I went and found my colleague.
He came in and proceeded to put on rubber gloves. He pushed the door, banged on it, called out again and again. Still there was silence.

There was a gap of a couple of inches at the bottom of the door. Neither of us fancied putting our heads on the tiled floor to try to catch a glimpse underneath. At the top of the door was a slightly bigger gap, but it was too high to see over.
“I’ll get a ladder” he said. I held the main door open as he returned with the ladder, and, as he set it up I thought about what we might be about to see.

As I watched his face take in the scene on the other side I could discern no particular emotion or reaction. “I can’t see anything from here” he said. He climbed down and once again pushed at the locked door. He then tried the lock again.
The rubber gloves helped him to wriggle the “engaged” sign around until the green “vacant” sign showed, and the door swung open.

Inside was an empty toilet cubicle.

Sunday afternoon shift

Soxy Fleming

Melbourne, Australia

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