Staircase Words by Dan Brotzel

At the pool, Mike told his daughter Katy, who was eight, to come into the men’s changing rooms with him and Joe, so they could all have a quick wee before going into the water. But a young attendant caught up with him and told him Katy would have to wait outside.


‘Think about it,’ said the attendant. ‘Imagine someone comes in and he’s got a history of sex offending. It’s not nice for him to have a girl in here. There’s a urinal over there, he’d have to expose himself.’

Mike couldn’t believe what he was hearing. What the attendant was saying seemed wrong on so many levels but he couldn’t for the life of him remember what any of the levels were. He felt himself getting worked up but, as usual, his reasoning crumpled before any forceful display of opinion.

‘I’ve never heard such a thing! I’m a father of four children! You don’t understand!’

The attendant blinked back at him, unimpressed.

‘You don’t understand!’ he said again. ‘I’ve been coming here for years! I’m an active member of the PTA!’ He barely knew what he was saying.

But the attendant, who couldn’t have been more than 18, remained unmoved. ‘What if this man comes in and he’s got a history?’ he persisted.

Mike replied: ‘What if he comes up to my daughter while she’s outside?’

‘She can use the disabled loo,’ said the attendant.

In the end, Mike could only do as he was told. The whole exchange, especially the attendant’s implacable attitude and his blithe discussion of such awful things in front of his children, left him deeply troubled, as if in some obscure way he’d been accused himself. He thought of asking to see the manager about it later, to ask for clarification of policy or report inappropriate conduct by a member of staff, but then wondered if this would be misunderstood too.

It was only as he was sitting down in the wave pool, clinging on to Joe as the rollers crashed over them, that a couple of flaws in the attendant’s argument presented themselves:

1. What if the offender was into boys? How would this policy protect his son?
2. And also, maybe, wouldn’t it be best if someone who was a registered sex offender stayed away from a place that, at a rough glance, was currently rammed with about 100 half-naked children splashing about?

But of course, it is only afterwards that you think of these things.


Dan’s first collection of short stories, Hotel du Jack, is published by Sandstone. He is also co-author of a comic novel, Kitten on a Fatberg, available to pre-order at Unbound.

He won the 2019 Riptide Journal short story competition, was runner-up in the 2019 Leicester Writes contest, and was highly commended in the Manchester Writing School competition 2018. He has words in places like Pithead Chapel, Ellipsis, Reflex Fiction, Cabinet of HeedBending GenresThe Esthetic ApostleSpelkGinger Collect and Fiction Pool.