The Laundry
A Short Story by Alice Clark
Written using the suggestion "Séance"
Originally featured on 04-27-2009
As part of our series "Where the Wild Words Are (Words Gone Wild!)"

I’m spending my time in days. There is no air and I bleached the window sills to prevent mildew, because I do not open the windows. My robe is forever on my shoulders and my feet move slowly through the dirty clothes on the floor. In the dimness, I trip and a knee hits the floor, hard, and I worry that the people downstairs are bothered by it.

I look out the peep hole of the front door and want to go out, because my body is aching and my mind dim. I think the air doesn’t have enough oxygen anymore, because I’ve used it. I see a man walk down the steps outside the door and I duck, imagining him seeing me, somehow. I wonder how far away my car is and how fast I could walk to it, to lock myself there, instead of here, while I wait for his footsteps to disappear. The metal of the door against my face. The shaking steps rumbling the floor below me. My heart beat, moving the hair in front of my eyes, in tiny jolts.

When we moved in, my husband wanted to know if I wanted the table for four or six, and I said two and felt an ache. He wanted the set of dishes for twelve, but I said no. That we wouldn’t need them. And we don’t. I lay on the carpet and hear the water moving through the walls, hearing the other people move around. Wonder if my own use of water is so obvious.

In the early afternoon, I move from the bedroom to the living room. There are layers of blankets on the couch, so I don’t have to stand to turn on the heat, when the room chills after several hours. I burrow under the blankets and the dirty hair smell in the pillows comes around me.

I reach into the fridge and drink directly out of the milk carton, knowing that I will not share this with visitors and he doesn’t care if I drink from it. The plates on the counters, with bits of leftovers, are the same as those in the fridge. There are two big plates that I eat off of in increments. Carefully balanced, giant proportions, that I eat a little of each day, and put the plate back in the fridge. When he wants food, he goes out because there’s nothing to eat here. He won’t eat the simple foods I boil and store, hoarded from ten pound bags of potatoes. His socks are on the couch and his crumbs on the floor, from desperate peanut butter sandwiches, toasted and eaten at 2 am.

I want to do a séance by the door. To clean the concrete sidewalk, and the red wooden steps. To let me take my hand down from my throat when I walk. Other people’s feet can clean. To make the steps not so new. Better those who are gone do it, because they have nothing to lose and no fear. My skin is thick with oil, but I don’t want to wash it, because I would have to wash the clothes I wear and the floor I walk on. It’s better to stay.

Read More By Alice Clark

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Portland Fiction Project

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