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Today's Story by Chris Loud

After I told him that I hadn't found anything, I waited for the beating.

Wash Day

It wasn’t as if I had a brand of magical sight or a prophetic mind, and I’ve never been one of those lucky guessers, but my gut knew right away what was in that pants pocket. In fact I’d say my intestines had jumbled into something quite artistic before I even reached in to pull out that little gold ring. There are times when you feel sad, times when you feel jealous and mad, and even times when you feel ’em all at once, like some kind of overstuffed pain sandwich. However, this time a spattering of guilt and a prick of confusion came over me as well, which would all together explain why I promptly lost the actual sandwich I ate earlier that day into the wash pale at my feet. Never before had I been so angry at one person, but also so angry at myself. Maybe it was because other people were involved now, so I could picture it happening outside of this blanket I created, sewn with nothing but blind ignorance. Never mind that flapjack-sized hole in my heart that seemed to grow every time I took a breath. Those pants smelled like alcohol before I washed them, I just wish I didn’t know why he put his wedding ring in his pocket. That’s what happened in that moment. I could see myself in other people, tramping around right there in front of me like an imaginary marionette show taking place right there on the fireplace mantel. I started to think a little bit about how come the feet on the marionette dolls weren’t burning up on account of the fire in the fireplace, but then I hit the floor like a sack of potatoes. The heat exhaustion teamed up with the stress and took me down like a prize fighter.

When I awoke, it was surely from the slamming of the front door. My boss was home from work, and I couldn’t remember if I had finished ironing his pants after I found the ring. I scrambled to my feet and to the best of my knowledge, given my foggy state, tried to make up for lost time by slinging that iron so swiftly across those pants that sparks must have been shootin’ out every time I passed over a button. Then he came in the room, weighed down in his soaked clothes and smellin’ like the insides of a tuna fish. I didn’t even look up, hoping that everything would just pass on by me just for a minute, so I could later spend some time to sort my own self out. Never could I be so lucky. He stopped in the door frame and leaned because he was tired, but mostly because he was a big strong man with angel eyes and that’s just what good looking men do when they come into rooms that contain vulnerable women. He stared, but instead of into my eyes and up and down my body, he stared at the pocket. I knew the question was coming, but I strained through silent prayers to god that it wouldn’t. “Did you find anything in the pockets of those pants?” he asked just before he looked away to the window. Now, I promise I had every intention of saying yes to him, while quickly and unceremoniously giving him the ring, but I to this day would give up a month’s pay if someone could tell me where I put that damn thing. I guess when I fainted, the ring decided to go on its own way, leaving us behind as if to say “good luck, but I ain’t gonna stick around for this.”

After I told him that I hadn’t found anything, I waited for the beating. I stood there, head down and both sets of cheeks clenched for what was coming. Much to my surprise, he muttered something about being thankful for me keeping the house so warm for him, because it was an especially cold day on the water, and then he just slipped away. It was almost as if he felt bad about losing it, or maybe he was fearing the inevitable conversation he would have to have with his wife as soon as she saw it was missing from his finger.

I never did say anything to that poor woman about me and the others. All I did was thank her for the job she so graciously gave to me, which I said to her just before I quit. My kids have starved before, and they were good boys. I said to myself that yes, maybe I did go in a coward, and came out a coward, but I ain’t a coward no more. I was gonna pick myself off the mat, and start fresh and clean. The good lord can wash you of your sins, but what happens when you can’t face him quite yet? Not a matter of being afraid, but just a matter of wanting to take things into your own hands first, to see what you can do to help your own self. I walked out of that house, still dripping with sweat, but uncertain now if heat was the only cause. I walked down to the shore, and without a hesitating bone in my body plunged right into that dark, raging sea. When I opened my eyes, I was surrounded by darkness. That was when I started all over again.


Chris Loud has been published in magazines like Animal Fair, TANK, and Special Living, as well as books that include Requiem for a Paper Bag and an Idiot’s Guide to Jokes. He manages the Los Angeles based neighborhood publication The Hillhurst Hustler, and haswritten and produced a web series called The Next Best Web Series.


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