Throwing in the Towel

Hey all,

I get some great daily writing prompts from Sarah Selecky. Sarah is a fabulous writer who is teaching me the value and art of the short story. Her prompts are engaging and quirky…a quick, ten minute shot of creative juice to bring the muse. Having finished my memoir (after nearly two years of writing, now starting the query process–keep yer fingers crossed for me–more about this in future posts), I am diving into learning more about the slowly diminishing genre of the short story. Here is a recent shorty that you might enjoy… just a handful of paragraphs, but fun. Happy reading! 🙂

***

We all have storiesTerry lay flattened and sun-crisped in the street. She had flown from the back of the city refuse truck and landed in the road, just close enough to traffic that seven cars had already made their mark, pancaking her to the pavement. She was frozen there in her two-dimensional sprawl, waiting. Remembering.

Her life at the Ritz-Carlton seemed a hazy dream now. How had she come to this? Memories of emerging fresh and fragrant from the tumbling warm, fluffed and folded smartly, swirled in her muddled mind. Every room of the hotel was a joy, but her appointment was to the Presidential Suite. This was what she was made for. She hung proudly, invitingly, from her highly polished brass perch, every loop standing erect yet soft and ready for absorption. To wrap herself around a just-bathed torso or to enfold a flower-washed head full of curls, bringing comfort and coverage; this was her life’s calling. And she took it seriously. The satiny monogram—RC—emblazoned on her lower right hand corner filled her with stately pride. She threw her whole self in to her work.

Then one day everything changed.

She was pulling a temporary shift in the bridal suite. New housekeeping staff had made a laundry bungle. It was a good time though—sweet young couple. Terry was a little miffed that both of the newlyweds, after some strange ritual behind the wide frosty glass of the double shower, chose the plush white robes that hung on the gleaming wall hooks just to her right. They didn’t stay in those long either…apparently the consummation thing was ongoing and repetitive for the first twenty-four hours of the nuptials.

At any rate, there she stayed, proud, plump, and waiting, but never pulled from her post. Until checkout time. Then the strangest thing happened. The young wife came into the darkened shower room and snatched from the wall both Terry and her partner for this job (she never could remember his name…it may have also been Terry). Making quick work of rolling each of them into a tight jellyroll, the bride tucked them snugly into two suitcases. Terry into His and the other Terry into Hers. All light was extinguished as the zzzzzziiiiiiper made its circuit and closed out all knowledge of the only world Terry knew.

It was dark and cramped and stifling inside. She tried to remain calm, to keep her frantic thoughts stayed on the present moment and from spinning off into some horrific scenario of fated torture and ruin. But her panic and confusion won the day; and then she knew no more.

The next fifteen years were a numbing blur of mildew and bleach. Of endless weeks stuffed like a useless wad in the space between the dresser and the hamper—moldering among dust bunnies and hideous socks that reeked of Swiss cheese.

Terry had only recurring bits and snatches of these disturbing images left as clues as to how she came to be what she was:

Discarded.

Countless uses, some too shameful to tell; passed from one insatiable bather to the next (she felt so dirty and ashamed), left outside in the grass to drown in the rain and then bake in the sun, and finally left for dead on the rotting chaise for the cat to have its way with her.

“Gross. Throw that thing in the bin.”

Terry recognized the voice from somewhere far beyond her dazed stupor. Her last memory of that place was of the markedly aged face (fifteen years will do that to you) of the young wife, who was now a mother of two. She gazed down through the open portal of the rubbish can. Terry tried to call out to her, “Please! Please.”

But the tired bride apparently was not moved by nostalgia.

***

The smoke belching garbage truck lumbered over a deep pothole, pitching a number of untouchables out onto the pavement. Terry landed in a heap, partially covering an old Gameboy with a busted screen.

She had been here for some time now. Was it years? She awoke to her lower left corner being lifted gingerly with a stick.

“Cool! Check it out!” the freckle-faced youth hollered as he flipped Terry aside like petrified cow dung. He snatched up the fully revealed treasure. He and his buddy argued over the booty until their voices were just a distant buzz. Terry lay at unnatural angles against the curb; her middle now loose and undone from being stabbed and pitched.

Presently, she noted that the intensity of the afternoon sun seemed somehow diminished, and the air became mercifully cooler. Perhaps this was finally the blessed end. Perhaps she was finally going to make her exit. With her last bit of energy, she gazed upward in the hopeful expectation of meeting her maker. There above her, she met the curious gaze of two kind eyes set in a face of leather. Eyes that had seen a thing or two.

They regarded one another for some time. Finally her new-found shade spoke, and darned if it wasn’t the sweetest voice, like that of a gentle shepherd or a late night jazz radio D.J.

“Yep, I can put you to good use yet,” he intoned with resolve. He wiped his life-stained hands on his greasy dungarees and reached for her.

Terry just made out the words scrawled in Magic Marker on the side of the large white bucket as her rescuer plucked her from the gutter and placed her gently inside. She wondered what the words meant as she sank into the cool, sudsy water. Her kinked and crumpled length spread out luxuriously as she merged into her saving oasis.

“Rudy’s Window Washing”

“Anything helps,” it had read.

“Anything helps,” Terry repeated.

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Comments

  1. I love this story!! It made me cry. And smile too! I love how you put so much character into an inanimate object!

    • Thank you Em! It was fun to write. Nothing quite like slipping into the zone and discovering characters waiting there to meet you! 😀

  2. Wow! What great story with a poignant message!

  3. Fun story! It’s making me feel a little guilty about some of the laundry I have laying around here, though… 🙂

  4. Such a special, unique and wonderful read. I had to read it twice because my mind first time round wasn’t expecting such an awesome perspective. You truly have a gift, Kathy!. Keep writing short stories… pretty please 🙂