Toothpaste

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Jean Loney's life is stagnant.

This fictional memoir follows protagonist Jean on the day that she ventures out of her decaying home and into a world that has changed beyond her recognition.

Submitted: August 21, 2016

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Submitted: August 21, 2016

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Jean Loney took the tube of toothpaste from beneath a damp, threadbare flannel on the side of the bathroom sink. She held it in her hand. There was a mass of old toothpaste resembling air-dried clay built up around of the top of the tube, preventing the small lid from closing. Jean squeezed the tube . Her thin hands trembled under the pressure that she exerted, but still, it was not enough to force the toothpaste through the pinhole in the  dried substance.


Jean Loney wiped the bathroom mirror with the cuff of her cream jumper and observed her reflection. Despite what the tube of toothpaste had once promised, her teeth had become increasingly yellow over the last year; some were even speckled with grey patches. They ached too. It was this pain that had forced Jean Loney to seek the toothpaste in her bathroom. 

Outside, February's perishing winds thrashed at the reinforced concrete buildings of the town and whistled its haunting tune down the chimneys of resident's homes. Jean listened to it howling through the vent in her small bathroom. After lack of perseverance with the tube of toothpaste, she placed it back on the edge of the bathroom sink and gathered a collection of old carrier bags from beneath the kitchen sink. The smell in the kitchen was putrid. Once upon a time Jean had tried to locate the odor but, after failure to discover its cause, had given up. 'After all,' she had decided back then, 'what is the purpose of all this fuss and bother now that I am alone?'

Many months later, she had developed an immunity to the scent and, with no other soul to sniff the air, it was as good as non-existent. 

Jean squeezed her feet into a battered pair of brogues and began for the outdoors. She battled against the stormy air, heading in the direction of her local chemist. Upon her arrival the pharmacist, Mr. Davis, instantly recognised her. 'Good morning Mrs. Loney!' He chimed cheerfully. She was not a site that could be easily surpassed and today was no exception. Aside from the battered boots and stained off-white jumper, it was Mrs. Loney's skirt that caught his eye. 'There really are some items of clothing that women of her age should not be wearing.' He thought. 

Perhaps she had not heard Mr.Davis, or perhaps her own name had become a stranger to her, but Jean did not respond to him; instead, she wandered up and down the aisles with her slow, distinctive rhythm.

 She seldom scanned two aisles when she came across a tube of toothpaste. Yet, what lay in front of her eyes was something quite unexpected for Mrs. Loney. There was not just one tube of toothpaste, there were many. They were not all the same either and they all made different promises: 
'Prevents gum disease!'  
'Whitens teeth in just five days!'
'Targets plaque!'
'Freshens breath!'
'Quadruple Action!'
'Added Calcium!'
'Fluoride Free!'

Jean slowly searched the aisle for a tube of toothpaste that would help with the pain in her mouth, but that did not seem to be a promise that the toothpaste manufactorer could make. She had thought the task of collecting toothpaste from her local chemist as easy; now her hands had become cold to the touch and covered in sweat. She stared at the aisle for many minutes perhaps thinking everything or perhaps thinking nothing at all.

Mr. Davis  watched his customer. He was curious, but not quite curious enough to assist Mrs. Loney in her evident distress. He watched her handle several packages and place them back on the shelves, before bringing her tentitive selection to the till point. 

It was uncertain quite what ***DISCLAIMER: I am currently working on the rest of this paragraph. Writer's block has set in!***

Jean Loney died the following Monday. The cause, as far as I can tell, still remains unknown to this day; I suppose people seem satisfied enough with the conclusion that she died of 'old age'. Sad enough to envoke a moment or two of silence, natural enough to spare tears. Jean was not discovered for some days. It was the paper boy who first noticed the smell seeping through the gap where the accumilation of local newspapers had wedged the letter box open. The scent had entered his nostrils and forced him to immediately scrunch his eyelids together. Next, it had provoked the emaligimation of stomach acids to travel rapidly up his stomach and into his osophogus, so he felt as though he could taste the rancid smell. It had caused the paper boy's blood pressure to rise. And then I suppose that was when those clichéd words had contaminated the boy's brain so that he could think of nothing else. 'Something is not right here. Something is not right.'

He had used his mobile telephone to contact his father first, to check that his fear was valid. The father had instructed his son to call the police immediately, and then jumped into the car. The boy had phoned the police. 'Something is not right. I cannot tell you what the smell is...I am sorry... I cannot find the words to describe it...but something is not right.' The call had ended abruptly. The boy came from Mrs. Loney's drive and wheeled his bicycle bedside him as he walked to the end of the road to meet his father, as instructed. It did not seem appropriate to ride his bicycle and it certainly did not seem appropriate to worry about how the other half of the newspapers would get delivered within the next half an hour. Suddenly, it was as if any slither of normality or routine had no place to fit. 

The police had arrived several minutes later. Two people, a man and a lady emerged from the car in white suits and a white mask covering their mouths. They entered the small, grey flat. The deceased looked to be sleeping on the arm chair; her head slumped to the left and her tongue hanging out from between her lifeless lips. 'Old gal, no family, I'm guessin'. said the man, scanning the room as he spoke. 'same old, same old. Best get on t'the council at some point, t' shift this lot, 'n' all.' The lady nodded short shallow nods, and interjected with a quiet 'yes', where she felt necessary. It had taken many years of training to get the position she was today. Still, she wondered how many more it might take to stop looking at the radio on the sideboard and not wonder what radio station the deceased had enjoyed listening to most; or see cooking equipment and wonder what their favourite meal was. She scanned the many photographs on the wall in this house. Behind the dust, there lay several beautiful sepia images of a couple embracing, with matching smiles emerging from the sides of their kissing lips. The young police officer could just make out that in the background of the photograph was the Statue of Liberty standing almost as proud as the couple in the foreground. Landmarks had appeared in the other photos. The Arc D'Triumph, The Kremlin, the Sydney Opera House and then were several more photographs displaying locations that the policewoman could not place through image alone. She imagined the couples excited faces, brimming with anticipation and the excitement of the future that lay ahead of them. 

And then she gazed back at Mrs. Loney. 'Corden off the 'ouse, contact them lads down the morgue, then we'll get down t' business.' As simple as that. 

Several weeks later, the investigation into Jean Loney's death had ceased and, of course, had come back as inconclusive. Mr. Davis upon hearing of Mrs. Loney's abrupt end, had managed to say all the right things when one of the old regulars in the chemist had informed him of the news. The paper boy had since decided the paper round was not 'for him' and got a had got job at the local grocery store instead. The new policewoman had chosen to use her experience to critically reflect upon her profession; to learn from her experience and move on. The council had moved all of the possessions from Jean's home and stripped the interiors. They had cleared everything from her home; from the mental bedframe to the unopened tube of toothpaste that lay behind the rusted tap on the bathroom sink.

As soon as the final photo had fallen into the skip, Jean Loney, with no other soul to miss her memory, was as good as non-existent. 

 

 


© Copyright 2017 M. L. Swallow. All rights reserved.

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