IT 2

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Short short about one woman's desperation.

Before opening her eyes Phoebe relished the shadows and an intermittent violet haze ascending like fog against a dark shore.  She resented opening her eyes since light hurt her more than any nightmare she could have at sleep’s expense.


Rumpled sheets told her he left the bed early.  He would be downstairs having his coffee and transferring ink stains from a newspaper to her pale cotton cloth. Still, she lay on her side unable to rise, unable to turn to her back to where she would see it.


The sheet serving as the canopy to the mahogany four-poster had not been washed in years.  Phoebe couldn’t imagine the number of dust mites it kept from raining down on her head.  She imagined a colony plotting its revenge each night while she slept.  In particular, one dark spot seemed to grow with each day’s passing.  Last night it seemed to Phoebe she could see the nub of a tentacle emerging from one side. 


“For God’s sake, give it a rest,” he said when she mentioned it to him before he went to sleep. 


Thus began her hours of feeling it staring, boring into her head while she sometimes counted and sometimes willed her brain to be numb.


She wouldn’t look, wouldn’t look.  Phoebe nudged over into his space and bent her legs to the floor from his side of the bed.  She got to her feet and ran to the closet.  Wrapping herself in her robe, she could feel her heart race and tried to stop the ringing in her ears as she circled the area.  She wouldn’t look, wouldn’t look at the dark hairs from his head in the sink, the trash he left spilling onto the floor from the waste basket.  She would go downstairs and take her coffee into the living room where it was cool and the light dim.


“Stop that damn tiptoeing!”  He slammed the paper to the table. “Do you know how ridiculous you look?  Christ, I can’t wait to get out of here.”  The chair tipped to the floor when he got up.


She stood at the sink.  If she hunched down far enough perhaps she could slip down the drain and no one would know where she went.  She waited until she heard him come back downstairs and the door shut after him.  Filling her cup with coffee, a dash of sugar and teaspoon of cream she tiptoed to the living room and sank into the softness of the room he rarely entered. 


“Where did the time go?” Phoebe shook her head amazed she had not spilled cold coffee from her cup.  She didn’t know how long she had been counting the books in the bookcases across the room.  When they moved in fifteen years ago she arranged them by size—large graduating to small.  She prided herself on keeping them so.


While she stood to return to the kitchen she took a deep breath.  She would not tiptoe.  She would put each foot flat to the floor.  With each step she counted, “One. Two.” Twelve steps to the kitchen sink and her yellow gloves.  She smiled a little.  The girls always kidded her about the yellow gloves.  “Mrs. Clean,” they called her.  They meant nothing by it.  Still, it stung.  He took it and turned it against her.


After doing the dishes she went upstairs for the task of putting their room in order.  Once in the room she sank against the wall and inched her way toward the bathroom.  She wouldn’t look, wouldn’t look in the direction of the bed or the canopy. 


Showered and dressed, the bathroom once again sparkling from her attention she turned again to the bedroom.  She must walk through it to reach another part of the house.  She must make the bed or he would be angry. She shut her eyes for a moment and then looked.  It swelled and she watched in horror a leg inching out from the stain.  Phoebe collapsed as she recoiled from what it might be.


She heard her cell phone ring.  The ringing stopped and she was alone with it.  Being alone with it was worse than being alone with him.  She could stand no more.


Phoebe felt disengaged from her body as she tore at the tacks holding the canopy to the bed, ripping her fingernails below the quick.  Running back to the bathroom she got the scissors and then reached high slicing away at the cloth connected to the inside of the mahogany frame.  It fell—fell upon her engulfing her frame with its soil and its secrets.  Phoebe began to scream. 


Phoebe did not know how she released herself, remembering nothing until she emerged from the bathroom clean again and counting her way to the bed.  She undid the bedcovers and kept watch while she counted and folded each corner of the moss green comforter over the pile of raised filth.  She squeezed it into the center and carried the entire bundle down and out to the trash bin.  She didn’t tiptoe once. 


“Mom, I haven’t had time to clean anything in ages,” Phoebe’s daughter answered her request.  “Able’s been crying through the night and spitting up on everything.”  She paused briefly as though measuring a challenge.  “You know how you are.”


“Don’t worry,” Phoebe’s breath labored.  She shut the door and turned the lock.  One. Two.  She was leaving everything neat and tidy.  It wouldn’t be hers any more.  “I’m leaving my yellow gloves behind.”

Submitted: December 27, 2007

© Copyright 2021 jspence. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:



this woman has issues with cleanliness, that much is obvious but her husband isn't much help. does she leave him at the end? that seems to be the case but it's not 100% clear to me.

nice story.

Thu, December 27th, 2007 8:35pm


Just learning how to use this feature of responding. Thank you.

She does find the strength to leave her husband in the end. I tried to write the story which is named "It" not "It 2" (there was another story already named "It") so that It represented several things...of course the stain above her bed. It is also her husband, it is her phobia about cleaning. Do you think there is a better way I could have presented this?

Fri, December 28th, 2007 9:02am

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