:: Article

Wipe-Out

By Claudia Smith

In an office a doctor asks me questions. Who is the governor of this state? What do people mean when they say people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones? What month is this? It is a test. I can’t answer, well, I say, I know it is October. I think the expression about glass houses means people who live behind glass can be shattered.

The doctor seems depressed himself. He has a soggy beard, nicotine stained. He asked me last week if I masturbated. I want to go home. He never talks to me for more than fifteen minutes. When I leave, I take all the breath mints from the receptionist’s desk.

We live in a building filled with the elderly, so there are ambulances all the time. I like the old people and their personal care attendants. They smile at me and I smile back. There are sliding glass doors that open to a balcony. My fiance says I tried to jump it, but I know that isn’t right. I know he is lying, but I’m usually too tired to tell him that I know it is a lie. I love our high home, smelling of clean laundry and mints, of citrus air freshener. I love to vacuum the taupe carpet until I see marks in the pile. I love how the blue sky matches the blue pool so many floors beneath us. How many floors? I can’t remember.

My fiance is seeing a woman at work. I like to call him when they are together, to see what he’ll do. On the metro home I empty my pockets. Wadded up tissues, speckled breath mints, blotted notes I wrote to myself a few years ago. A dog biscuit. Tinky died last year. But it has been that long since I’ve needed a coat. On the subway, travelers wear suits and skull caps. And there is a little girl dressed as a tulip. “Is that your Halloween costume?” I ask.

“It’s my recital,” she says. Her mother rests a hand on the back of her shiny head.

At home there is a note, saying YOU ARE NOT TO DISTURB ME TONIGHT. He writes it in all caps. He says I am not grateful. I am not, he is right. Tonight we will have tuna fish and spaghetti, what we have every night, what he likes to eat. I open the closet doors to his wooden hangers. He prefers wooden hangers, gold-toed socks. I fold his socks, because I rolled them last time and that stretches them too far. Then I pick up the phone. She answers, she says, “It’s a great day at the Castle.” She is the receptionist. He is a dental hygenist. I grunt into the phone, then hang up.

In the kitchen, Bumblebee tuna. I open it and suck the greasy juice from the edges of the lid. After tuna, I run away. Run down the stairs, so many flights, and then I run back up again, then down. I’m very thin, he approves, he smiles whenever I step on the scale. I know it is because when I run down and up and down and up my body is as clear and blue as the swimming pool sky.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Claudia Smith‘s stories have been anthologized in W.W. Norton’s The New Sudden Fiction: Short-Short Stories from America and Beyond, and So New Media’s Consumed: Women on Excess. She has twice been nominated for the Pushcart, and she recently won Rose Metal Press’s first annual Short Short chapbook competition; her collection, The Sky is a Well and Other Shorts, is due out this June. She is also a contributing web editor for Hobart magazine. More of her work may be found here.

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First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, March 22nd, 2007.