The wife is drying her hands on a yellow towel in the kitchen, some blood getting on it from her dry skin. The husband is watching television in the room over, loudly complaining about liberals. There’s darkness in the house that is not stopping. It’s always like this at home. This lack of light and everything else that goes on. It is unbearable, but they like to stay.
She’s still drying her hands. She’s staring through into the next room, watching him. Briefly, a fantasy is replayed in her head: how they lived earlier in life, in a better home. Where there were no yellow towels, especially. He used to be skinnier and they would fuck every day. Not anymore. She finally looked down at the towel and saw the blood, throws it lamely onto the counter. Her hands were pulsating a bit. Maybe this is why it’s different, she thought, because I’m not as soft and tender as I used to be. Perhaps she would go show him, remind him about tenderness and the previous world they had.
She walked into the living room slowly, him aglow in electronic static – on a throne, it seemed. Once open-minded, he is now obstinate and enjoys drinking too much. Very slowly, she comes up behind him.
“Honey,” she said slowly, rubbing his shoulders.
He doesn’t turn away from the program. “What’s up?”
She looks back to the kitchen. “Do you remember when we used to all sorts of things?”
“All sorts of things,” she said, trailing off.
He doesn’t seem to understand the vague question, so he ignored it and focuses harder on the television. It may not be the right time, she thinks to herself. She sighs and turns to go, but notices that on the table next to him, his pint glass is almost empty. He burps absent-mindedly as if to confirm this.
“Let me get you another beer,” she said.
He starts going off about the Green New Deal, as if she was the one who wrote it.
What goes on at home isn’t anyone else’s business, but she wants to make it other people’s business. Friends wonder why they don’t come out. It’s because there’s this. This entire batch of nothing that goes on endlessly like water.
She comes back to the living room with a fresh beer. She leaves it on the table and walks past him to the stairwell, thinking it might be time to take a shower or read.
“What is this?”
She sees him inspecting the glass like he’s a restaurant manager.
“Why is there blood on this glass?”
She looked down at her hands. They still pulsated a bit. They were dry and they were a part of the darkness.
He looked up at her. “Can you get me another one, please? This is disgusting.”
This didn’t happen years ago. He got his own. She didn’t have bad hands. They lived in a better home. They had better everything, more light to use, less stress and way more chances to do incredible things. But now, it came down to things like this. They shared their bodies, spit and blood before, but this was too much for him, it seemed. She glanced – she saw some streaks and spots, blotches and symbols.
“I’m sorry,” she said, coming back down.
“What’s going on?” He said, putting the glass down on the table. “Are you hurt?”
“No, forget it,” she said, temporarily in the glow of the television like some alien being. “I’ll get another one.”
He doesn’t say anything. He just sits paralyzed. She walked past him and went back into the kitchen. Here was the same darkness, the same coating, where all of it mixed. She stood frozen for a bit, looking at the floor, the wall. Maybe this was a test or a new game, she thought. She gets another glass, transfers the beer. What goes on here at this home probably happens at other homes or doesn’t happen at other homes, she thinks. She sees the towel on the counter, yellow and red.
He is still in the living room, yelling about liberals. It’s enough to wake up the whole room, the whole world of theirs.
She starts to wipe the glass off with the towel, but instead stops. She pours the beer from the new one back into the original one. She takes it back out to him and can feel an energy shooting through her, one that was akin to how she felt back when she was soft and tender, years ago.
“Drink up, honey,” she said.
He stared at her. “I don’t get what – ”
“This television is filthy and dusty,” she said in a weird lilt. “Let me clean it quick, okay?”
He doesn’t know what to say. She starts wiping the television screen with the bloody towel. Huge smeary arcs paste themselves onto the screen, red and pixelated. She wipes the corners and the base and the entertainment stand. A large swath of blood presents itself far and wide as the news cuts to a commercial. There’s people smiling and talking through it.
She takes a step back, proud of her work.
“Honey,” he said finally, unsure and frightened.
“I’ve never felt better,” she said. “This home just needed a good cleaning.”
Kevin Richard White’s fiction appears in Grub Street, The Hunger, Lunch Ticket, The Molotov Cocktail, The Helix, Hypertext, X-R-A-Y, decomP, and Ghost Parachute among others. He is a Flash Fiction Contributing Editor for Barren Magazine and also reads fiction for Quarterly West and The Common. He lives in Philadelphia.