“Ablution”

I’d spent the last hour at work heaving fifty-pound sacks of flour from the truck onto pallets, which ought to have bulged my biceps enough to impress Alison and distract her from the situation with Dirk–her vagabond boyfriend and my uncle. At least I’d clocked up enough overtime to help her with the rent.

I needed a shower; I was sweaty and covered with flour dust. Good thing it was dark when I walked the four blocks to Alison’s apartment. She broke out laughing the instant she laid eyes on me, called me Sir Flour Sack, and ordered me to put my dirty clothes in the laundry basket that she brought into the bathroom. Then she retrieved a highball from somewhere and sat down on the toilet seat. I turned on the shower, adjusted the water temperature until it was steaming hot, and pulled off my boxers. “I suppose you’d like it if I joined you, huh, Jimmy?”

“Come on in and find out.”

She stood up, finished her drink, and tossed the ice cubes at me.

“Hey!”

“You need a little cooling off down there, buster.” She turned to leave, stopped. “That reminds me: your dad called again, insisted you go see him. I said, ‘He’ll see you when he’s god damned good and ready to.’ He called me a sleazy bitch and insisted I give him

your cell number.”

“I hope you didn’t give it to him.”

“‘Course not. I asked him if he’d heard from that slumming brother of his yet, and he said no.”

“My guess is that Dirk shacked back up with his old flame after you locked him out, Ali.”‘

“Wouldn’t surprise me, the scumbag. I’d say good riddance, but he owes me big bucks.”

“You won’t get a penny from him. Not after you locked him out. But hey, I’ve been helping.”

“It ain’t been enough, Jimmy. Have you seen my bills?”

“I don’t suppose your dad would want to help you . . .”

“You want to make me puke?”

I spent a long moment letting the hot water thrash against my neck and back. Through the curtain I could see Alison swaying as she pulled off her T-shirt and sweat pants. I opened the curtain and helped her inside. “I hope you won’t give in to him again if he calls from Tijuana.”

She pressed her head into my chest. “You men, you men. Damn the lot of you!”

I made the water even hotter. The steam enveloped us. Alison dug her nails into my upper arm.

Scrub me, Jimmy,” she whimpered. “Scrub me so hard I bleed.”

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About Fred White

Fred White's fiction, poetry, and humor have appeared in many periodicals, most recently in Analog, Beautiful Losers, Clockwise Cat, Every Day Fiction,Gemini, Limestone Review, and No Extra Words. His most recent book is The Writer's Idea Thesaurus. A professor of English, Emeritus, at Santa Clara University, he lives near Sacramento, CA, with his wife, Therese (an attorney), and two hyperactive cats.