Here is my noir fiction entry into the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition.
Scalding water couldn’t expel the moist, woody stench from her nostrils, but that never arrested Laura’s attempts to rid her body of the salty film, sweat dripped and smeared, that coated her delicate frame, the corruption of her mind, after each habitual depravity.
Laura settles onto a brownish pink, salvaged-from-the-junk threadbare vanity stool questioning not her conduct, but if the spaghetti strap of her camisole can be mended. Ribbons of makeup and tears rush to trickle past her jawline—she doesn’t deserve to have them wiped away. In the past, Laura questioned how she was capable of crying for her damned soul any longer. The pain, the shame flows from her, water gushing from the spout to choke the rusted, porcelain cast iron tub with water the equivalent.
The burning pain of the overly hot water fosters her mind to flood her thoughts with Jim. Jim, the light in Laura’s world, a simple man who works hard each day to provide for her. Jim, soft-spoken Jim, impossibly shy, grateful Laura’s in his life, in his arms, in his bed—unaware of her truth, unknowing of her anguish. He picks her wildflowers, takes her to the pond for a dip or the occasional sappy film he doesn’t realize she can’t enjoy, for that will never be her life, her love, her joy.
Laura, ne’er the cocktail waitress, orphan, plain woman Jim believes. Laura, savaged, invaded, distraught, manages through the world her mind demands of shameful, secret, set up, cash-grabbing fornication that drags her senseless to the depths of hell, to remember, to forget, to feel normal.
She weeps for the lost child, the lost woman, as though she is not one and the same. She weeps for Jim, who deserves “honor and cherish,” but will only get cherish from her, she has no honor. And so the tears flow.
Financial gain for servicing her mind and the vulgar consumers thirsting to devour her, all given away to local vagrants, the exiled, the undesirable—monies she could never bear celebrate.
The elite, the shocking, the important, the relatives, the neighbors, the teachers of past, the once trusted, once needed, once loved have used, will use her the same—those who created and enforce her normal. She can’t stop.
Survivor is for the past, it is not her present, her future, her reality—it never was—it was never meant to be. And so she sits in a burial case of torrid water, her reddened skin screaming for relief, and she cries. Cries for the molested girl, the raped woman, the sex addict that craves, needs the abuse to feel normal.
She cries for Jim, whose smile warms her desire to be with him. For Jim, who always comes home filthy from work. For Jim, whose truck is rusting around him while he can’t stop smiling to himself, anticipating Laura’s beauty, Laura’s love, Laura’s presence, for he is truly fortunate.
Jim, the beacon in Laura’s life that keeps her alive, keeps her safe, keeps her from suicide.