This month I’m taking a four-week short story course at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts here in Richmond. Tonight was our first class. We had a timed writing exercise in which we had to explore a character irritated by something mundane which became a huge issue for him/her.
Here’s my short reaction (unedited, consider yourself warned), a flash fiction story entitled “The Bathroom.”
The Bathroom by J.M. Snyder
Copyright © 2012
The official reason his sister Carrie is visiting is because she’s thinking of taking courses next semester at VCU. Bryan lives in the Fan District, close enough to the school for her to walk to campus. If she wanted to, that is. Which she doesn’t.
The real reason she’s staying at his place is because her boyfriend finally got tired of dealing with her broke ass. No money, no job, no prospects — she isn’t looking for work, and Bryan knows she sure as hell isn’t going to be attending college any time soon. Mom and Dad won’t take her back, either.
Which leaves him.
There’s only one bathroom in his small, two-bedroom apartment. He cleared out one whole half of the cabinet under the sink for her to use, and a shelf in the medicine cabinet, too. That was two days ago. This morning when he comes in to shower, he takes a peek at both spaces.
Under the sink looks like a war zone. Tampons lay scattered everywhere, and shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, perfume, bottles of things he can’t even name crowd his own stuff out of the way. She even hung a wet plastic loofah on the inside of the cabinet door. The drying soap leaves a dark line of scum dripping down the wood like a blood stain.
On top of the sink is her contact lens case. Cleaning solution bottle left open, used tissues crumpled up against it, curls of eyeliner pencil shavings stuck to the still-damp counter top. This is the last morning he lets her use the bathroom before he does!
In the medicine cabinet, though, her shelf is bare. Of course it is — all her crap sits right on the edge of the sink. Bryan removes his thick prescription eyeglasses, folds them carefully, and tucks them safely onto the empty shelf above the sink.
Without his glasses, he’s legally blind, but it’s a condition he’s lived with since the third grade, all those years ago, and one he manages to deal with fairly well. He pulls back the blur that is the shower curtain, reaches into the bland white expanse of the tub, and finds the spigot by touch.
When he turns it on, water screams from the showerhead above instead of from the tap. “Carrie,” Bryan mutters darkly, tugging the shower curtain back into position to avoid soaking the floor.
Quickly he strips out of his PJs and steps into the tub. Hot water pounds away the tension in his back and shoulders. He lets the water trickle down his neck, then leans his head back, eyes shut, to savor the downpor on his face.
Blindly he reaches for the shampoo bottle, which sits on the edge of the tub where he always keeps it. Without opening his eyes, he flips up the cap, squirts a healthy dollop of cool gel into his palm, and sets the bottle back down.
As he rubs the shampoo into his hair, he notices an odd scent he can’t quite place. It isn’t his usual sporty, Old Spice combination shampoo/body wash smell, but something floral. Something feminine.
He rubs the gel into his scalp, but no suds rise up from between his fingers. Just that strange scent, almost tart, almost acidic …
Opening one eye, he looks at the pink goo on his hands. No suds — not soap. What the …
He reaches for the bottle. As he’s raising it to read the label, it slips from his slick fingers and clatters to the floor of the tub. When he bends to retrieve it, whatever’s in his hair runs into his eyes and stings.
Wiping his face, he picks up the bottle and squints to read it. One word, four white letters on a pink background.
This time, his voice rings off the tiles when he shouts, “Carrie!”