MONTMARTRE IMMEUBLE PART II
based on james joyce's "Hades" chapter of Ulysses
The washing machine whirred around in circles, flopping clothes violently inside, dispensing soap suds and water across the fabric. The reds bled into the blues to mix into purples that blended with yellows and became browns with whites and blacks tinged the rich greens and pale greens that melted with blues again and become all a faded, sourly color of brown.
I watched it with disdain. The cat yes, the childhood cat, in Malaysia. Used to try and leap into the washing machine and use it like a hamster wheel, scratching at the metal to get a grip with its claws. Pink scratchy tongue. Yellowed claws. Mats of black fur. Slightly demonic. See it in the eyes. Ovular pupils.
“Don’t you think, darling? I’ve been getting awfully hot inside the house lately, your father keeps the thermostat roaring on the highest setting as if he were a newborn child,” Ma groaned on the other end. I strolled back to the couch, sat down, and adjusted the phone closer to my ear, holding it between my cheek and shoulder as I reached for a piece of fruit from the coffee table.
“Mmm....like a newborn. Yet another child to take care of,” I replied.
“Yes, I suppose now that all of the children have left the nest, I have to find someone to take care of.”
“Mmm, Mhmm, it would seem you’re fulfilling your motherly duty then.” I listened to the washing machine lurch once, then restart. Like an irregular heartbeat. I ground the citrusy fruit between the dulled points of my molars, letting the juices seep onto the flat of my tongue, flicking the liquid down my throat, and spitting out the beige little seeds.
Jack...what was it? Jack Jackson? Yes, Jack Jackson. The mousy haired little devil from fifth grade. In class, sat next to me. Rough and cold in the eyes. Thick, bonely body. Smelly feet. Lightly molten fungus growing between the toes. White socks, yes, quite, the kind I hate—spongey and sporty and masculine with a brand name sewed around the ankle. Those socks. Used to throw eraser flint bits at me when the teacher wasn’t looking. Little devil. Oh, the dynamics of little girls and little boys. Cyclical. Relentless. Something to reflect on. Never ends. But who was the...?
Washing machine clacked to a stop.
“What was that dear?”
“Hold on, Ma, the washing machines just stopped running. Got to go see what’s wrong—perhaps the cycles been cancelled, or it’s stopped on its own.”
“Ah, yes, need clean clothes sweetie. As I was saying, remember Lewis who lived across the street from us when you were just a wee thing?”
“Mmm barely.” Washing machine cramped. Not running. Made unpleasant noises, like the sharp edges of cut aluminum can lids scraping together. It seemed a lighter had exited the pocket of a pair of jeans. Gotten wedged in the rubber seal just behind the door of the machine. Cancelled itself. Like many things.
I almost cancelled myself at sixteen years old. What can you do? I pressed the button. Restarted.
The washing machine resumed, sputtering suds and water and began its cycles of cleaning all over again. Hoped there aren’t any loose clementine seeds folded into the stitches of the wet clothing. Or strawberry seeds, heaven forbid. Though perhaps it would make the clothes sweeter or make them glow with a lovely red hue. Everyone would be watching.
Light rain drooled softly on the pavement outside. I watched through my living room window.
Eggs, cheese, razor blades, sticky notes. Oh, and Blue Tac for the new painting. What else? Drop by the rental agency to extend the lease for a year. Call brother. Hmmm....brother, yes. Haven’t spoken to him in a lightyear. Must do. That’s all. That’s always all.
“Ma could you check and make sure Daddy transferred money to my account this month?”
“You don’t have any money, sweetie? Are you low?” there was alarm in Ma’s voice.
“Not particularly, although I must pay rent at some point in the next five days.”
“Ah yes. I will check for you, sweetheart. As I was saying....”
Screaming. Thuds. Downstairs, child. Beating its fists. On mothers' breast. Manic. Panic. Slightly autistic. Screeching. Baby bird being attacked in its own home. Nest. Nasty. How unpleasant.
The washing machine whirred round and round with light mechanical clanks.
“What was that, Ma?”
The only noise came from the washing machine whirring in the background and the space heater. The washing machine whirred. The space heater sputtered. The air was still.