Now when I do the housework, I can relax.
“You dumb bunny — why did I ever marry you? Can’t you do anything right?” — words delivered with a casual backhand or a half-hearted punch to the ribs. I tried to remember all his rules, but my head was crammed with the correct steps for dishwasher loading, vacuuming (straight overlapping lines like he did with the perfect lawn), putting a pot on the stove (handle must point in). My life was a web of regulations, interlocking and sticky with a fat spider in the center.
It’s been a week since his classic 1967 Dodge Charger’s brakes failed and the dump truck squashed him flat, so flat, even the mortician couldn’t put Humpty dick-head Dumpty back together again. I arranged for a cremation, something he would have had a conniption fit about if he had known. Ha. The bastard had wanted to be buried with pomp under a ten foot ebony obelisk. Instead, I bought the discount cremation package. Twenty-eight dollars and ninety cents for a fake brass urn with flowers etched all over it. It sits on the mantel over the fireplace. It makes a great spittoon.
Tuesday used to be laundry day, so I do it on Monday. I gather my dirty sweats, work scrubs, socks and pillow cases, all whites and colors mixed together — desegregated at last! — throw them in the wash with flowery-scented detergent and start to read a romance novel with Fabio on the cover. My heart flutters when I realize I broke the ultimate rule. The bruise under my breast is finally fading from the last time I turned his boxers purple. I relax. He can’t hurt me from where he is now.
Out of the corner of my eye I glimpse something blacker than the shadows between the washer and the dryer, in a dim crack full of dead beetles and lint mounds.
I drop Fabio, and squat down. The silk sock glares. It is covered in dog hair and dust. His sock. But how could it be? I burned all his clothes in the fire-pit yesterday during a private Bacchanalia. I leap up, turn around, expect to be swatted like a fly for letting one of his Marcoliani Italian silk socks slip away.
My shoulders drop. It’s just an eighty-dollar piece of fabric. I lean forward and lob a perfect ball of spit right on the toe.
Wine is a wonderful beverage. It’s like a lost best friend, come for a visit after a long absence. He didn’t agree with alcohol-felt it made me too silly, too talkative. I have a whole refrigerator door filled with wine bottles now, chosen for the uniqueness of the label. Laundry day is Ghost Block cabernet day, named after the Pioneer Cemetery in Napa Valley. Sixty-five dollars a bottle. He would have punched a hole in the wall.
Ping! The dryer tells me the laundry is done. My head is fuzzy and I dribble the last drops of wine down my throat. I am smiling. I can sleep it off if I want. I can talk to my Mother all night if I want. He can’t stop me. I lob the empty bottle in the trash where it bleeds on the “Dodge Charger Repair Manual”.
I skip around the corner to the laundry room. A dark stain pokes out between the washer and the dryer. It’s the sock. I swear it was back in the crevice earlier. I push it back in with the detritus.
Eighties music pours from the Bang and Olufsen speakers set at level 30. I hope they blow. “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” blasts away while I pile the toasty laundry higgledy-piggledy into the laundry basket. My feet beat a rhythm across the hallway and start up the winding staircase to put the clothes away.
Halfway up I try a moonwalk on the bare wooden stair and my feet start to slip. I glance up at the mounded laundry and behold a black silk sock sliding out the side of the basket. I grab the bannister while the sock slithers to the steps and wraps around my ankle.
I let the laundry basket tumble down the stairs and I bend forward to free myself from the loathsome sock when somehow it pulls up into the air and with it my leg.
Down I fly, a fuzzy-headed hausfrau heading like a bullet for the wall at the bottom of the staircase. I scrunch my eyes shut and wait for the crunch.
Instead I land in a garden of sweet-smelling towels and panties. My limbs are shaking but I pull myself up and check for damages. Aside from a sore leg, I am intact. The silk sock remains entwined around my ankle.
“Enough!” I cry, limping out of the hallway and into the family room. I lean against the fireplace and attempt to rip the expensive silk binding my steps. The silk is digging in; pain shoots up my calf. Out of the corner of my eye, I see dull brass.
My hand darts out and grabs the flowered urn. I start to cackle. “If you don’t let go, you’ll get refried!” I pop the top off the urn and cock my arm back, facing the roaring fire.
The sock drops in a silk puddle at my feet. I place the urn back on the mantel. A fine ash covers my hands. I flick it off into the fire and the wood snaps and cracks.
I raise my arms up, throw my head back and shout:
“There is a new ruler in the house!”
MCCasey writes from the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains when she isn’t herding two dogs and a husband. Her poems can be read at Every Day Poets and her non-fiction articles are sprinkled around the web.