Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Washcloth

"Mom, can I take a shower today?" I was ten now, and had graduated from taking a bath, but as it was still new to me, I still had to ask permission.

She was curled up on the couch, basking in the glow of God's warmth, reading a passage from the Holy Bible. Mildly irritated by my interruption, she turned and peered at me over her teardrop shaped reading glasses, lips squinched together like she had just eaten a grape after brushing her teeth. "Ok, but make sure to wash your ears."

"Ok, thanks Mom."

"I will be checking, so make sure you do it right."

That was her thing lately, my ears. They had to be clean, and try as I did, they never passed inspection; her temperature rose with each successive failure.

The water was heavenly. The steaming jet stream soaked my long moppish hair and trickled over my body like warm plaster, spackling over my goosebumps that popped away like champagne bubbles. I twisted the yellow bar of Dial soap, with that distinct, bright odor, into a coarse red washcloth I held in my left hand. The water saturated the cloth and allowed it to relax from it's contorted shape, freeing it from it's rigor mortis; it was revitalized now with an angry mouthful of soap suds, looking like the gaping maw of a rabid dog.

The sun outside fell past the horizon as dusk banished the world to shadow. I called out, "Ok mom, I'm done!"

She marched through the bathroom door with her arms crossed behind her, one hand holding the other wrist. "Let's just see how you look." She pinched my ear closest to her and peeled it down. She growled, "This is FILTHY!"

She jerked my head around and yanked at the other ear. "My God Scott, what is it going to take!"

Her head whipped towards the back of the shower where the washcloth dangled expectantly on a rung. She pointed and screeched, "Give me that. Apparently you need to be shown!" The bathroom light was occluded by the back of her head, casting her face into a dark mask, but her ears were glowing and transparent like crimson embers. She forced me into the tub basin and sawed back and forth on top of my ear. The washcloth bit into my skin like sandpaper to paraffin wax as she scrubbed mercilessly; she switched to the other ear and repeated her vicious assault.

She was insane, like Lady Macbeth, trying to wash away a terrible blot on her soul. Was she washing away my sins? Hers? My dads? I stopped flailing, as my resistance was only fueling her madness. Both ears were bleeding when her killing fever passed, as her eyes registered her return to control and the auspices of God, who would surely forgive her. I never told my father, nor did I ever forget to wash my ears again.


jenbeauty said...

What a horrible memory. Are your ears clean today Scott?! Ok sorry for the sarcasim.

It is amazing what we choose to remember and what we can or cannot forget. I tend to block out things that I find distasteful. Although, there is one distinct memory of my mother breaking my chalkboard when I was 6. I was having a difficult time learning to spell our last name.

I miss my children, I want to hug them after reading this.

Scott said...

Actually, I don't pay them any extra attention for it. I'm over it. I'm working on using metaphors, props and themes.

mr. schprock said...

"… it was revitalized now with an angry mouthful of soap suds, looking like the gaping maw of a rabid dog."

If ever a shower could use a Kermit the Frog soap-on-a-rope, it was yours.

When I was ten, I think my mother was happy if I just got good and wet.

magnetbabe said...

We're a sad pair today, aren't we? Do you know if your mom ever felt bad about her attack on your ears? Beautiful desctiption of the paradise that is a hot shower.

Scott said...

She tried to apologize to me when I got older, but I didn't want to talk about it. I sort of forgive her, but I just don't like her.

Scott said...

S - You're killing me Mr Saget!

Shesawriter said...

Oh, goodness. How horrible. I'm sorry you had to go through that, Scott. :-(


Beth said...

I'm a germaphobe so couldn't help feeling a bit sorry for your mom in this one. OK, I made a joke just like Jen.

There was a guy on the internet I read a few years ago, I wish I could find him today. Scott, you would love his writing, I think. He's very descriptive and the most brilliant writer I've read. He grew up, literally, on the streets.

Wish I could find him.

Scott said...

Tanya - No worries, but thanks for the sentiment.

GK - Oh you kids! I wish you could find him too. Can you remember his name? I sure would love to check it out.