Friday, February 12, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Feldman will Never be a Man

The three old ladies hovered outside the kitchen door. They chatted idly and watched Feldman chop vegetables for the stew. He worked quietly, hunched over as though to protect himself from the music and conversations in the living room.

Miriam, the youngest and whitest-haired, picked at her muffin.

“How can he ever be the man of this house? He does whatever his sister says.”

"She sent him in there."

“And I heard he cleaned this entire house last night for the reception just because she mentioned it.”

“I heard she made him pay out of pocket for the casket.”

“He does all their laundry, you know.”

“He's done that since their father got sick.”

“No backbone. Nothing like his father.”

“Or grandfather.”

“Now that was a man who could win a war.”

“I could make that boy do my laundry. Just snap my fingers.”

Miriam flipped her wrist like sassy colored girls did on TV, but arthritis wouldn’t let her fingers snap. The three chortled together.

“You should make him do my laundry.”

"And mow my lawn."

“He’ll mow all our lawns if his sister tells him to.”

“You’d think his father would have beaten a little pride into him.”

“A shame he had to pass. He was so young for cancer.”

“More people are getting it these days. I heard on the news that it’s something in soda pop.”

“I heard it was meat.”

“That’s mad cow, not cancer.”

“At least it was a nice service.”

“Pretty shabby, I think. The Catholic Church on Northridge would have done a better job. And it was such a cheap coffin.”

“You’d think they’d want the best for him, after all his father did for this family.”

At some point in the conversation Feldman had finished with the carrots. Miriam felt him behind her. The three glanced and saw him in the doorway, chopping knife still in hand. His hands and sleeves were stained bright orange.

“My sister said to be polite to you,” he said.

They turned to him.

“What’s that?” asked Miriam.

He cleared his throat and came through the door. His skin was pasty and he was scarcely taller than any of the old women.

“I don’t agree with everything my sister says,” he said into her eyes. “She says that you three are catty because you’re infirm, and funerals like this are hard on you because it reminds you what’s coming. She said to be polite to you because the occasion might make you sensitive.”

He turned the knife upside down so that its tip pointed at his stomach. He extended the handle to the old ladies.

“The stew's on. Why don’t you clean up the kitchen while I change?”

When they didn’t answer immediately, he pushed the handle in-between Miriam and Winifred. Their fingers closed around it unconsciously, two women holding one knife. A little carrot orange got on either of their hands.

In handing it over, he drew close enough that the old women could feel something detestable on him, something between young heat and the smell of housework.

"I inherited a lot of shirts that don't fit me this week. I need to go try one of them on." He unbuttoned his stained sleeves and rolled them up like he should have before he'd started cooking. Like he would have if he'd done this before. "Bring your laundry over later after dinner and maybe I'll throw it in with mine."

Feldman walked to the stairs.

There ends Afterlife Week. A story on the theme of afterlives has gone up every day this week. You can read the other four by going to the HOME page or clicking the 'Afterlife Week' label tab. Please vote for your favorite in the poll on the left hand side!


  1. I like this story. It made me think. Now I need to go back and read the others sometime.

  2. John, I thought this was wonderful. I loved how he showed those little biddies how a real man was. The use of the knife as a tension point - fabulous. Peace, Linda

  3. Thank you both! I hope the thoughts it inspired were pleasant, or at least useful. Though it looks like this is a highly unpopular #fridayflash.

  4. I think he would have looked a bit crazed, standing there with a knife and sleeves stained with carrot juice! Old biddies!

  5. an interesting portait of both characters - Feldman and the collective of petty old biddies!

    The knife added some extra tension, certainly

    Tiny mis-sight in this sentence I think: "because it reminds you know what’s coming"

  6. Good story. You did a great job with the characterization in this one.

  7. Ha, love this line "I inherited a lot of shirts that don't fit me this week" That says so much. Maybe he is a bigger man than his father was, yes? :-)

  8. The old ladies scared me. With the tension of handing over the knife, I felt certain something worse was going to happen.

  9. There was a lot of tension in this, thankfully his sister told him to be polite. Nasty old women, but I wonder what detestable thing they felt from him - perhaps his hatred?

  10. First, I apologize for stopping by so late. Valentine's Day, restaurant biz... excuse yes, but well, now I have time.

    This was brilliant. There was so much innuendo hidden and I found myself going back to double check that I wasn't overreading.

    I agree, the knife brought a beaufitul tension to the story, and made the gossiping old women uncomfortbable. The shirt thing was fabulous too.

    The time frame confused me, and it could be my spotty education. Snapping like 'colored' girls and 'mad cow' phrasing, for me, are from different eras, and I'm not sure the time-setting of this story. Not that 'when' this story takes place is important; but reconciling those 2 times in history took me out of the story for a moment.

    Otherwise, this was one of the better stories so far this week, for me. Funny; the two I've loved the most have fewer comments. Not sure what that means.

  11. Thank you all for the comments! I'm glad the tension worked, and hope not too many of you were disappointed that Feldman wasn't stabbed.

    Peggy: I guess the "colored" thing comes from knowing several old ladies who speak that way, and its certain hateful connotation. You're certainly right that it's not the proper term for people of color today, and so seems dated.

    As far as it getting so few comments, I wonder if I offended. I know Afterlife Week had low turnout in general.


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