DIRTY LAUNDRY by Lisa Johnson Mitchell

I pour bleach over the mound, purging, once again, the family secret: Daddy’s arrest—indecent exposure. Socks fall in. Slipped them off right before having sex with my husband, during which I thought of Benjamin, high school lover. 

Will Mom die today? Bed sore as big as a baseball. Not eating or drinking. Been seven days. Hampton Gardens is five minutes away, thank Christ. Flannel nightgown, shove it in, hope I don’t have another nightmare where I’m digging into my giant thigh with a knife, the insides like a Christmas ham.

I told Mom I loved her, that she was the best Mama in the whole world, then I put Chapstick on her faded lips and kissed her papery forehead. New jeans, squeezed my watermelon-ass into them. I’m starving, that Three-Day Cabbage Diet didn’t work. For better, for worse, you said. T-shirt from Beverly Hills, all the famous people don’t smell or fart. Their parents never die. 

Daddy, Mama will see you soon. Dishrag smells like ripe lady parts, salmon was a bust, stupid Martha Stewart. Mama screamed and clawed my wrist, ‘please help me, please help me’ so I ran and got the nurse who gave her a drop of morphine. Please God, take me instead, I did have that affair. Next: bath towel, the expensive one from Peacock Alley. The plush speaks to my skin and says I will go on living.

Squirt, squirt. Liquid detergent syrups the clothes, in goes the whitening pod that never works, but I’m an optimist, damn it. Phone rings. 

Her breathing is ragged, shallow, her heart rate has dropped. Come now.


Lisa Johnson Mitchell's work has appeared in Fictive Dream, Cleaver, and Litro Online, among others. One of her stories placed in the Top 10 of the 2020 Columbia Journal Short Fiction Contest. Another received an Honorable Mention from Glimmer Train and was a Semi-Finalist in the ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Contest. She was a resident at the Vermont Studio Center and holds an MFA from Bennington College. She has a rescue pup named Cornbread.

Art by Crow Jonah Norlander.

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