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Dirty Laundry

Dirty laundry piled on the futon, pillows tumbled to the floor. The doors to the bulky blond wood armoire stand ajar, more clothing piled on the floor there, leaking from drawers. On the glass-topped café table a straight green glass vase full of wilting spider mums has been pushed to one side to make room for an open pizza box empty except for a couple of nibbled crusts and a litter of petals. The sink in the little hallway kitchen is lost under a pile of dirty plates, glasses, bowls, a saucepan. A key rattles in the lock. Jo limps in shrugging a shoulder out of her jacket, flicking on the light in the little hallway kitchen. She shimmies her other arm free and lets the jacket drop to the floor. Heads across the main room stumbling over the black spear-haft stretching away under the table, kicking pillows out of the way to stand by the futon, her left hand gingerly opening and closing.

Ysabel’s in the little hallway kitchen looking down at Jo’s army-surplus jacket on the floor by the overflowing garbage can. She starts to say, “Could you at least,” but Jo snaps “Not now, okay? Not fucking now.” She’s unbuckling her belt. “And I don’t want to hear how it wouldn’t be a problem if I hadn’t opened my eyes when I shouldn’t have.” She kicks enough clothing away to free a space on the futon by the wall.

“It was more your big mouth,” says Ysabel. Jo’s yanking off her jeans, wincing, shaking out her left hand. “I told you it would sting a bit,” says Ysabel.

“Whatever,” says Jo, squirming under the blankets. Ysabel sits in one of the spindly wrought-iron chairs by the glass-topped table. “We’re going to see whatsisname, Erne, tomorrow,” says Jo.

“All right,” says Ysabel. “Does that mean you’re going to start carrying the sword?”

“Marfisa’s the Axe, right?” says Jo. “Her brother, he’s the Axehandle. Not the Axe.”

Ysabel looks over at Jo, half-hidden by the laundry, on her side, facing the wall. “You mean what the Dagger was saying. What Sidney was saying.” She pulls a gold cigarette case from her skirt pocket. “Does that change anything?”

“I don’t know,” says Jo. “Does it?”

“Of course not,” says Ysabel. She lights a cigarette and smokes it until it’s almost down to her fingertips, and then she stubs it out in the pizza box. When Jo starts to snore, she reaches into her skirt pocket again and pulls out a small glass jar and holds it up to the kitchen light. Inside a viscous, milky fluid, frothed with tiny bubbles at the top, touched with just a hint of warm yellow gold.

He’s a big man straining the shoulders of a faded plaid flannel shirt, sitting back in one of the leather armchairs beneath the large copper letters that say Barshefsky Associates: Quality Assured. Long grey mustaches droop to either side of his mouth. In one hand he holds a small notebook bound in blue leather. When the side door swings open with a sudden wash of questioning voices and clacking keys he climbs to his feet. Becker steps out into the lobby, a loose brown T-shirt over grey long-sleeved thermals, thin brown hair licked up here and there at the top of his head.

“Becker?” says Pyrocles.

“I’m, sorry,” says Becker. “You’re very – Do I know you?”

Pyrocles tucks the blue notebook into his shirt pocket. “Jo’s told me a lot about you,” he says.

“She has?” says Becker.

“Is she here today? I need to meet with her briefly on a personal matter.”

“I can,” Becker starts to say.

“You see,” says Pyrocles, “I never did get to examine her hands.”

“I.” Becker looks back over his shoulder at the side door. “I’ll just,” he says. “I’ll go see if she’s, uh, if she’s ready for her break.”

“And I’ll just wait out here,” says Pyrocles.

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M.E. Traylor    6 August 2010    #

Oh, poor Becker.

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