Short Fiction: Laundry by Maria Deira

I’ve convinced myself that if I do even one more load of laundry I’ll wither away, that my insides will dry up and turn to powder, that my skin will have the soft tackiness of dryer sheets, that I’ll shrink and flatten and smell like pancakes. Really. I know this will happen. I feel it in my gut. I dream it. I know it.

So the hamper overflows, clothing carpets the floors, layers of towels drape over the shower rod and I’m lying on the couch crying my eyes out because I don’t have any clean underwear left.

My mom calls, “I’ve been doing dozens of loads of laundry every week for over thirty years and I’m still here. You stop feeling sorry for yourself, get off the couch, and separate your lights from darks.”

“Well, I can do that much,” I say. “I just can’t stick them in the machine and start it.”

“Do you want me to go over there and do the laundry?”

I don’t say anything.

A couple of hours later she’s shoving towels into my washing machine. “You know this is disgusting, right?” she asks me as I hand her several gray wash cloths. They used to be white.

“I know.”

“And you know your fear is just in your head?”

“Where else would it be?”

“Don’t get smart with me,” she says. “I’m just trying to help.”

“Don’t treat me like a baby. I’m crazy, not dumb.”

She dumps a scoop of detergent in the wash and slams the lid shut. “You’re not crazy, you’re just — you’re just looking at the small things.” She smiles. “You’re over thinking the monotony of daily living. Washing dishes, brushing your teeth, doing the laundry — “

“Taking a crap.”

“Ugh. Don’t say that.”

We’re quiet for a moment.

“It’s only the laundry,” I try to explain. “Everything else, it doesn’t bother me.”

She chuckles, which is odd because my mother isn’t a chuckler. She crosses her arms, holding herself, and starts giggling.

“What?” I say.

“I feel like I’m being tickled. My skin feels all prickly.” She laughs now, gasping to speak. A single happy tear leaks from the outer corner of her left eye. And then it happens. She turns white, her skin becomes flaky, and before I know it my mother is a little mound of white powder on the floor. But the air smells like lavender soap, not pancakes.

I start to cry because it’s my mother. No one wants to see their mother transformed into dust, but there’s nothing I can do it about. How do I undo what’s been done? Oh God, I think, I’ll have to tell my father. And I know he won’t believe me, not until he comes over and sees it for himself, and when he does finally believe it he’ll blame me.

Then I have an even more horrible and selfish thought: it’s too bad she disintegrated so fast because I can’t really say, “I told you so,” can I?

I wipe away my tears, unplug the washing machine and the dryer. I sweep up what remains of my mother and pour her into a wine glass because it’s classier than a juice glass and if you know my mom, you know she’s classy. So I pour her into a wine glass which I place on the windowsill — this way she can see the sunset or at least feel the sunset or something. I get myself a bowl of dry cereal and eat it slowly, waiting for my father to call. I’ll have to figure out what to do about clothes and what to do without a mother.

I’m pouring myself another bowl of cereal when I hear my mother’s voice. I don’t know where it’s coming from, but it’s all around me and inside me and the vibration of her words gives me goosebumps. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself,” she says. “Get out there, go do something. Be something. At least pour some milk on your Cocoa Puffs for Pete’s sake.”

I’m smiling now. I’m thrilled. “I told you so, Mom,” I say as I get up to get some milk. “I told you so!”


laundryMaria Deira has lupus, fibromyalgia, sleep disorders, and a long, sad list of other chronic and invisible illnesses. Her fiction has been published in A cappella Zoo, Fiction Southeast, Word Riot, GigaNotoSaurus, and Strange Horizons. Maria is also one of the editors of And Then I Got Sick. You can find more of her work at Writing, Writing, Lupus Fighting

“Laundry” was originally published in Every Day Fiction (2011).

Poetry: Every Day is Good Friday by Michael Hanson

I watch as your body is pierced over and over.
You watch as I pierce your body over and over,
And over.
You manage your pain,
As best you can,
So others won’t know it,
But sometimes it’s overwhelming.
My son, my son,
why have I forsaken you?

Every day is Good Friday,
With its darkness and pain,
And every day we anticipate
The promised Sunday
When your body will be whole

This, my son,
I promise,
Your sacrifice, your blood,
Your pain,
Will have purpose.
Forty days, or years,
Or decades,
We do not know the hour,
but soon…

For now we wait,
And learn.
Because of your suffering we question,
We doubt.
Through your suffering we know
Struggle, we grow empathy.
Through your suffering we know


Michael profile picMichael Hanson is the parent of a 5-year-old son with Type 1 Diabetes who was diagnosed at 17 months and a 2-year-old daughter. He has Master’s degrees in both English and Library Science and currently works at a public library in the Pacific Northwest. Follow Michael on Twitter: @michaelhanson22

Poetry: Low Tide by Rachel Swirsky

Fear binds
knees to stomach
forehead to feet.
Smothered, dissonant,
familiar paralysis.

Infinitesimal miscalculations
replicating X, should be Y,
should be Z, R, Q, N, should
be the person who
avoids my gaze
in mirrors.

A broken equation,
solution dissolving
into equal parts:
crumpled afternoons,
thirsty riverbeds,
severed strings.


Rachel Swirsky Rachel Swirsky graduated from the Clarion West Writers Workshop in 2005 and the Iowa Writers Workshop in 2008. She has published more than fifty short stories in magazines and anthologies, and her short fiction has been nominated for the Hugo Award, the Locus Award, the World Fantasy Award, and others. Her work has twice won the Nebula Award. Her second short story collection, HOW THE WORLD BECAME QUIET: MYTHS OF THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE, came out from Subterranean Press in 2013. She only writes poetry occasionally, and is pleased to have a few lines out after taking a break for a few years.

Grand Jeté (the Great Leap) – Nebula Nominee 2015

If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love – Nebula Winner 2014, Hugo and World Fantasy Award nominee

The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window – Nebula winner 2011, Hugo and World Fantasy Award nominee

Eros, Philia, Agape – Hugo nominee

A Memory of Wind – Nebula nominee