Ablution By Rob Martin

The car is clicking as it cools and I drop to a crouch and place my fingertips on the bodywork. The bumper is dented and the wing is scuffed. I trace the gouges in the paintwork; each jagged burr catching my fingers like Braille. The headlight lens has a web of fractures and I reach across and pull a clump of hair from the glass; long blonde strands ping from the cracks and curl around my fingers. Something wet hangs from the end of them.
My stomach suddenly lurches and I rush to the sink and throw-up. Bile stings my throat and I gulp from the tap and watch the water chase away the poisonous slick. I fill a bucket with warm soapy water and sponge the bodywork; the soapsuds turn pink as I squeeze the sponge. I tip them away and flood the plughole with bleach.
I open the door from the garage into the hallway. The door grazes the carpet with a gentle shush. I shorten my breaths and form an O with my mouth but I stumble against the bannister halfway up the stairs and I curse. I pause, gripping the step but there is no sound from the bedrooms. Our door is closed; Jen never waits up.
Across the landing, the night-light from Becca’s room casts a comforting glow from the crack in the door. I push and it slowly swings open with a hint of song.
She has kicked off the covers and lies asleep on her back; blonde curls framing a baby face, blowing pink spearmint kisses into the air. I move in to stroke her forehead, but as I deepen my breathing, the smell of stale beer spills from my mouth and fouls the air. She stirs and turns away from me, and I clasp my hand to my mouth and back out of the room.

I stagger into the bathroom and I loosen my tie. I can breathe again. I peel off my suit and kick it into the corner. I shower with the dial on eight and my body turns lobster pink. The sponge foams, and the tea tree and lemon suds slough away my bad skin.



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