Simple Stories

It was the last straw, she said, the straw
that broke the camel’s back. She was going
to leave if he didn’t start picking up his socks.
all those socks, littering the floor, limp
like used and discarded condoms at the beach.
It wasn’t about the socks, of course, it was
about the work. The work he left her, the work
he refused to do, the simple every day
work of married life. It was a turning point,
she was proud to say: he loved her enough
to pick up his own damn socks.

Her socks lay under the rocking chair,
curled like grey slugs that cling to the bottom
of her flowerpots. She had sat up all night
with the baby. She grew warm from the baby’s hot,
fevered body. Sweat pasted her nightshirt
to her chest beneath the baby’s head. Still
she rocked, even after the baby
fell asleep. Trying not to jostle him,
she peeled each sock off the other foot
with her big toe, scratching the skin on her ankles
with her toenails, their chipped pink polish
from the calmer days before labor. Her feet
become cool as the sun began to creep along
the bottom edge of the shade, and throws
a rope of light across the room.

She didn’t have time to slave
over artisan foods, pour-over coffee,
or the right words. There was work
to be done. Always another load
of laundry. There was no getting them clean. The kids
were sent to school in clean white socks,
and came home with dirt rings around their ankles,
the shape of their feet imprinted
on the bottoms of the socks. Bleach
didn’t work. She soaked them
in baking soda. Scrubbed them
with a bar of soap. Borax. Ammonia.
Vinegar. RIT. Oxy. Dishwasher detergent.
She should buy black socks, but she couldn’t
bring herself to do it.

The dog was obsessed with her socks. He dug
them out of the clothes hamper in the corner
of their bedroom. She started to lay heavy things
on top of the hamper to keep the lid closed.
Shoes. A fan. A clothes basket. But then she’d forget,
and he would greet her at the door with one of her socks
in his mouth, looking proud like it was a baby rabbit
he had sussed from its hole and soft-mouthed to death
not knowing bones were so breakable. She pats
him on the head, says “good dog,” and is thankful
that he isn’t as obsessed with her underwear. She’s heard
stories of dogs who would chew threw the crotches
of their owners’ panties, and doubts she could
still love him as she does if he did.

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