All That Jazz

There were no dustbunnies under the sofa, but she swept underneath anyway. The handle of the broom was the exact length for a woman of her height to be able to reach to the very far end, right where the back of the couch touches the pale walls. Yet no dust came out when the broom did. Without breaking a sweat, she dug the bristles harder through the rug and tried again.

She squirted soap on her rag and started on the walls. Not that it was particularly greasy, or messy, or slimey. She liked how it felt, the threading fabric on her hand and the smooth slide as she moves the cloth up-and-down in a mechanical pattern. Everything in a certain path, furniture and fixtures laid out as a complex maze of her home.

She never once blinked through her routine. That was her prerogative, stoic and strong as she had been taught. That is until she noticed she missed a spot earlier. A dark spot. Too small for anyone to give more than a second’s thought, but it drove her insane. Her knees banged on the ground as she tried to scrub it off.

Everyday at exactly 5:25 her children would rush on in. By that time, the house would’ve been immaculate, dinner freshly cooked. Not that day. That dark spot she left on the floor took forever to remove; and though gone, she knew if she squinted at it, from a very precise angle, the crimson could still be seen. If someone were to notice, she could pass it off as spilled wine.

After all, no one would’ve been surprised if they’d heard she was drinking again. The neighbors’d gossip, her parents’d freak out, the kids wouldn’t understand, Jake would’ve sent for help. She hated having to let go but there was much more to clean up. Standing up, the expanse of her small living room, what seemed to be the pristine pride of her life, felt like a meaningless cave, each corner a pedestal of filth.

She picked up the cigarettes she took from Jake’s pocket as she was dragging him down the basement earlier. She hated smoking, but sometimes hatred is the best way to cope. She lit it up and through the smoke started the shapes that circled around the room, whisking away dust, blowing away soot. She rehearsed the scene where she’ll tell the kids how daddy is at a conference for some time.

Ashes fell on the floor. Instinctively she grabbed the dustbuster. But as her hands started to grip the handle, she let it go. Plenty of time to clean it up when I over, she mused, taking another long puff.


This is the 100 Songs Project, a 100-day writing challenge based on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs. Every day, I write a short poem, prose piece, or play based on, reacting to, rejecting, accepting, or doing something related to one of the songs in the top 100 list.