Washing Instructions

//Washing Instructions

Washing Instructions

By Brenda Birenbaum


You raise your hands to hush the crowd, you raise your hands america america, you raise your hands palms out to hush the crowd to give it voice, translate primordial hoots and jeers and lewd youtubes—flip off the camera, yeah, thrust that pelvis forward, yeah—the gun swells in your pants and you kick out ’em riffraff that ain’t starched n’ proper ironed, that air the laundry in public and trespass on us united bleachables coast to coast and I forget …….. like totally being mute being wrung out in the spin cycle being all ears in dark alleys as I raise your garbage (can after reeking can) above my tired shoulders, shaking the thang, cajoling the ejaculate, over the side of the dumpster. I don’t peer in when I bring it back down to check for leftover crap—my eyes are shot no kidding all I see are plastic shadows and streetlight glare splintering off patches of greasy film on the asphalt. I raise my hands america america always the man, palms out, gold face slathered in foundation, raise ’em hands, fake face, pink smile, maw full of porcelain no kidding full of chowed-down kill, fake longing to rewind to the spot embracing the same kinda shit as empty words (swallowtails had left their cocoons) ready set hit play

It’s love, I think, picking off tears of joy from the stubble above my neck tats, blowing murky soap bubbles into the rowdy dusk. Laundry instructions say not to mix the colors with whites, throw ’em black brown n’ yellow in the wash (red, too), get ’em all proper hot n’ agitated, and fuck it like it is, they still mud after rinse and repeat, not a jury of my peers no kidding no joe sixpack, the one that obeys, that cashes his pathetic paycheck at the end of the week to help with the economy to help drown his sorrow in suds, fess up to the barman how he ain’t got insurance to fix his kid, worse, dough for his clunker, which means he’s gonna lose his job as my fingers twirl ever so lightly over the handgun laying next to his brew to soak up the warmth and the glory, ain’t that just swell, chin tilted up bloodshot eyes reflecting the cool from the wall-mounted TV that gives its all in red white and blue, amerika amerika, and I just love ya for telling it like it—it like it—it like it—is, I could lick the podium under your feet wrap my arms around your legs tickle your nipples gobble your golden dick as you suck the loaded mic, all together now, take it all in take your balls into my hands follow your lead a rampage of rape ’em all bitches and the earth the west coast is burning (they had it coming those godless faggots) and I forget …… like totally the heat rising from the inferno, fire n’ brimstone, skyhigh flames leaping across ridges on the tube, place’s going down the tube, you gotta show those dipshit bleeding hearts that love ’em brown migrants and green trees more than me, ’em that say we can’t stay unextinct without water and bees, you tell ’em, yeah, you tell ’em, my gun is bigger than yours, my territory spans the words over and believe me, I’m telling it like it is, I’ll make your cock great again and it ain’t gonna be internet spam

Hold on to the railing as you stumble down the dark stairwell, the elevator is down (what’s going on, ask clueless neighbors evacuating their east coast cocoons), uniformed technicians stringing detonation wires across the sleepy neighborhood, trucks waiting out on the street to take us away no kidding it’s not men with guns, just police to serve and protect black lives matter like road kill as-seen-on-cop-shows-on-TV, surely that ain’t us. Don’t listen to that nonsense kiddo, no way they had internment camps in america, nah, genocide never happened in america, nah, and water boarding I believe is a laundering technique from a bygone era when women with big behinds in heavy canvas garments were folded over a stream banging the bedding in pristine water free and clear of pharmaceuticals neonicotinoids PCBs fluoride nuclear waste before my tastebuds turned metallic. I’m all thin and diluted and depleted and I really please would like to keep my in-unit washer and drier and I forget …….. like totally that I got the 3 strikes, I’m the bitch I’m the queer and the nigga jew like whoa obsolete stuff that didn’t receive the upgrade to muslim and mexican and hate two-point-o, and in the rising heat I’m the vanished butterfly and the hollow tree, my eyes dim out, I’m like one of ’em pathetic souls that can’t read the fine print in the manual, I apologize in advance on my knees on the wind swept asphalt, random trash slapping my face as it blows past, and I’m pleading and sobbing america america I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m really really sorry, I’m with y’all in the hot arena, cheering and shrieking proper until the huge screens shatter and the blood that was up to my ankles a minute ago is lapping at my face and keeps rising steady in the dark, washing in red the great unwashed—that kinda stain never comes out—until it bursts the walls, dumping a mangled sopping mess of guns and banners and body parts and bits of screens and platforms and POVs in the pitch-black street where the lights are photoshopped out and I no longer see shit


Brenda Birenbaum’s short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The Vignette Review, Random Sample Review, Low Light Magazine, and elsewhere. She is an editor for Unbroken Journal and can be followed on Twitter at @brbirenbaum.

Photo credit: Rod Brazier via a Creative Commons license.

By | 2017-10-04T11:12:55+00:00 October 5th, 2017|Categories: Issue 43: 05 Oct 2017|Tags: , , , |1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Nancy Dunlop 2017-10-08 at 4:55 am

    Great piece. Gains in power as you go. A wonderful and ferocious flow of language through the realities of all those who are “earmarked” as Other, and the frightening consequences of fear gone berserk. Thank you!

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