Thresh by Marc Nash

I wrap myself in the bathroom towel. Either it’s grown or I’ve shrunk. We have, however, both gone saggy. If it’s expanded, it hasn’t increased its absorbent surface area any. The terry pile had long gone, but now even the frayed bobbling has been worn away to leave a thin fabric that cannot wick the water from the guttered wrinkles of my skin. But I can hardly fault the towel since it has rendered long years of faithful service. Though in that time it has rubbed out all colour from my body hair. Of course I know that not to be true. The hairs have blanched after years of shadowed eclipse beneath clothes. I know that not to be true either. I am not a plant requiring chlorophyll for photosynthesis. Though hair sprouts from my ears like vine tendrils.

My fingers scrape the stubble on my face like a violin pizzicato. A symphonic rasp. Scratchy, like a recently threshed wheat field. Without the threshing. You always insisted I was clean shaven before any kiss. A reasonable request and an unconditional act of devoting myself to you. But now I can indulge my loathing of the razor. I have neglected to throw the can of foam away. I wonder if it’s solidified inside. Or evaporated for that matter.

I have a different teeth cleaning regimen now. For a new set of dentures. But they pinch my receding gums, I don’t think they’re the right dimensions for my mouth. You could have helped sort that out for me. You always resolved life’s ill-fittings. Dealing fearlessly with those in authority who always intimidated me. I leave them soaking in solution over night. My unstayed cheeks pucker inwards, as if in permanent anticipation of a kiss that will never issue.

We used to turn the mattress every six months or so. Marked it on the calendar. A sort of anniversary. Flipping it was a two man job. For one man and one woman. I can’t do it on my own. Don’t even need a double any more of course. So I just sag further into its recess which dwarfs me whole. Nonetheless it’s hardly womb-like. I shiver in its embrace. I was further confronted with the black spots on my side of the mattress, exposed every time I stripped the bed linen to wash it. So I have ceased laundering the sheets. They’re either dead bugs or their aborted eggs. Either way they are nightmarish. We were zealous about the mattress and the linen, but never the infestation. It always seemed to be on my side of the bed whichever way we turned the mattress. Yet it was you who died of a respiratory disease. Maybe I had become immune with them just under my head always turned to their side to sleep. Maybe I should have exposed you to them for some seasoning against their spores. Perhaps it was just the fetid breath from inside me, transfused to you through our kissing that did for you.

Marc Nash has published 5 collections of flash fiction and his fifth novel “Three Dreams In the Key Of G” is shortlisted for the 2018 Not The Booker prize. He has had articles or short stories published by “The Rough Guide To Rock”, Akashic Books, Culture Matters, The Good Men Project, RIC Journal, Minor Literature(s), The Honest Ulsterman, the London Literary project among others, He works with video makers to turn some of his flash fiction into digital storytelling. He lives and works in London in the freedom of expression realm.