Just putting up a story I have found after many moons of it being lost. I had also been searching for a home for it in pages of journals, electronic or otherwise, during the relatively recent “flash-fiction” buzz that had happened. Is it still happening?
I don’t know, but I do know that this is a story.
I Am Dennis
I folded towels for a living.
I did it in a shop in the middle of town. I’d been doing it for years, not quite a decade but it had definitely been years and I specialised in only folding towels. It wasn’t very exciting and, just at the end, it became rather… cumbersome. There are different ways to fold a towel, yes, and it helped to second guess yourself, to live in the moment just to keep your brain alive in some way but you would always commit to finishing the job properly, no matter what.
There were the standards, the Head to Toe, the Coast to Coast, the Dunkirk, but those absolute paradigms of linen-storage etiquette, the normalcy for every hot press in the nation, couldn’t keep my mind away from the thud of madness in my head. It wasn’t what I wanted to do but I had to do it. It was all I knew. I also wanted to stay away from madness, but I had no choice in that matter either. It was all I knew too.
My mother insisted I continue with it – the job, not the insanity – and that it would be great to have the folding in my back pocket. I saw her logic, but something burned in me to do something… just… better. But nothing felt as natural as shaping rectangular towels into neater, smaller rectangular shapes. Little babies, little clones. But towels? No. They were such a small town thing, not for me with all my years behind me and this realisation upon me. And then one night in the dark with only my ceiling to see, I figured it out, what I really wanted to do.
I wanted to fold bedclothes.
Nothing would change if I didn’t, so I figured the only way out of the dead end of toweletry and into beddery was to sabotage my own work.
On Friday, that’s what happened.
I was so disgusted by the scene before me, nearing Somme territory, I nearly undid it. But with great reluctance, it stayed. My Venetian Slopes looked like woolly coffins and the corners in my Prairie Dangles were knives from a fuzzy white heart. Even the Bono I sculpted with the Egyptian cotton cloths was somehow a monstrosity. I nearly threw up my breakfast to be completely truthful, but it had to stay so my manager could see what I felt.
Alice needed to see what I felt on the inside. Alice with her stupid oaty face.
She didn’t like it or my finger that was accidentally bleeding. I didn’t notice it before. That was an accident, I swore to her. She loudly disagreed with me. She blamed me for the blood coming from her. Maybe I caught her with a stiff corner of a guest towel?
She said I had a knife in my hand. She was right too. I didn’t notice that either.
Alice was asleep in the corner, covered in a crimson glaze, like my hands and the drippy Kershack Pro. Annoyed for nicking Alice’s puddy neck, I agreed with her, more silent than before, but only in the hope of the promotion. I went away then, very alone.
Now, I fold towels somewhere else. They are white and everyone uses them.
I use the same techniques.
It isn’t any easier.