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by S. Kearing

The very first time, my mother cradled the back of my downy head in her hand. She hummed as the sink faucet burbled and the overbearing summer watched through the open window.

***

Nine months after that, the water cascaded over my forehead like a blessing straight from the pitcher of god.

***

When I was six years old, I was finally permitted to hide myself behind the gently billowing shower curtain. My skin grew florid in the thick, close steam and I mourned the tepid bubble baths of my early childhood.

***

During my adolescence, they sent me to fetch our border collie from her raucous exploration of a freshly manured field. Afterwards, my brother hosed me down, clothes and all, with a forceful, chilly torrent. I protested and laughed and held my palms up to the spray, my hair dripping freely into my eyes.

***

In my thirties, I took my children camping for a week on a wild, sprawling land. We bathed in the river with our feet embedded in a stew of mud and pebbles.

***

Well past middle age, I had safety rails installed in my bathroom. Even when I focused my gaze upon the rain-like offerings of my oversized shower head, it felt as if those bars were closing in on me. They taunted me as I lathered and scrubbed and rinsed.

***

When he anoints me with his blessed oil and his practiced words, I wonder if this will give me what I’ve doggedly pursued my entire life. Will this — my being absolved of my sins and primed to meet my maker — finally make me clean?

It doesn’t. I still feel the grunginess under my skin.

But I need not sulk or fuss. Because that very evening, I am rendered blissfully pristine, bathed by the whiteness of my welcome transition. My earthly baggage drops from me in a brilliant flash. Only now that I am reunited with this buoyant freedom, with this glorious purity, am I sure of it:

I am clean.


Sophie Kearing is a coffee-obsessed night owl who writes flash fiction, short stories, and novels. Her short fiction has been picked up by Horror Tree, Ellipsis Zine, and The Sirens Call Publications. She loves writing on rainy days, reading books that smell fantastic, and Netflixing with her fur babies in her lap. Her Twitter handle is @sophiekearing.

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