“Have you ever wanted to pick up a totally random hobby?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “Calligraphy.”
She didn’t think it was random enough. She assumed he didn’t understand the word random, which means without aim. Without reason.
“I mean something unique,” she said. “Something nobody’s ever done before.” She reached for the soap. They were showering together, as they had lately, once a week.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Making cork creatures. Making little animals out of cork.”
His face was covered by a layer of foam. He spit through the bubbles to talk. “Dancing? Something with dance?”
That wouldn’t be good for us, she thought, as she tried to squeeze past him to rinse her armpits.
“Calligraphy has an application at least,” he said. “We could write our mail in calligraphy.” See, she thought, not random.
“What if we try to meet every female in the world?” she said.
“That’s expensive,” he said. “We have to come up with something that’s not so expensive.”
“Ok,” she said. “What if we write an entire book that’s a transcription of every single word we say?”
“Does this smell funny to you?” He held up the Neutrogena cleansing soap.
“They’re old bottles.” She thought about hopping out to fetch her sound recorder, something he’d bought her for Christmas the year before.
“Do you think they’re skunked?”
Can soap be skunked? she thought, mentally typing their conversation. She caught a whiff.
“That does smell funky,” she said, mentally typing F. U. N. K. Y.
They were both silent for a minute, alternately washing and waiting.
“Are you thinking about how many females are in the world?” he asked.
“What are you thinking about?”
“Big trouble,” he said, rubbing his belly.
“Big trouble in Little Colon,” she said darkly. “Do women have colons?”
“Everyone has a colon,” he said.
“Oh. Is it the pancreas that only men have?”
“The prostate.” She grabbed the soap and washed her parts.
“I have another idea for a hobby. What if we let mold grow so thick we can make soft fuzzy socks out of it?”
“Mold doesn’t stick together.”
“Yeah, but moss is vegetation.”
She heard a noise in the bedroom. The window was open. Probably just the blinds hitting the window. She stared at her parts.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“If I’m going to die, I’m going to die looking at my parts.”
They each stared at their own parts for a while. Steam filled the bathroom.
“Hey,” she said. “What if we list all the inappropriate, un-PC, hateful names for the vagina?”
“And be a walking repository for vagina names? That’s a possibility.”
“I knew someone who knew all of them. They’re awful. Dick Mitten!”
“I don’t know any names,” he said, rinsing the last conditioner from his scalp.
“We need new soap.”
“Can you buy new soap tomorrow?”
“Roast beef curtains!”
“And clearly we’re eating.”
“The bearded clam! A slice of heaven!”
“Oh that’s nice. At least that’s positive. No one can complain about that one.”
“What? Wizard’s sleeve?”
“Mmmm. Now you’re thinking.”
“South mouth! Oh yeah, and beaver,” she said. “So simple. So junior high.”
“Why do they call it a beaver? Just because it’s small and fuzzy?”
“Yes,” she said. “Like moss!”
“Like moldy socks!” he said.
Moldy socks are random, she thought. Beavers are not random. Beavers have aim. Reason.
“One person suggested that the president call his penis the Chief Joint of Staff,” he said.
She looked at him. His eyes were bright. He looked and smelled good, clean. “We can think about the penis, too,” she said. “That’s ok with me.”
“It’s getting too hot,” he said. “Ready to get out?”
“Yeah,” she said, handing him his towel. “You know what else I’ve been thinking about?”
“What?” he said, as he turned the faucet. The water stopped. They dried in tandem.
“You can’t believe it’s not butter?” she said. “Well I can. It tastes terrible.”
Suzanne Farrell Smith has essays published or forthcoming in The Writer’s Chronicle, Muse & Stone, Hawaii Women’s Journal, Tiny Lights, and In the Fray. She lives with her husband in Manhattan, where she freelances as a writer, teacher, editor, and proofreader, and hosts a literary salon. This is her first fiction publication.
Photos: Suzanne Farrell Smith