A work of fiction submitted for the prompt: Dirty
Something disgusting and absolutely bizarre that it almost add some amusement to my mundane days, happened to my flatmate Jamie just a few hours ago. And because of him, we are on an unlikely–but reminiscently clueless as life–quest, to say the least.
Arriving at our small, but cozy enough apartment, I dropped my corpse-like body on the couch after a whole day of tedious work. After letting out a huge sigh, I proceeded to turn on my computer for another session of mindlessly browsing funny videos online–some sort of habit I have been keeping up for no reason, so don’t ask me why, because I really don’t know. I reached out for a box of cereal I have conveniently placed on the coffee table for both breakfast and dinner–please refrain from judgment, as I consider those who have fast food or instant noodles almost everyday as people who are equally hungry and just want to get over with it before spending eight hours in front of cancerous radiation the very next day. After a a scoop and a crunch, I can’t help but stop because I smell something so foul, even my feet, which I suspect sweat sewer water, would never be able to compete. Scrunching my face, I looked up, only to find Jamie at the threshold covered with something I assume is a bucket of fish guts and other nasty thick mixture.
“What the hell happened to you?” I held my nose in a split second, also backing away from the couch.
“I was walking back from the studio after finishing work early, minding my own business, when suddenly I fell in a sewer, just in time for the pipes to spit out some more shit which I think is from the fishmonger,” he explained.
“Oh, it really was fish, then,” I muttered, “Jesus Christ, you reek like shit.”
“Oh, you’re too kind. I’ve been covered in this for the whole five hours and I’m still not used to this rotting stench,” he bellowed.
“Five hours!?” I barked, “why didn’t you take a fucking bath? Actually, go! Now! Oh, I can’t take it anymore.”
“I have! This is my fourth time out of the bath,” Jamie exasperatedly answered, “I scrubbed myself clean, and whenever I stepped out of the bathroom, I got back to fucking square one!”
I was truly appalled, “sorry, what!?”
“You heard me right. I can’t get this bloody filth off my body,” he groaned, “come on, Sam, I wouldn’t lie about this.”
I took a moment before I answered, “right. I hope you don’t mind another try though. Get your stinky limbs to the bathroom.”
He was hesitant, “but, err, you’re gonna… watch or, uh…”
“No bloody time to get self-conscious! Just keep your stupid boxers on! And I’ll be standing at the door, spraying you water and let you finish the whole business afterwards alone.”
Keeping at least an arm’s length away from him, we went to the bathroom. Jamie stood on the bathtub, and I turned the shower on, blasting it on full-speed onto him, still keeping at least an arm’s length from where he was. I saw the murky brownish black water run down the drain, and when he seemed to get off all the dirt out of him, I picked a fragrant soap I received as a gift, but have never used before because it’s too strong, shoved it to his hand and let him use the bathroom alone. I wait outside for the whole thirty minutes, and started to get a little suspicious.
“Jamie,” I knocked on the door, “I understand you want to take your time. But you’re oddly silent for thirty minutes already, and I reckon you don’t want to shrivel yourself for staying too long in the water either…”
“Uh…,” he replied from behind the bathroom door, “I was just wondering… maybe I should just stay here now… just in case I got dirty and stinky again if I stepped out.”
“Well, I certainly don’t want you to roam around the house smelling like gutter either, but you can’t possibly stay there forever,” I replied, “besides, I need to use the bathroom, too.”
“Shit,” he cursed, “but I got tired of having to shower too much. It really is not a relaxing experience once you have to do it every hour. And I guess turning into a raisin relatively wouldn’t be so bad.”
He’s got a point there, too. I grunted, “any ideas then?”
“For a start, you can ask our neighbour Mrs. Hudson for permission to use the toilet…”
“Yeah, yeah, I would in a sec, but I mean, in the long run, how are you going to go to work or eat and just carry on with your life? And after a few weeks, how am I supposed to explain to Mrs. Hudson that our toilet is permanently under construction?”
“Oh. Shit, I can’t think of anything besides the fact that I would need to stay in this bathroom forever, and that you prolly need to find another apartment.”
I face-palmed myself, “Unbelievable. What exactly was that fishmonger flushed from his toilet that got to you?”
And that’s when I heard a knock from the door. “Hang on, I got to answer the door,” I told Jamie. I rushed to the entrance, only to find the fishmonger as I open the door.
“Good evening, Ms. Chandra,” he addressed me, “is Mr. Newton home?”
I was quite taken aback that he knows us by our names since we only pass by his store a couple of times on our way to or from work. We never stop by for a chat, and most of the time when we buy fish from the store–which is rare if you take into consideration the fact that I eat cereal for dinner–it’s his wife that runs the counter, and she’s always busy handling a bunch of customers every day. Their fishes are the neighbourhood’s favourite and are famous for its freshness.
“Err, yes, but he might not be able to see you now,” I answered.
“Ah, yes,” he seem to take something into consideration, “of course, of course… he should stay where clean water flows… should’ve remembered that…”
“Sorry?” I interrupted, “what was that you said again?”
“Oh, right. I forgot to mention, Ms. Chandra, that I probably know that Mr. Newton is dealing with a… hygiene issue, if I can put it that way.”
“Wha–how do you know this?”
“Can I come in to explain? I might be able to help clear something up as well.”
I welcomed him in, and instead of the living room, I guide him to the bathroom door so Jamie could hear us.
“I’d just be straightforward to you,” he began, “there’s a reason why our fish is always fresh.”
“And how is that relevant to Jamie’s situation now?”
“To put it simply, someone agreed to provide us the freshest batch every day, but in return, we need to promise to drain the remains in one specific place, which happens to be the sewer which Mr. Newton accidentally fell into earlier this afternoon.”
“What, so you’ve been selling poisoned fresh fish whose guts are rotten inside?” I exclaimed.
“No, no, Ms. Chandra, I can assure you they’re not poisoned. In fact, they are hand-picked by the one who…”
“Uh, honestly I don’t care about that,” Jamie shouted from the bathroom, “just… do you know how you can get the stench and filth off of me permanently?”
“Oh, yes, yes,” the fishmonger snapped, “that’s why I’m here. I want to tell you that I can give you only three days time without the effects so that the three of us can go to get you the real antidote for it. But we should hurry.”
I’m not entirely sure why and how he is capable of doing that, but continued to entertain the possibility by inquiring further, “And where can we find this antidote?”
“First, we need to go back to the sewer where Mr. Newton fell into earlier so we can ride the last Fisher Ship. It’s the only way to the Guild to find at least one of the sisters…”
“What!?” This time, it was Jamie. I’m already at loss for words.
“I’ll explain more on our way later,” the fishmonger insisted, “We don’t have much time. The portal may close in an hour. If both of you will just follow me, please?”
Even though I can’t look directly at Jamie for us to somehow communicate non-verbally, I guess both of us don’t have much choice. It’s no longer a matter of trust or rationality, considering what we–mostly Jamie–have been through today. I knew Jamie decided to take the plunge–no pun intended–when I heard the sound of drained water and Jamie trying to dry himself quickly. He opened the bathroom door, dressed in his pajamas.
The fishmonger took a tatty pouch from his pocket. It contains something that looks like glittery fish scales, some which he put on his palm, and then blew towards Jamie. Jamie then hesitantly stepped outside the bathroom and let out a sigh of relief once he found himself still dry and clean.
“Now,” the fishmonger said, putting his pouch back in his pocket, “if we can make our move, please.” He hastened his pace, gesturing us to follow him.
Jamie and I looked at each other, this time agreeing to grab not only our raincoat and boots, but also the nearest cereal boxes we can find on the coffee table as we make our way out the house. As we walked silently, the fishmonger on the lead, I prayed that he somehow has a magic gill-mask or a pleasant-smelling squid ink perfume, or basically whatever that will block the vile smell of gutter from our nostrils.
Quite frankly, this is not the way I imagined I would get interrupted from my regularly and tediously scheduled life. It seems like a searingly, cruel joke whoever among the gods pulled at me for describing myself as a fish out of water more than I’d like to admit that it somehow lost meaning.
Well, more jokes on Jamie, then. He usually responds to it with, “No wonder you smell kinda fishy.”