It was a good day for those of us with wet laundry: the sun high and angry, a light breeze. Nearly everyone was putting their drying out around then. I felt part of a social movement, and was considering making a speech to commemorate the occasion.
The weather was less pleasant for me for I was not a piece of cloth, wet or otherwise. I was a slightly moist human adult male. Sweat pricked at my face and hands as I mauled the boxers, socks, bras and panties at the bottom of the drying basket. I hung them up, one peg each. My boxers looked like what they were, tubes with legholes to keep my balls from rolling around too much. My wife’s panties were exotic silk-laced butterflies. I was almost afraid to touch them in case I damaged their wings.
“I wish you wouldn’t put those out.”
A woman’s voice. I assumed that this comment was directed at someone else. I had only just moved in so still felt, in my strangeness, an eavesdropper on everything around me.
“Those women’s undergarments.”
Me? I looked around, temporarily blinded by the sun. Someone taking issue with my chores was not an everyday occurrence; it was like having a stranger leaning over the fence to point out that I had apparently decided to grow vegetables in the ground rather than healthy raw meat.
“They’re causing all kinds of problems for my boy.”
To my left, speaking through the tall fence panels, came the voice of a next-door neighbour. She was, indeed, the mother of the man who also lived there. I forgot her name.
“If he desires to wear them he should buy his own,” I shouted through, already walking back inside.
She caught me as I walked back to the back door, the fence shorter at the house. “That’s not the problem. It’s that they excite him.”
I thought about this for a second. It was true that, late at night in the spare bedroom, there could be heard regular sounds of a grown man engaging in solitary pursuits on a shaky bed. It was a difficult subject to bring up with anybody, let alone strangers, so my wife and I had simply avoided the issue. It helped that we’d had no guests.
“Blindfold him when we have washing out. Indecent exposure is a crime. “
I slammed the door to make the point. The loose window-glass in it shook dangerously.
That afternoon the son came ’round to solicit my wife. I knew it was him when I spied through the peephole, his pink pork pie head blocked out the world around him. I forgot his name.
The easiest thing would have been to not open the door, but he knew I was in.
On the sixth bout of fat-knuckled knocking he shouted “Open up, I know you’re in.”
I opened up.
He didn’t try to push his way inside: he likely knew that a few gentle taps from his bulk would cave the front door in anyway. Perhaps, also, the corridor was a little too small. He simply stood there, sweating profusely, wiping his forehead every other sentence with a butcher’s slab of hand.
“You know about my problem.”
I nodded, not that it was a question.
“I would do anything to see your wife in those panties.”
Stalling for time I cleared my throat. This was unusual. “She wears them under her clothes quite often, so wish granted.”
I tried to push the door closed but his immensity intimidated the hinges. He looked at me with a mix of dislike and hunger.
“I’ll trade you something good. Wait here, I’ve got a box.”
He sloped off to his own house. I wondered if the police would come out. ‘Help,’ I would start. ‘My neighbour wants to see my wife in her underpants very badly.’ As I finished fantasising about the armed response he came back.
“Look,” he said, gimlet eyes winking narrowly with diamond-dust triumph, holding the box out for me to delve into. “Choose one. These are my favourite DVDs.”
My brain was slow to understand, but my hands mercifully recoiled of their own accord. The one that seared itself into my memory was ‘Doctor Who’s Sitting On My Face?’ The Dalek’s wielded beak-dildos caused me to shudder.
He took my speechlessness as a no.
He removed his wallet. Some part of me thought I might be made six figures richer that day. “Alright then. How about these tickets?”
I couldn’t read them. There were only fingers, each as thick as an eclair.
He waved them emphatically. “For the pantomime. Me and mum go every month.”
“Well, I couldn’t deprive you both of such unalloyed pleasure.”
I did not say ‘anything else?’ but that is what he heard, regardless.
“Here’s my final offer. I see your wife in panties, right?” I did not nod but that is what he saw, regardless. “And you see my mother in hers. To be honest she’s taken quite a shine to you. Not many young fellas around here.”
I made a mental note to never take my shirt off ever, ever again.
“I hold my wife in high esteem,” I said, “and don’t think there’s anything I would swap for her. But, equally, you are not going to stop asking. Wait here and I’ll get you something — and then we’ll never speak of this again. Deal?”
“Where are my yellow pants? I have the bra but not the pants,” said my wife, a few weeks later.
“Oh, they’ll turn up somewhere, I bet.”
I looked out the window as I said this so she wouldn’t see me lying. My neighbour walked past, pulling at something clearly embedded deep within the many folds and crevices that made up his crotch and backside. At least he looked happy.
T.L. Krawec writes sometimes, and sometimes people read it. That makes him happy.