Mud Bath

Image of Long Story Short Award - 2022
Image of Short Fiction
I toss my soiled clothes into the sink; I'll deal with them later.
I'm too impatient to wait for the water to get hot, so I hop into the freezing spray.
I shiver.
I'm strong though. I can bear it. Dad didn't raise a wimp.
The water turns brown as it washes down my body, eroding my earthen armor and carving into the faults of my skin.
It pools at my feet, swirling and shrouding my toes from view.
I got a large chunk of the weeding around the tomatoes done, but that's it.
I really wasn't productive today.
Well, tomorrow's another day, just like any other.
I'll do better tomorrow.
The water's warmed up a bit, and steam blooms from my shoulders in whisps.
I run my fingers through my hair a couple times, removing the traces of the intertwined dirt.
The whole bathroom smells like the earth after a hard rain.
I never liked that smell.
It meant that dad had to go into town, and I had to tend to the crops myself.
There's less work to do on days with damp soil, so it's the perfect job for one growing child.
Maybe perfect from a productivity standpoint, but I hated being left alone.
By this point, most of the grime has washed out.
Some of it must have clogged the drain, because the tainted water is up to my ankles.
The rest is still caked onto my arms and legs.
Clinging to the exposed parts.
The vulnerable parts.
I attack the clay-stained spots, but they resist my best efforts.
I start to get angry.
Here I am, swamped with work on my shoulders, but still stuck in the shower with slight residue giving me a massive hassle.
I have to finish up quickly so I can get to bed and do everything again tomorrow.
Day after day of the same thing, but I struggle with little bits of something I handle each day.
I rub, and rub, and rub at the stains, but they persist, permanent marks that remain long after the affliction.
My skin is red and raw, but the earth won't release its hold.
I'm not strong enough.
I'm a wimp.
I'm a wimp without you.
I need you, Dad.
I'll never escape the clutches of his memory, the nostalgia plastered into my palm lines, living, breathing within the soil of fertile crescents of old.
It's been years since he passed, why do I still feel this way?
Because I'm weak.
I can't even get rid of a bit of mud.
Clear tears streak down my face and drop into the dirty basin.
I drop to my knees, leaning on my elbows, and cry into my muddled reflection.
I have to stop and be strong for the work ahead.
My whirlwind of work swirls and pools in my mind, causing me to bawl even harder.
The muddy water swirls and pools around my legs and arms, threatening to pull me under even more.
I tear at the dirty marks, now even dirtier after I fell into the murky pool.
I scream, turn off the water, and flop out of the bathtub.
I take a deep breath, feeling the furred bath mat like blades of grass press against my back.
I dry my hands, pick up my phone, and sit on the toilet lid.
I dial up the number I haven't called in too long.