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The woman's step on the stair is labored, and the cord hanging at the bottom trembles with excitement.

Her hands are busy carrying laundry. She will have to turn on the light with her mouth.

In the dark, to find the cord correctly, she must caress it with the tip of her pink tongue briefly, and the wicked, wicked pleasure of it more than makes up for the bite and the sharp jerk which turns on the bulb.

The cord over the washing machine, the braided one, is waiting joyously for the teeth.

The floor is sulking. She almost always wears shoes in the basement, and the cement lies all day in agony listening to the first floor's boards sighing loudly in ecstasy at the touch of her bare heels.

All it can hope for in its slow, cold way is that the woman will scoop the cat boxes, squatting on her heels, after she starts a load of laundry. Today oh joy oh joy she does. The floor is practically writhing at the smell of her (she always showers after the scooping, so her scent is thick)—the tangy rich odor. The cement feels (or maybe it's just wishful thinking) just a bit of her damp warmth.

But then she is sweeping the floor, oblivious as always to the swooning house around her, ruining the floor's pleasure with the horrible scented litter she sweeps up and tosses back in the box.

She yanks open the dryer, who feels violated and then guilty for enjoying it, dumps the hot, panting shirts and shorts into a basket, and heads back upstairs, carefully turning off the lights to avoid the lecture about electricity the man will give her later if she doesn't. Even minutes later, the cords are still shaking in the darkness.

She folds the clothes neatly and quickly, then smoothes each piece with her hand. It's hard to say who enjoys this the most—the shirts or the table she presses them upon—and then the man is knocking on the kitchen door.

She opens it for him and he growls at her to stop locking him out when he is gardening; he leaves it unlocked for a reason.

The woman is getting tired of this particular topic and instead of apologizing snaps crisply that she has no memory of locking it, and indeed she hasn't. The house just wanted a few more precious moments alone with her.

He stomps back outside, and she carefully checks that it is unlocked, even while muttering against the man under her breath.

The door handle is sure it isn't his imagination that her hand lingers on the brass.

The man has tracked mud on the kitchen floor, who nearly faints with joy when she notices. She looks closer at the cracked and peeling linoleum and forgoes the mop for a rag and brush. She mutters about how disgusting the floor is—how utterly, utterly filthy, as her nail digs at an especially difficult spot. Yes yes yes, squeaks the floor—who, like the braided cord over the washer, likes it rough.

Afterwards, she heads up the stairs (which groan loudly at the feel of her toes) to take her shower.

Despite its lascivious reputation, the shower couldn't care less about the woman, even as he rains fat droplets down her breasts. The bathtub, the sole dissenter in the house, yearns for the muscular fleshy rump of the man. He hasn't felt it in ages, as it is summer and not time for long, hot baths.

The man, cursing, fumbles with the kitchen door and has to find his key with dirt-encrusted fingers deep in his pockets. He steps inside, notices the floor has been washed, and carefully removes his shoes, muttering that she'll probably want to be thanked now that she's done her annual unprompted housecleaning chore—then peers suspiciously down the stairs to be sure she hasn't left a light on in the basement again.

The midsummer sky is growing dim as he showers, unwittingly spurning the tub so far below, while the woman brushes her teeth.

The orgiastic moaning of the toothbrush annoys the towel incredibly, because after all who is it that gets to cradle her every last curve rubbing rubbing rubbing and then contentedly wrap herself around the woman's breast and hips for a little post-pleasure snuggling?

It is too hot for even a tank top and the woman lies flat on the sheet, staring up into the dark, and wonders how long it has been like this. Just today? All year? She hasn't felt so awkward, angry, unlovable and unloving since junior high. She feels flabby, flat-chested, gray, and wrinkled besides.

The man, annoyed as he is with the woman, sees the curve of her thigh in the light from the window and slides in next to her, giving it a tentative caress.

He spent all morning with his eyes on the game, grunting once noncommittally when she asked if it was her turn to do the laundry, and after lunch he had flat-out refused to dance with her when a slow waltz came on the radio. He didn't feel like it, he said.

She swats him away as she would a fly.

The ceiling fan stares down in utter loathing at the man who sighs and rolls away from the woman. If she was mine, thinks the fan, oh how I would waltz with her. Around and around and around.




In addition to her previous stories in Strange Horizons (one of which was reprinted in Best American Erotica), Haddayr Copley-Woods has stories in places such as Polyphony, Ideomancer, and Flytrap. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. For more about the author, see her website. You can send her email at haddayr@gmail.com.
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