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Things That Need to Be Washed / Patricia Q. Bidar



These clammy armpits and legs. The never-empty hampers of clothing with the flattened socks that line their bottoms. The stack of stinking dishes in the metal sinks. Outside, the scrim of grit from the car hood and windows. What needs to be washed is every single white Formica table in every diner in every state. The feet of the unsheltered and the filthy posturing of our crepe-eyed Congress. The red containers where nurses tuck syringes. The squares of gauze to cover the puncture, blot the stain. The cabinet under the bathroom sink of the houses we grew up in, especially that.


And the dusty hair- and cooking oil-redolent calf-length sweaters of women on buses and later, their apartments. The scratched glissando of harp and the tea steeped until bitter. And the grease from the restaurant meals and the grit from the walks along traffic-clotted roads and the exhaust from the buses: who can get it clean again?


Lady Macbeth’s pale fingers and the mistress’s dress and my once-white soul. During training for our First Communion, the young nun told us that with every sin our white souls would shadow and darken. I pictured the unscrubbed moon and still do.


Have you been washed in the blood of the lamb? The blameless lamb with the still-white fleece, hind legs yet unstained with piss and shit. Later on, who recalls the lamb’s purity when it was washed with sun and fed with milk and yellow corn?


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PATRICIA QUINTANA BIDAR is a western writer from the Port of Los Angeles area. Her work has been featured in Wigleaf, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Pinch, Little Patuxent Review, and the anthologies Flash Fiction America (W.W. Norton), Best Small Fictions 2023 (Alternating Current), and Best Microfiction 2023 (Pelekinesis Press). Her book of short works, Pardon Me For Moonwalking, will be published by Unsolicited Press in 2025. She lives with her family and unusual dog outside of Oakland, California. See more at https://patriciaqbidar.com.


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