All Stories, General Fiction

Proper Hygiene by Shelby Leet


There is no event that can make you question your life choices quite like having your ass stuck to the roof of your apartment. Harlan’s horoscope this morning made it seem like it was going to be a pretty decent day: Gemini–Stay the fuck off my lawn. Well he had done exactly that, yet here he was by late afternoon, blood pooling slowly to his face and a suspiciously lightbulb-shaped burn on his hip punctuating his thoughts with intermittent stings of pain.

It started the way most catastrophes start–with an off-brand household cleaner. Usually Harlan had a natural disinclination toward any nondescript fluid in a spray bottle, but the door-to-door salesman had been more than just insistent. This bloke had banged his fist on the door until he had warped and dented the particleboard that served as Harlan’s only barrier between the hamster-cage smells of communal filth and the apartment hallway.

Harlan had wrenched the door open and been greeted with a face full of spray that sparkled on his skin, itched his eyes and smelled like a lemon’s taint. The salesman said a lot of things in a language he couldn’t distinguish (if it was, in fact, a language) but the one word Harlan understood was clean. He rubbed at his tortured eyes like a horsefly and tried to fan his rage for the salesman, but he couldn’t deny that the cleaner must be working–he felt an urge to delete his search history coming over him.

Harlan tried, as the salesman let himself in, to tell him that he was not interested. The salesman rambled on in tongues, spritzing the television, the framed pictures of other peoples’ cats, the cushions of every chair, and almost every single toaster in the bathroom–all the while muttering over Harlan’s protests in a language that was not unlike Cthulhu in a chatroom, littered with clean… clean… clean… And the salesman could not be reasoned with. Harlan tried being calm, he tried being assertive, he tried pantomiming; nothing. It wasn’t until he was desperately chewing on tinfoil while wearing a dishcloth that was streaked with the grease of fried chicken that he thought to try the obvious. He used a translator app on his phone to detect the language, but after it captured the first few syllables, his phone began to melt. A common glitch with the old rotary models.

He couldn’t get the salesman out until the damned spray bottle was completely emptied, at which point he stood in the middle of the living room and nodded satisfactorily. He clapped a hand on Harlan’s shoulder and winked at him, then handed him the empty bottle and left.

So this is what it is to be hygienic, he thought to himself as he drifted aimlessly above his lemony kitchen table. There was a layer of skin that was left behind on his ceiling lightbulb–the thickening smell of cooked bacon now served as a warning that he was getting too close again. He closed his eyes and stretched his arms out a bit, resigning himself to the helplessness of his new position. It wasn’t so bad, and it wasn’t even entirely unfamiliar. In fact, he very much doubted he was the only person floating helplessly through a nonsensical world with a constant pain in his ass. His was just lightbulb-shaped.

Shelby Leet

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3 thoughts on “Proper Hygiene by Shelby Leet”

  1. Hi Shelby,
    Sometimes it is just fun to write and read something that what we don’t fully understand. I think everyone who reads this will end up with a puzzled look but smiling!!
    It’s quite a talent to hold interest, entertain and leave the reader with an image.
    You have done all of these wonderfully!
    What else will your imagination come up with??
    All the very best.


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