Taking Out the Trash
by Lilly Schwartz
This wasn’t the first time he had forgotten to shave before something important. He nervously handled the sandpaper of his chin and upper lip with one hand and threw his other in the air—an anxious ritual he had developed from city living and needing to take cabs everywhere. When the dented yellow box pulled up, he shifted forward to grab the door handle, and got in hastily.

“50th and Beechnut please,” he told the cabby, who was surprisingly not foreign, and yet, still spoke very little. He could hear her words echoing in his brain, as if she were there. He pictured her strawberry mouth to a megaphone, blaring obscenities to his eardrums. He could feel his heart start to beat a little faster, almost in rhythm with the car going over bumps and imperfections in the road. His right pupil twitched just a bit, and he tiredly rubbed it till he saw faint blots of colors and light.

The corner location was a small townhouse in two floors, but she owned both the properties. She used the top one as a kind of studio, whenever she was feeling particularly artistic, and the bottom as living space—pillows and an old davenport giving it a cozy appeal. He calmly paid the driver, tipping no more or less than usual. He ascended the steps no more or less quickly than usual. He used his key, and opened the door without hesitation or attention to any means of warning the inhabitant of his presence.

He entered the kitchen first, and opened the refrigerator out of habit. He extracted a container of milk, smelled it cautiously, then walked to the sink and dumped the spoil down the drain, holding his nose against the chunks and ‘glug’ noise swirling the black hole. Briefly satisfied, he continued through the flat, finally stopping in front of the bathroom door, open only enough to hear the flat-handed splash of tub water against slippery skin. He felt his pulse in the back of his throat, rising in tempo, ferocity.

When the door opened, he gave no reaction time. He saw her face splayed under his heavy palm, water distorting and swaying the look of her dirty brown eyes—black seed pupils dilating furiously, only capturing liquid. For a moment, he let up on the pressure his forearm was forcing, to tell whether the eyes were live or glassy. When he felt content with the glazed-over orbs, he let go his grip, allowing her body to sink heavily down into the white elbow-curve of the tub.

For a moment he remained in the squatted position he had taken next to the bathtub, then raised his body and exited the room, deliberating down the corridor of the townhouse. In a short time he returned, fingers enclosed around the handle of a finely sharpened kitchen blade. At first the length of it cut air, his arm sweeping purposefully, and then it happened upon her slender, waiting neck. He waited for the first line of velvet red to form and trickle, before slicing her wrists and waiting for whatever was left to bleed out. He sat watching as the remains of the tub water turned pink, then crimson, then lost its clear identity of hydrogen and oxygen completely.

He moved a chair that was by the sink to the edge of the bath, and flicked the tiny silver lever keeping the liquid in the tub, and watched as it formed a tiny whirlpool of dark around the drain. He watched it happen: her body losing its necessities. He thought of her heart no longer pumping, and wondered if blood remained inside, if it would ever drain out, or if somehow that lack of pressure would hold it in forever. He gazed, entranced, once in a while moving to run hot water that seemed to consume the red film of blood that was trying to dry, harden to the walls of the bathtub.

When he was satisfied, he again raised the knife that had never really left his right hand, his knuckles whitened from holding the wooden handle much too tightly for much too long. He brought the knife down carefully over her hand, and clipped the smallest digit first. It dropped slightly to the floor of the bathroom, soundlessly landing on an old towel being used to sop up water that carelessly sloshed. He repeated the motion on the rest of her fingers, then the other hand, then the toes: nineteen more deliberate slices, all thudding or splashing in turn. For a moment, he turned sickly towards the toilet, becoming wary of the sweet-iron smell of blood. He caught his pale face in the bathroom mirror, noted his seemingly more excessive stubble, then turned back, fighting off the wave of nausea.

He continued, cutting pieces off that seemed small enough to manage with the knife, given its size. He relished her nakedness in the process, having easy access to the severing of her left nipple, then right. He particularly enjoyed the removal of her ears, remembering her distaste when his lips would move there, hot wetness encasing her delicate lobe, trying to please. For a moment, he glanced at his watch, and seeing the length of time he had spent at this task, placed the knife on the counter, and removed a small trashcan from the side of the toilet.

Hurriedly, he collected the dismembered pieces of her once delicate body, and placed them in the small, gender-neutral-green garbage can. This he took to the kitchen and with the aid of the sink’s garbage disposal, began the clean-up process of his endeavor. The spongy tips of her breasts went easily, he found; the fingers, toes, and ears were more difficult—the disposal blades fighting against cartilage, muscle, and fingernails.

For a moment he held the disposal switch, and caught the sink, filled with soiled dishes. He looked around and saw the dirty counter. His heart raced furiously, feeling like it might beat out of his chest, or that the veins in his neck might burst. He finished running the disposal, and grabbed a dishrag from the rack, and started wiping down the counter. He scrubbed the sink area, and finally picked up a sponge and began on the dishes. He filled the sink with scalding hot water, dish soap forcing its slippery bubbles over everything: pots, plates, and his burned-red hands.

At the finish of this ordeal, he took several trash bags from under the sink, and returned to the bathroom to complete his task. When he found her body still in the tub, stained with her own blood, he felt both angry and fulfilled. He had wanted to cut her face off, destroy those strawberry lips, make her feel it. She’d never give him shit again, he thought. He began sawing off her larger limbs slowly, feeling as if the blade had gone dull from all its use. He felt the pressure of the knife’s body sinking into still firm flesh and muscles, grinding tendons through. One by one he placed the disunited puzzle pieces of her body into the Hefty trash bag. He was glad for the handles the bag came with. He imagined it’d be heavy to carry without them.

He scoured the bottom and walls of the formerly white basin. He managed to get it to a hardly-stark mother-of-pearl, and stopped at the insistence of the muscles in his forearm and the worn down sponge he’d been using to force away the stains. Afterwards, he took out the trash, calmly exiting the house, and placing the bag nonchalantly on the curb to be picked up in the morning. He remembered it was a Tuesday then, and the garbage collectors came early Wednesday morning. He stood a moment, judging the suspicious nature of the trash. And when he had convinced himself that it looked like nothing more than a messy artist’s built-up refuse, he turned back into the townhouse.

He collected his things. He examined the flat, wondering vaguely if he would be discovered. He made sure the dishes were in order, and the sink clean. It looked done. It looked as if she had left town, and he had come to clean because he loved her, because he wanted her to be able to relax on her return. He left the townhouse, locking the door, descending the smooth steps, and moving towards the curb. Absentmindedly, his hand found his chin, his upper lip, now seemingly covered in real stubble. His other hand shot anxiously into the air, in city-living fashion, and when the yellow box pulled up, he leaned in towards the handle, grasped it and pulled.

He spoke his destination softly to this much more foreign cabby, and sat back in his seat. She’d never reprimand him again, he thought bitterly. He finally took out the garbage. He thought this and laughed aloud, nearly startling the driver into an accident. He rubbed his unshaven chin, and wondered what he’d have for dinner that night.
Posted by: Lilly Schwartz

Prose (February 16th, 2005)