@

fredmugford_2016As I was putting my underwear on, the right foot got caught. The big toe of the right foot was stretching the fabric. I continued pushing my foot down harder as I was pulling the underwear up by the dark blue waist band. I was stubborn and I wasn’t going to let the underwear win. I was standing balanced on my left foot, in the bathroom, after taking my shower, and my feet, my skin, was still damp, I think that is why the big toe got caught and wouldn’t let go no matter how much I pulled up or pushed the foot down. All this became infuriating, even for the underwear too, because the cotton fabric began to stretch, I could feel the stress it was going under, but I demanded to be right this time, to be the winner, to push my foot through the hole, the second hole, or third, in the underwear, but it just wouldn’t go through. I don’t know if I was willing to tear the underwear, it was a relatively new pair, it was a comfortable pair, still clean and thick and it hugged my contours nice and tight, holding everything in place just right, snug in a word. If the underwear was old, if it had a tear in it, I probably would have sacrificed it with pleasure. The band of the right leg hole had in fact dug itself deep between the big toe and the toe next to it. And by this time I was starting to lose my balance, and on top of the frustration of not being able to push my foot through, I now had the compounded fear of falling and dying from hitting my head on one of the porcelain fixtures inside the bathroom, the bathtub or the sink or the toilet or even the floor or the tiled walls or maybe even the handlebars I installed in the bathroom for my father. And now I lost my balance and was ready to fall over to my right because my right foot was the one that was up trying to go through the hole in the underwear made for the right leg to go through, and I felt myself leaning over to my right, and I had to make an instant decision, should I continue pushing my foot down to get the right foot through the hole before I hit the floor, or should I just let go of the underwear and let the right foot touch the blue tiled floor and let the underwear dangle half on between my legs, or a third choice, which is what I didn’t want, was to just fall. So I chose to let go, with a click of the tongue and a sigh, in frustration, like I was telling myself, no, I didn’t get to win this time, I had to let go, and now I have to try putting my right foot through the right leg hole all over again. My right foot hit the tiled floor with a slap, a sound of naked flesh hitting a hard cool, smooth surface, it was kind of a satisfying sound, even if it sounded hard, nothing like the sound of skin slapping skin, which always leads to some kind of pain, I was thinking of my mother slapping my face real hard, I don’t think she ever did that, and I was trying to think of times I slapped myself on purpose, and I couldn’t, except if it involved pleasure, possibly, which I can’t think of right now.

I stood there on the bathroom floor exhausted after trying to put my underwear on. I turned my head left to look at myself in the mirror, sort of a silly habit I have, to look at myself, I don’t know why I needed to do that, but fortunately the mirror wasn’t there, all I could see was the black backing that is behind the mirror glass without any glass. I broke the mirror a couple of weeks ago, with my belt, with the buckle, I didn’t mean to, I lashed out at the wall with my pants while I was sitting at the toilet, for a reason I don’t want to go into, it involved family, and I was surprised when I heard the mirror break with the sound of the metal buckle hitting the glass, I thought I was just thrashing my jeans against the wall once, to vent frustration, but the sound of the breaking glass was so satisfying in itself, that I remember lashing out at the mirror again and again holding my pants in the same way hoping the belt buckle would continue to hit the mirror and keep breaking it into more and more pieces, which it did, and then when all that was left were a few shards of tiny glass beads wedged in the edges of the mirror aluminum frame, I stopped lashing the pants around and looked all around me at the broken glass and all the sharp edges and tiny fragments all over the bathroom, and not just on the floor and carpet, but in the bathtub and sink and shelves and the toilet bowl. I sat there on the toilet seat for two hours picking up every piece of broken glass I could see without moving (I was barefoot) and throwing the bits of glass in the plastic trash can in the bathroom on at a time. My underwear was around my ankles then, and I had to take them off slowly and shake them over the trash can. I could hear tiny pieces of glass tinkling inside the trash.

I forgot why I told you this story. Ah yes, because when I turned to look at myself in the mirror just now, there was no mirror, and I was explaining why. So that was a relief, not see myself, standing almost naked with my underwear half on. It’s been two weeks since I haven’t seen myself, my face, my body, and I can tell you it has been liberating. What a relief, to not assure myself in how I look or don’t look. My fear is that I have a huge pimple on my nose and when I go out everyone sees it but I start thinking about the benefits of not caring about how I look and not having to justify my looks or myself or the reason why I maybe don’t look as well groomed.

Now I was ready again to put my right foot through the right hole of the underwear. Should I describe the underwear? Am I female or male? I guess I gave it away earlier when I said there were three holes, in the underwear, though that still doesn’t mean anything. I could be borrowing my brother’s underwear, or my sister’s who prefers boys briefs. So with a new sense of determination and exasperation I raised my right foot again to try to put it through the right hole in the underwear, I raised my right foot really high, like in an exaggerated way, like preparing the foot to dive down and into and through the hole, without touching the cotton fabric. I forgot, I was going to describe the briefs. They are 100% cotton, dark blue band, with pale blue, lavender or violet and dark blue stripes going across. Width of each stripe is about a quarter inch. The brand of the briefs underwear appears stitched in white on a dark blue square in the front hem. I think that’s the front. The underwear is clean, laundered just a week ago, more or less, pulled out of the third or first drawer, I forget, I keep my undies wherever I can fit them. So up goes the right foot as I bend down holding the underwear by the waist band with both hands while keeping my balance, then down goes the right foot aiming through the right hole and it’s going through, it’s almost through, the big toe touches the fabric, and I say no, no, no, not again, I push hard and mad, and the toe kind of pushes the fabric, stretching it, but then it goes past and the fabric lets go of the toe and springs back and the toe and foot are through and I can now put my right foot down on the floor and pull the underwear up. Then I tug at the back to raise it between my rear cheeks and then pull it out a bit so it’s not right inside the crack and then I snap the bands around the legs, pulling them down just a bit, they were riding up. I open the bathroom door, fresh non humid air comes in, and I walk out in my underwear with the damp bath towel over my right shoulder, turn right and go into the bedroom to finish dressing in there.

__________________________

FRED MUGFORD is a writer and artist born in Los Angeles and also raised in Bogota and London. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles.

TAGS: , , , ,

TNB FICTION is proud to showcase book excerpts and original short fiction from some of the finest writers in the world.

Features have included work by Aimee Bender, Dan Chaon, Stuart Dybek, Jennifer Egan, Bret Easton Ellis, Roxane Gay, Etgar Keret, Antonya Nelson, and hundreds of other internationally acclaimed and emerging writers. Spotlighting a recent book release each week, TNB Fiction helps bring awareness of new literary fiction, from both trade and independent publishers, to readers around the world, providing a global, free-access arena for spotlighting the genre in an era of shrinking coverage among mainstream print publications. TNB Fiction has its finger on the pulse of a vibrant new generation of writers, as well as established literary greats whose work continues to shape the future dialogue of literary culture.

Fiction Editor J. Ryan Stradal lives in Los Angeles, where he works as an editor-at-large at Unnamed Press. He is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel Kitchens of the Great Midwest and the editor of 2014's California Prose Directory anthology.

Associate Fiction Editor Ana Ottman is a writer living in Los Angeles. Her stories have appeared in Eclectica Magazine, The Rumpus, and Uno Kudo, among other publications.

Associate Fiction Editor Leah Tallon's book reviews, interviews and fiction have been published at The Manifest-Station, The Collagist, The Rumpus, and other places. She lives in Milwaukee.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *