Soap

He had four brothers and they lived in a house with cigarette smoke in the walls and they were always running out of soap. At the end of his honeymoon he filled half his suitcase with little bottles of pale green soap he’d stolen from the housekeeping cart. The day he finished the last bottle his wife smoothed out a wrinkle in her skirt and said, “I don’t want this anymore.” He’d been drinking a glass of water, it was too cold, and he felt it in his teeth. He plunged his hands into a snowdrift until they were numb and splotched with red. He hosed off his father’s car and drove it wet through great swaths of cornfields until the sun touched the horizon and popped like a soap bubble, spilling sunlight into his eyes. As he pulled down the sun visor he realized his hands were unwashed, still chalky from the dust that had risen from the gravel road. He slept in the graveyard that night, under the shadow of an angel statue, and the air was cold. He woke up on a camping trip with his brothers, woke up in snow that hadn’t been there before, and his shoelaces were frozen and he felt the cold in his ears. On the day his mother told his father, “I don’t want this anymore,” it was sunny, even though the weatherman’s pale, veined hands had warned of four feet of snow. He noticed that his hands were wet, though not soapy. He heard music playing from somewhere, perhaps from the red radio on the windowsill of the smoky house, and it sounded wet. A brother shook out two pills shaped like blood cells onto a spoon and swallowed them dry. When he woke up the second time he looked for rips in the sky. He had a thought that he wanted to bottle up all the unfallen snow, enough to fill half a suitcase, or maybe that he wanted to sail through the cornfields with a great wooden oar into the rip he found at the bottom of the sky. His wife had been wearing a skirt when he first saw her, and he was wiping down tables with a soapy rag at a diner off the highway. The tables were red with silver flecks and she said, “You missed a spot.” He found a spoon in his pocket, and it occurred to him that the weak stair that cried out in the night might have been a brother, the one who had weak veins. He looked at himself in the reflection and realized that he had missed a spot shaving. He found himself leaning against a cool headstone with silver flecks that said simply, “Husband,” and he could feel the cold in his fingertips. On the television in the house without soap he had watched a man slip on a bar of soap in the shower and laughed until a husband who was also a brother slipped on a bar of soap in the shower and the part of his artery that was too weak bulged out and burst like an overfilled balloon. He had never liked bar soap. The rip in the sky widened into a mouth and sprayed out small, clear droplets. He opened his mouth and swallowed. It tasted silver.