Honorable Mention Short Fiction: "Carwash"

by Steve Hill ’03

As the garage door gate to the carwash rose up, the image that entered John’s head was one of graphic sexual content. It surprised him. So much so that he felt the heat of blushing come across his face. It was made even hotter by his summer beard.

Alison sat in the passenger seat, wringing the excess fabric of her skirt in anxiety. She hated the loud darkness of a carwash. There was no way out until it was finished. She turned to John. He looked hot just sitting there behind the wheel, red-faced and shiny. She had told him he would be hot with a beard in the summertime.

John pushed in the clutch and put the car into gear, easing it into the tracks that would take the car to the right position in the wash. He was still hot. He scratched at his beard and thought about Alison, how she probably hated the carwash since she was claustrophobic. Then he thought about having sex with Alison, and how obvious the metaphor of the carwash was.

When Alison was seven, her father took her to the amusement park in the next county over. They went into a house of horrors with doors that would automatically slide open to reveal the next room. In one room, the door didn’t open after the previous door had closed. The mechanism that closed the door was connected to the sound of a mad cackle that emanated from speakers hidden in the floor. The noise would not stop until the next door opened. She grabbed on to her father’s leg and cried while he pounded on the doors. She remembered the smell of the fake fog, fetid and asthmatic. After they were released, her father bought her a cone of cotton candy she didn’t eat and dabbed a napkin at the spot on his jeans where her tears had soaked.

John watched the loose and dangling swatches of sponge pass over the windshield and thought that maybe some of the Muppets had been conceived of carwash parts. There was a definite resemblance between some parts and some Muppets. He used to watch “The Muppet Show” with his parents and his sister when he was young. He remembered laughing even after the show ended, when he was supposed to be in bed sleeping. His sister used to impersonate Miss Piggy from the single bed across the room. She would pull the tip of her nose up and speak with a rolling, harsh and high voice. He died every time.

Alison noticed John smiling from the corner of her eye as the water stopped. As the door lifted, she wondered what was on his mind.