“Hanging Out the Masks”, a Friday Fiction Story

Hanging Out the Masks

Facemasks Drying on a Line by webentwicklerin on Pixabay

“I see you’re getting some laundry out! Sure is a good day for it!” Larry hung his elbows over the fence and leaned on it. He spoke with the eagerness of a man with a once-in-a-lifetime vacation opportunity to sell. About twenty feet away, his neighbor Ellen took a cotton facemask from the laundry basket, shook it out, and pinned it to a clothesline. She didn’t answer. Instead, she took a deliberate step to the right and did it again.

“Everything okay,? You and Bob having the dreaded marital issues? We heard a commotion last night after the storm. Ahahahahaha.”

Grab, shake, pin. Step.

“I mean, it’s understandable. My wife and I have them sometimes, too. Especially staying in so much. You could come over…?” Ellen still hadn’t said a word, had given no indication she even heard him. But she had to have. Larry’s voice boomed. He was proud of it. It was a skill he learned in Toastmasters.

Grab, shake, pin. Step.

Grab, shake, pin. Step.

“Look,” Larry said, an edge of annoyance in his voice. “If you don’t want me here just say so. You don’t have…to…be…r…” His voice wound down as Ellen pulled something new from the laundry basket, something bigger than the others, something that dripped red. The face of her husband Bob sent spatters across the neat lawn as she shook and hung it.

Finally, she noticed Larry. He wished she had not as the horror wearing Ellen’s face turned to him and smiled.


Somehow, I’ve avoided writing a story that even tangentially involved the Wuhan virus. Well, okay. I know exactly how it happened. I didn’t want to write such a story. Honestly, I’ve alternated between frightened of how bad things could be or annoyed at the various acts of bureaucratic incompetence and/or cynical control-freakery we’ve had to endure the past year-plus-a-few. Neither of those moods make for good storytelling.

Tonight, though, I’m feeling a bit different. I’m feeling like maybe I could use this week’s prompt opportunity to tell a little story about masks and laundry and neighbors and too little social distancing. Poor Larry.

(Photo Credit: webentwicklerin on Pixabay)

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