The Man With Clean Feet

M is pacing around the kitchen, phone in one hand, Russian-English dictionary in the other. He is yelling. I sit, trying to figure out what he is saying.

“I’ll kill you” he says, or maybe, “I’m dying” or maybe, “fish tastes great on Tuesdays.” I should really study more.

Belly, M’s dog begins barking which can mean one of two things: someone is at the door, or his PTSD is acting up. I check the door.

L walks in.

“Hello,” he says. His accent is thick. He takes off his shoes. I step aside as he goes to the bathroom to wash his hands. I go back into the kitchen and light a cigarette. M is yelling now, about hot-sauce this time, maybe. L calls from the bathroom.

“What?” I call back. He pops his head out.

“May I wash my feet?” he says.

“Sure?” I tell him. He nods and soon I hear the water running in the bath.

He comes in a minute later with his pant legs rolled to below his knees. Before he can sit down M hands him the phone.

“Can you talk to these people?” he says. L nods. He takes the phone, listens, then speaks. After a moment he asks M.

“What is it you need?”

“Medicine” M says. L nods, listens, talks, turns back to M.

“For what?”

“Death,” M replies. L nods, listens, talks, says goodbye.

“Two days,” he says to M.

M thanks him. We all take our seats around a bottle of wine. I pour out three glasses and place the bottle on the floor. L looks down at my feet.

“So, it is true?” he says.


“Americans don’t take off their shoes inside.”

I nod, embarrassed. My boots are new, and tight, I do not like taking them off.

“Why are Russians always taking their shoes off and washing their hands anyways,” I ask, innocently defensive.

“It is where bad luck lives. You bring it into your house on your hands and the bottoms of your feet.”

I stare down at my hands and realize I’ve spent my entire life never washing my hands nor taking off my shoes after walking into my house. L places a hand gently on my shoulder.

“That is why you end up in this place,” he looks out the window at the heavy afternoon sky, “this savage country, in the dark.”


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  1. Just great, as ever. I’ve been thinking about your stories for a while now, and I wondered if you’ve ever read the Penguin Novels by Andrey Kurkov? It seems like something that might appeal to your particular…nuances, haha. Clean feet, indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Now I understand why my friend Anatoly licked his lips when I warned him not to eat my undercooked fugu last Tuesday and tucked in.
    A very good line in a story to match, flash365, thanks 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One of the things I like about your stories is that I have to sit and think about them for a time before I get them. Then I walk away and come back tomorrow and read again and it has changed in my head. Either way it is magic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. That is much appreciated. Despite the fact that I have to write these quite fast to make sure we keep up with our challenge, a lot of energy goes into each one. Sometimes I’ll write two or three in a day and reread them multiple times before deciding which one is best. I’m glad that they receive equal care and attention from some readers. It makes me more determined to not fall behind on quality as much as on making sure we stick to the game plan. Cheers.


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