You have magic soap. What does it wash away?
Gracie glanced over her shoulder at the round clock on the wall, her arms soaked to the elbows in the kitchen sink. It was a few minutes past 7. He was late. She shook her head and dried her hands on her apron. The dishes could soak for a few more minutes.
She walked through the narrow hallway towards the front door of the old colonial house. She paused at the entryway to the front living room. It looked like a storage room. She sighed. There were still so many boxes to unpack. Maybe some of the lighter ones…
She shook her head and continued to the screen door at the front. She heard the sniffles before she could open it. She stepped out onto the covered porch and turned towards the sources of the sobs. Gracie had braced herself for the tears, but she had to stifle a giggle when she saw the mud. “Daniel, what happened?”
The eight year old was covered from head to foot in brown muck. Gracie wiped his nose and mouth with the bottom of her apron and tried not to recoil from the smell of sewage rolling off of him. He wouldn’t meet her eyes as he answered. “I fell.”
She nodded and wrapped a gentle arm around his dirt-caked shoulders. He didn’t want to tell her the whole truth. She suspected he wanted to deal with the problem on his own. “Well we’d best get you inside and cleaned up then.” She started to lead him into the house.
He tensed up briefly. “I’ll get the house all dirty.”
“So?” She smiled at him. “A little mud does a house good.” He looked at her skeptically. She shrugged. “I suppose I could just take you out back and hose you. Hang you up on the clothesline to dry.”
His lips twitched with her teasing grin. “No thanks. It’s getting dark.”
Gracie nodded and, as if to punctuate the point, a streetlight flickered to life behind her. Daniel shuffled in ahead of her, taking off his shoes and leaving them on the porch. They could probably be washed, but she would need to buy new shoes for him within the month anyway.
She pondered on that as she followed him up to the bath. Something new to start their new life. She turned the tap to fill the claw tub as he peeled off his muddy clothes. “It’ll be ok, right?” he asked.
Gracie turned to see what he meant. He held his t-shirt in front of him, frowning. She tried to remember what shirt he had been wearing when he left to play with the neighbor kids after dinner. Beneath the dirt she could just make out the logo. It was his favorite Iron Man tee.
“Of course,” she said. That was one she could not replace as easily as the shoes. “We’ll make it all shiny and new again. Just like you.” The tub was just about full. “Now come over here and hop in.”
Daniel laid the shirt carefully on top of his other dirty clothes before doing as he was told. Again she withheld a chuckle at the sight of him. Where his clothes had been, his body was relatively clean. It made a very stark contrast with the mud caked on his arms, legs, and face. Like the Road Runner’s afterimage in a Wile E. Coyote cartoon.
Gracie took a loofah and began scrubbing Daniel’s arms with the sudsy water. It turned a murky brown as the grime sloughed off of him. He sat patiently as she took a soft washcloth to his face. There were fresh cuts underneath all the mud. She didn’t want to press him, but she did wish he would tell her what had happened. Rose would have known just what to say.
Daniel was her shining star. Rose had loved him more than anything in the world. And she had made sure he knew just how wonderful the world was. She told the best stories, the most magical tales to fill his imagination. Gracie wished she had just a little bit of that magic for him now.
And just like that, she had an idea. “This water is too dirty,” she announced.
He frowned at her. “Well yeah, there was a lot of mud.”
“I don’t just mean that,” she said, sighing ruefully. “It’s full of dark things. I was afraid of this, but it looks like I’ll have to get out my magic soap.”
He straightened his shoulders ever so slightly. “Magic soap?”
Gracie nodded as she pulled the stopper to let the muddy water drain. “Yep. You sit tight while I go get it. Turn the water back on once the bad water is gone.” She winked as she exited the bathroom.
She trotted downstairs into the living room. Somewhere in the pile of boxes was Rose’s homemade soap. Gracie hadn’t been able to justify leaving it in the workshop back upstate so she’d packed the excess and brought it with her and Daniel. She had planned on selling it to a local country store, but it was better served lifting Daniel’s spirits.
She shuffled around the towers of boxes. Of course. It was in the totes in the corner. Under several boxes of books. Gracie steeled herself by pushing her sleeves further up her arms. Very carefully, she moved the top two boxes to an open spot on the floor. The third wobbled unsteadily, threatening to topple down on her. She righted it before it could fall, and moved it to the new stack with the others.
She popped open the plastic lid and inhaled the aromas from the soaps within. It smelled just like Rose and her workshop. Her baking. Her garden. Gracie’s chest tightened and she swallowed her tears as she remembered that Rose was gone. Daniel and the soaps were all that was left of her. The soaps full of magic and wonder.
Gracie grabbed a bar of lavender and rose and replaced the lid. This was the one. I just need a little bit of your magic, Rose. For Daniel.
She returned to the bathroom as her stepson turned the water off. The tub was full again, the water much clearer. She smiled secretively as she held the bar behind her back. “Now, I’ve got my magic soap.” She met his two-toned eyes as they glistened with wonder. Rose’s eyes. Her smile widened. “With this soap, I will wash away all your troubles and shield you against the dark.”
He closed his eyes as though her words and the soap would have more of an effect if he wasn’t looking. He grinned when she lathered up a fresh loofah with the new magic soap. As he sighed into the warm rose and lavender scented water, Gracie knew they would be just fine. After all, they still had Rose’s soap.
Notes: I had several ideas for this one, most of which boiled down to a soap that banished/protected against evil spirits. I thought I knew where I was going to go with this when I woke up but on my drive home from work it occurred to me that a child’s perspective could be a fun angle. It was going to be between two kids, one sharing their “magic” soap with another, but instead the muse wanted to write about a grieving widow and her stepson.
I love soap. It comes in so many scents and styles. My friend makes soap from the beeswax at his apiaries. He has all kinds of cool scents, including a coffee one to help wake you up in the morning! Don’t eat it though, haha. He’s got an online shop where you can order them, and he goes to quite a few craft shows during the summer/fall up here in New England.
That’s it for me tonight. My anniversary vacation was fun, but now I need a vacation from my vacation! I’ll start by getting to bed at a decent hour instead of staying up late reading like I did last night. Whoops. Have a great night/day! I’ll be back tomorrow with another short story for you!