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Washed Out

by Y-not 

Posted: 18 May 2006
Word Count: 2479
Summary: This is about a lonely woman in her flat in Miami during a hurricane. It was written a couple of months ago. There is fairly mild erotic content at one point.
Related Works: Prophet and Loss • 

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Washed Out

Mia Solano sat alone in Miami.

She liked to sit in the kitchen and think. Her favourite kinds of thinking were imagining and remembering. They helped to pass the time when she got back home from cleaning hotels. But today something very unusual was interrupting her relaxation. She had to keep getting off her chair and looking through the window. The increasing noise and darkness out there was invading her space.

‘Oh, my God.’

Whenever she looked, the ocean seemed rougher and closer. It was spraying foam all over the street. On top of it the wind was rising, falling, and hideously moaning. She could feel it pushing against her, although the window was only just open.

Mia sat down again, her hands over her eyes. With her sight blotted out, the warning, worrying whistling of the wind was amplified. It came from all four corners and met in the middle of her mind. Backwards and forwards, rarely colliding, often going the same way at the same time, going so fast they were a series of blurred trails circling and twisting like ribbons in the hands of a dancing gymnast, they drew dizzying patterns inside Mia’s dark inner space.

At its loudest and highest, it was spinning like a pulsar. They were all locked inside Pandora’s box, listening to the trapped voices of evil.

Then it changed. It was the sound of several squadrons of witches in tight formation, drunk with blood, and cursing as they circled above the burning city of her brain. Every hair on every broomstick fired incendiary spells, laying all to waste, illuminated beautifully. Mia was a witch’s passenger, fascinated voyeur of her own demolition.

Somehow the cacophony now doubled in intensity. Mia gritted her teeth. Almost falling off, she wrapped her arms around the skinny waist of a witch, her forearms held in place by the crone’s overhanging ribs, her fingers clutching vainly at the slippery, shiny material of the witch’s billowing black robe. Violent aerial gusts, warmed by the inferno beneath, ripped off Mia’s clothing one piece at a time. She turned and saw her old familiar garments, all whirling and spinning in the reddened moonlight.

But then, this thrilling, throbbing, ride juddered to a halt. Mia was alone again, floating along, with only the moaning wind for company…

A loud crash brought her back to earth. The big almost-finished box of cookies hadn’t just blown over; it had shot off the kitchen table and flown onto the floor. It now lay at the foot of the washing machine, propped up by the machine’s open door. The accumulated crumbs from the bottom of the box had been randomly sprayed around. Good job the kitchen hadn’t been cleaned after all. Mia pulled herself up out of her chair to inspect the damage and to salvage what she could.

‘Madre mia,’ she thought, as she discovered the cookie mess inside the washing machine. It had only just finished its final spin. The door had only just popped open. Now it all needed washing again! A few cookies were, miraculously, still in one piece, cushioned by the clothes. She popped whatever she could straight in her mouth. Picking loose chocolate chips out of the twisted pile of damp clothes wasn’t too hard, but the powdery crumbs were all stuck to the fibres.

‘Oh, my back.’

Mia tried to straighten up from her crouch, stumbled, and trod crumbs into the floor like grapes. Then she fell and sat in the mess. But she was only wearing her usual jogging pants. She’d have to shut that window. Or the mess could get even worse next time.

Safely shut in, she saw the ocean taunting the quivering palm trees. She put her nose to the glass and peered down to the street. Was anybody leaving? There were some firemen down there. That man in the check shirt, stopping to talk with them; was he really walking his dog in this weather?

A small group of laughing teenagers stood further away, holding onto the rail overlooking the beach. The girls’ hair streamed out and blew back into their faces. The boys diligently held onto their caps. One boy removed his hand to point at something and his cap flew down onto the beach. Instead of sheltering with their parents or teachers, those kids wanted to experience the hurricane. They were being stupid and having fun. That’s what teenagers do when they’re not being bored or depressed.

Mia felt better. Even if this wind whipped the waves straight through the palms and out the other side, she wasn’t in any danger - she was on the fifth floor. Not as high as she’d have liked. But not too low, either. What about the people in the apartments below her, especially the ones on the bottom floor? And what about all the little beachfront houses and shops? And the schools and kindergartens?

There were always a few others worse off. Always. And that comforted Mia, because it meant she didn’t have to do anything to improve her own situation. Hell, if the supermarket stayed open, she’d be fine for weeks, months, until the whole place was cleaned up. And if she couldn’t get her supplies anymore, she’d go up on the roof and get herself pulled to safety by a strong-armed helicopter man.

Mia hated the idea of leaving her apartment and all its contents behind, even for a while. She could get burgled. Her precious things, the accumulation of a lifetime, all at risk. How could she save it all? She didn’t have a car to load her belongings into. Her cleaning job at the hotel didn’t pay her enough. Besides, where could she go?

Mia remembered all those poor people made homeless by the New Orleans hurricane a couple of years ago. They ended up living in Texas. Where would they house her? Georgia? South Carolina? Would she always be a refugee, like the Palestinians, or like her fellow Cubans in Castro’s time?

She needed to think of a friend. With a car. And not just any car. An SUV. Or a big truck. Did she know any truck-drivers? Sure, she used to know quite a few. Like when she’d worked in that motel outside Fort Lauderdale. She’d had a regular clientele. Larry, Emilio, Marvin…

‘Oh, my goodness! … That big fat married guy! What was his name?’

Too long ago to remember now. Over ten years. She must’ve kept his number. No, she never got it, not even once. He always called her at the motel whenever he was in the area.

He used to buy her gifts. She still had the dresses. They were all too tight and revealing even way back then. She’d only ever worn them for him, in that tiny room above the motel, and then only for an hour or so. That overweight guy also liked to buy her funny little souvenirs from the places he’d been that day. Mia had never even heard of most of those places. But she’d been touched. It showed she was loved. Or appreciated. Noticed. It didn’t matter who by.

Mia walked into the bedroom. From the dressing-table she picked up that little pot she stood her lipstick in. Dust flew up, so she blew it onto the carpet. She smiled at the funny ceramic face of a fat man, blowing a cloud of smoke. His head came out of a train, for some reason. Weird. Where had this junk come from? It was always some place that sounded funny. The truck-driver knew it made her laugh, so he got her a lot of things with funny place-names. This one was from somewhere called Chattanooga. It was the way he said it: ‘Chattanooga!’ And then he imitated a train. He explained why at the time, but she’d forgotten. Then he’d turned into a monster, with his hands everywhere, tickling her, pulling funny faces, making peculiar noises. He was crazy, but he was okay.

Nearby on the table was a little jug he’d got her, but she’d never known what to put in that one. Where was it from? She picked it up and read the wavy lettering at the bottom. Tallahassee something. With a picture of a blonde. Old-fashioned but pretty, with bright red lips and shiny teeth. She couldn’t read the word after Tallahassee; it was partly chipped away. She must’ve dropped it one night when she got drunk. But she could remember the truck-driver making her laugh with that jug, even if she couldn’t remember what the joke was.

The two of them always used to drink wine or beer, sitting on her bed. And then, after about an hour of drinking, and trying on new dresses in the bathroom because she didn’t like being naked or half-naked in front of him, not in that tiny room, and then after coming back in and asking him to help her do up the back, and the last few times it was usually sexy underwear instead of dresses, and it was even more embarrassing; then, she would lie quietly down on the bed and he would pull his pants down to his ankles and get on top of her.

Okay, he was heavy, and sweaty, and it was very uncomfortable while it lasted, but he always tried not to hurt her. He was very considerate. After a while he thought of doing it from the back. This was an improvement, even though it kept coming out of where it was supposed to be.

Mia wondered why he’d stopped calling.

She put the pot back down, and noticed that the bedroom in broad daylight was not a pretty sight.

From the kitchen chair, Mia could see nothing outside except a dark imprisoning sky, and a small constellation of silver raindrops sliding down the window pane. Mia’s eyes followed them down, and she wondered which falling star would hit bottom first. She cradled her chin with her hand, but her elbow was stuck in something itchy. More cookie crumbs! She ate some and brushed the rest onto the floor, but some landed in her lap.

Why hadn’t any friends called to see if she was okay? Wasn’t there a couch she could sleep on? She’d be less trouble than a cat. She could stay out all day and let herself in at night, after they’d gone to bed, if they wanted. They didn’t have to feed her.

What if this whole block had to be abandoned? Everything in it gone forever. What sort of existence would that be, without any roots? She’d be like driftwood, like debris, carried wherever the cold dirty seawater just happened to flow.

The phone rang. Her mother? No, her mother wouldn’t call. They hated each other. Even if her mother asked Mia to stay with her and that senile old guy in Tampa, she wouldn’t go. If she did, she’d end up washing dishes and that kind of stuff.

‘We’ll save you, hija mia, but only if you become our slave!’

‘No gracias, madre.’

Maybe the person calling was that guy she slept with last week! She didn’t like him too much, and she’d ignored his messages since then, but so what? Mia grabbed the phone. She could always reach it from her chair.


‘Fire Department. Your name please, ma’am?’

Oh, ‘please ma’am’ my ass, she thought. So disappointing! So only faceless strangers cared about her safety. And this stranger didn’t really care at all. He was just doing his job.

‘My … name … is … Mia,’ she drawled. She hated names. Her own wasn’t so bad; at least it was short. But was it really hers? What did all those girls called Mia have in common, anyway? Nothing, that’s what. When Mia was born, her parents just picked any name that sounded different from their other kids’ names. And Mia was the fifth child in her family, and they were all girls, so that made Mia the fifth most wanted name, even in her own family.

‘I’m sorry, did you say Maria?’ came the voice.

‘No, Mia,’ she mumbled, as though she didn’t want him to get it right.

‘Mia? Mia what?’

Questions, questions. Mia what? He’d found out who she was. Now to see what she was.


She didn’t volunteer the spelling. He’d have to ask.

‘Okay. Is anybody else in your apartment right now, ma’am?’

He knew the name! Maybe he’s Cuban. Doesn’t sound it, though.


He paused while he wrote something down in some big notebook with all the other names and numbers included in it.

‘Right. Does anybody else live there with you even though they’re not at home right now?’


‘Okay. Fine. Ma’am, I have to tell you you’re required for your own safety to vacate the building. We will take you from the lobby to a nearby protection facility, along with all other residents, at five o’clock, that’s seventeen-hundred hours, today, okay? That’s only fifteen minutes away. Have you got that? You need to be downstairs …Hey! Ah, excuse me, ma’am.’

The sound became muffled. But Mia could still hear his words.

‘Look, pal, get out of my face, I’m busy. There’s hardly any time left. Fix your own problems and let me get on with fixing mine.’

End of muffling.

‘I’m sorry, ma’am. As I was saying, you must be ready and waiting for departure by five o’clock, that’s in fifteen minutes, with whatever you can carry unaided. Don’t bring five suitcases. Just hand luggage, okay? Questions? Good, we’ll see you down there shortly.’

Mia heard the phone click. A nice voice. Powerful, but considerate.

How could she pack everything important into one small bag? Maybe they’d provide stuff like toothpaste and sanitary towels when she got there. She thought of clothes. Underwear, maybe, and some cotton tops and her other jogging bottoms, but nothing bulky and heavy. But the usual stuff she wore was still in the washing machine, damp and covered in cookie crumbs! She’d just have to go dressed as she was.

So what should go in the bag? Pictures of her family? Old boyfriends? What if they got lost or soaked in water? She couldn’t bear it if her past was washed away like that. She didn’t pack any photographs. She didn’t dare to pack her jugs or pots, either, because they would smash each other to pieces inside the bag. All she’d have to keep the past alive were her memories.

The bag remained empty. She panicked and looked around the apartment.

‘Oh, my food.’

She emptied what she could from the refrigerator, shelves and cupboards into her bag, and glanced at her watch. Then she turned around in front of the mirror. She brushed some crumbs off her backside, and picked up her bag.

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Comments by other Members

Zigeroon at 15:21 on 24 May 2006  Report this post

Hi. Very sad story. Enjoyed the roll out of information over period of the narrative.

Some of the early descriptions as she looked out of the window seeemed a little over decribed, when you showed the scene in simple terms it worked better.

Got into stride when she was remembering her 'working' days. Her loneliness came over very strong but she was never self pitying. A survivor travelling light when she accepted she had to leave the apartment. Nice touch.


Y-not at 16:43 on 24 May 2006  Report this post

Thanks for commenting. It sounds like I might need to rethink the earlier bit. It's meant to be her over-active imagination as she switches off from reality but is subconsciously influenced by the noises and vibrations from the weather outside and by her washing machine, in a sort of big crescendo.

After she snaps back from her reverie, it becomes more normal. Maybe I need to structure it so it's clearer when I'm switching from realistic to surreal and back to realistic viewpoints again.

Thanks again!


Vixen at 23:11 on 29 May 2006  Report this post

Like Andrew, I think the beginning is weaker than the rest of the story. You say she liked to imagining and remembering...I like that phrase, and I think it would be nice if you could keep some of the imagining that you follow it with. Perhaps you could restrict it to Pandora's box and the witches. Cut it a little. The rest of the story is written very straightforwardly, with fairly simple language. You might make the language of the imagined section more like that of the rest.

How old is she? About 35? Unlike Andrew, I didn't think Mia was a prostitute earlier. I thought she was lonely, and men brought her gifts and perhaps she relied on some of these gifts. But not out and out prostitution. It seems like the sort of borderline situation a woman like Mia can get into.

I liked her practicality in packing her food.

Y-not at 17:52 on 31 May 2006  Report this post

I still haven't got the hang of this website - I didn't even know you'd commented. Sorry.

I'll bear the comments in mind for the future about mixing different styles of writing together, and the dangers of doing this. Useful.
When I wrote it I was relying on really close reading, and intuitive understanding of what I was trying to represent with the overblown language bit, but I don't think I've got away with it - it isn't clear enough.

You are completely right in your interpretation of Mia - I never imagined her as a prostitute. I tried to portray her as someone with problems of relating to people and maintaining relationships, which led to her being easy to manipulate by the right sort of pushy people, because everyone wants some affection and validation and have to take what they can get. On the other hand, she never proactively seeks to start anything, and in fact retreats into her cocoon of a flat and her imagination. This is why she is usually alone. Shyness really I suppose.

And yes, she could be about 35. Still quite attractive to the average man, though not making the best of herself.



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