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"Mitchell Doesn't Like a Mess" by Margo Griffin

We don’t hear the door or his footsteps over the music and our laughter.

“Oh, for fucks sake,” Mitchell says after walking through the door and looking into the living room.

“Mitchell!” I exclaim, jumping up from the couch, knocking over my full glass of red wine onto the new carpet. Shirtless, I run into the kitchen, grabbing salt, carpet cleaner, and paper towels. I almost forgot that less than two minutes ago, my husband of sixteen years discovered me half-dressed, drinking cabernet on the couch with our younger daughter’s basketball coach. But I knew if I let the stain set on the rug, Mitchell would be pissed.

“Get out of my house,” Mitchell says.

Kevin remains silent and doesn’t move for several seconds, watching me on my hands and knees tending to the rug.

“Abby,” Kevin begins.

“GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY HOUSE!” Mitchell bellows.

“Please Kevin, just go,” I say, vigorously rubbing at the stain. But the maroon blotch is winking back at me, taunting and accusing me with its hue and size. And no matter how hard I press and rub, I understand this wine’s splatter will remain on this rug.

I hold my breath a little as Kevin moves past Mitchell to reach the door, half-expecting or maybe even hoping Mitchell will punch Kevin in the face out of jealousy or latent affection. But he won’t, of course; Mitchell doesn’t like a mess.


Almost a year later, I can barely see anything but a graying kidney-shaped stain on the living room carpet. The rest of my furniture fades into the background as I sit on the floor, considering my life. I try and think back to the earliest happy memory I have in this room, but my thoughts always come back to the rug and the sadness from a stain I know too well.

The girls are still angry with me. They say they can't trust me anymore, sounding more like their father than themselves. But they couldn't know the excruciating details—the whispered criticism, silent treatment, or behind-the-scenes arguments because Mitchell insisted the girls never see or hear our marriage in disarray. So, I stifled unhappy feelings and memories until a deep resentment grew, and eventually, I began to drink—a lot. The girls say they can barely recall a time when I didn't drink. They claim they don't remember the crafts we made together, the giggles and stories at bedtime, or the many field trips I chaperoned. And, as the months went on, every time I thought the carpet's stain might finally begin to fade, I would find myself entrenched in its chaotic story again.

Mitchell won’t let me replace the stained rug; he says it’s because it’s too expensive. But really, it’s his way of reminding me of the mess I had made. And Mitchell doesn’t like a mess.

Margo covers her stains with laughter. She has worked in urban education for over thirty years and is the mother of two amazing daughters and to the love of her life and best rescue dog ever, Harley. Besides the always amazing Roi Fainéant Press, some of Margo's stories have appeared or will soon appear in interesting places such as Twin Pies Literary, Bullshit Lit, Bending Genres, A Thin Slice of Anxiety and Bear Creek Gazette.

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