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By Suzy Brown

Jeffrey, it's time for Mother's bath." His mother called to him softly from the doorway of his room, her pink quilted robe cinched tightly. He knew it was time; he'd heard the water running and his nose had detected the floral scent of her bath oil, the scent he loved so well, the scent that belonged to just him and his mother.

He followed her down the carpeted hallway taking care to place one foot exactly in front of the other, keeping exactly in the middle. Walking carefully like that was difficult; he wobbled sometimes but never let his hands reach out to touch the walls. Fingers left fingerprints, and fingerprints were dirty and the clean white walls must show no marks. Boys were dirty, he knew that. All boys were dirty, even his father who always looked clean, his father with his clean shiny glasses and clean clean hands. His father who sat every morning at breakfast and every evening after work in his clean starched pressed suit reading the newspaper, turning the pages.

In the bathroom that smelled so good his mother said, "Turn around, Jeffrey, while Mother disrobes." He heard the splashy sounds as she stepped into the water and then, "Alright, Mother's ready." He knelt at the side of the tub, dipped the bathmitt into the steamy sweet smelling water and lathered it up. As his mother lay with her head on her tub pillow and her eyes closed he picked up her left arm. He started at the tips of her pearly fingers, pulling the cloth down to circle the back of her soft white hand twice, then continuing in slow even strokes down the length of her plump arm. He slipped the cloth around her dimpled shoulder, dipped into her armpit, then back up to her shoulder before pausing to relather the mitt.

"Mmmmmmm, you know just how Mother likes it." She raised her head and shifted her position to he could wash her back. He moved the cloth up and down, over and down. "I had to put your sister in the basement again, Jeffrey. She's been very bad." He knew that; his mother always needed a bath after disciplining Gina.

"I don't know when I can let her out." She lay back again as he soaped the mitt and reached for her right arm. "I don't know what I'm going to do with her, Jeffrey, her disobedience is growing worse. The switch doesn't work anymore; I had to use the cat o' nine tails, and that tends to draw blood. Yes, Jeffrey, down in front now, yes, that's right."

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