Everything Must Go

“Finally, I’ve created something worth hitting with a hammer,” I tell her.

“Well, the hammer is gone,” she says, “and I think it’s time you washed your sheets.”

“With soap?”

“Yes, you’ll see it in the basement. I’ve filled five jars with Ajax. I just needed to get rid of the plastic in this house.”


The bedsheets have been my longest on-going project. I don’t remember when it stopped being an accident. I’ve always liked transparency, texture, and spillage. I had a brazen red chair in my room as a teenager and every night, I adorned its woolen sides with whatever I could pick out of my nose. It became my signature for a while, the bottom of the chair a dry garden for my fingers. It’s all about subtlety and subversion, creating permanent textures and transparencies from fresh labor. Now, I spill myself onto cheap jersey spreads, phonebooks, and obituaries, releasing my ponderous muck to watch a fogged layer crust. I keep a bed in my studio and hang the sheets on the extra clothesline outside.


Recently, my wife has not enjoyed our sex. I’ve been trying to make more work and it’s nice when I know I can get her help with a piece. She says every time I pull out to ejaculate on a carpet or letter to the editor, it turns her off. “I’ve been replaced with all of the objects you find. Planks of wood and broken consoles, you never want to ejaculate on me anymore. And we own so much meaningless stuff when all you need is one of everything.” She wants a simple life where all of the forks, the pillows, the drinking glasses, have no purpose anymore. She looks at our collection of mugs from the Grand Canyon and says, “Steve, this is not multi-purpose enough. I need something bigger.” She looks at the plastic trash bin beside the toilet and says, “I need more. I need to be able to do more with this.” I remember when watching HGTV was thrilling for her. Now the TV is in the dumpster because she wants to take up less space in this world.


“I am giving away our things and I am leaving you,” she tells me.

“I didn’t know you were interested in an experiential life,” I say.


I wake up one Saturday morning, and there’s a crowd gathered around the yard. I see a neighbor with her hand on our dresser and her son trying on roller skates. People are digging through cardboard boxes that say “children” and “toys”, pulling out items I haven’t seen in twenty years. I hear my wife knocking at the door.

“They want to know how much your jersey paintings cost. They’re art collectors, very intrigued.”

I open the door and look down into her face. She is smiling so much, she has stained all of her teeth with lipstick. “They’re not for sale,” I tell her, pressing my index finger between her eyes.


A young couple stands in front of the three jersey spreads. The man beats his ham fists together while the pale woman looks at her toes in the grass. After five minutes of observing them, I was too anxious to stay inside.

“Hello, I’m--”

“Oh, yes you’re the painter, hi! So tell me, what am I looking at here.”

“I used some--”

“Yes, it looks like unconventional materials. We want it for our home, it would look great in the bedroom.”

“These are part of a private collection.”

“I just love the concept.”


“So, they are not for sale?”


“Well that’s too bad, isn’t it honey? We were really looking forward to having a striking centerpiece in the master. We just moved into the neighborhood.”


I leave them to go look for my wife inside. She’s not home. I can see through the window that it’s dark and everyone is gone, but all of our things remain outside. I take a walk among them. My wife’s jewelry box smells divine, everything spills out. I rub my face through the pot-plants, tipping the base with my feet. Among the rusted tools, I find my hammer. Now I really cannot fight the urge. Ceramic comes apart so peacefully. I wack until the pieces become little shards. I sprinkle them across the soil like rice after a wedding. Except this place was never sacred. I place a foundation of hardcover books on my chest and lie there with the tea-kettle spout in my mouth.