Hi, I read your job posting online. This is my application–thanks very much for reading it.
Desperate for love, Kevin slept with three men in one week. On Friday, ready for something else, he sold most of his clothes at Goodwill. He had about ten days’ worth of clothing, and he sold everything he’d worn that week. Then, alone, with less clothing, he drove to Cow Hollow to spend the money he’d made–the woman at Goodwill had insisted on paying him. “These clothes are too nice,” she’d said. “I’m taking these.” He wanted to buy a bar of soap shaped like a bath toy–not a bar, a toy-shape of soap–and he found a store that sold those. It was called Padilla Realty. “It’s a soap joke,” the guy inside explained. “If you knew about soap, you’d get it.” “No, it’s funny,” Kevin said. “It has to do with the soap-making industry,” the soap man said. “That’s fine,” Kevin said. “I’ll take this one. Can I use your bathroom?”
It took some convincing, but after a minute Kevin was given a key and directed to the back. In the bathroom he rolled up his right sleeve so his shoulder was showing and started washing his arm with the new soap he owned. It was shaped like a pontoon boat and lathered well, better than anything. Eventually, since this lather didn’t dissipate until twenty, thirty minutes after it had been created, the pontoon soap sort of seemed to be riding along on rocky waters every time he slid it up his arm, climbing a choppy waterfall. The boat soap was made to make the world more appropriate to itself through use, Kevin realized, and just when he was working this out and about to break through to the whole “Padilla Realty” joke the soap man came in, having kept an extra key and become concerned. “Aw, you’re kidding,” he said. Kevin, turning, reflexively put up his arms in a conciliatory gesture, but you couldn’t see his right arm at all, it was just a perfect frothy tusk at this point, and now its wide end grew past his shoulder like he was ossifying, like he’d soaped himself to the bone, and the bone had grown, so the gesture didn’t make sense to the store owner–it could’ve meant anything. “I’ll go,” Kevin said.
That evening, having walked to the bay with bone-arm intact and dipped its hoary form in the water like he’d lost something down there until every centimeter of his flesh was visible again and the shore was strung with bits of glowing, robust foam, he found a motel near the marina and took a room. The pontoon he put in the bathroom, on a soap dish, careful not to let it skid and begin its assimilatory mission again. He watched two or three television shows, checked himself for desperation, felt pretty content, and went to sleep. When he woke up, his arm was covered in boils. Horrified, he put on a turtleneck sweater and left the motel, intending to demand recompense from Padilla Realty and its parent corporation, should there be one. “Should there be one,” he said to himself, rehearsing.
“Impossible,” the soap man said. “No allergens. No irritants. There’s no way. Which arm is it?” “My right arm,” Kevin said, rubbing the sleeve. “There you go. you were washing your left arm yesterday.” “I wasn’t. You’re lying. I demand–” “No, no, hold on. Look–when you left, you were fine, right? Where’d you go?” “Nowhere. I–I’m in a motel.” “So? You talk to them. Those motels are owned by multimillionaires, you know. I’m a small businessman.” Kevin felt tired. He hadn’t slept well. He regretted giving up his excellent trenchcoat that everyone always complimented. “You’re coming, then,” he said. “What?” “I’m not going back there so he can send me back here. I know how this works. You’re coming. Bring soap.”
“Uh uh,” the motel manager said. “What are you suggesting? This motel received a score of 87 on an independent hygiene audit last week. Look–here it is.” He tore open a DHL package that a uniformed man had just handed him and showed them a plaque with the number “85” on it, but nothing else. “That could mean anything,” the soap man said. He wanted to settle this now. “You know your linens are worth shit. This guy’s hurt bad, and you’re gonna snowball him?” Kevin nodded. He hadn’t even looked at his arm for hours. It felt like a giant thyroidal Snickers bar, full of angry peanuts. “Oh, fuck you,” the motel owner was saying. “We both know this isn’t on me, Stan. It’s, what–” “My soap? You think my soap did this? Soap makes you clean. Motels–” “That’s a stereotype,” the motel owner said, agitatedly tapping the 85. “I worked for this. I’m still working.”
In the end, they decided that Stan the soap man would sleep in Kevin’s motel bed while the the motel deskman sat in the bathtub, amongst the manifold soaps that Stan had brought with him. “I’ve got these sleeping pills,” the motel man had said, relenting. “We’ll both take ’em. No tricks. Then we’ll know.” Kevin would proctor, alternating between the bedroom and the bathroom, watching each man for signs of infection or avoidance. His arm felt no better, but he was glad he’d taken a stand. He’d know the truth soon now.
The next morning, everyone was covered in boils.