The Red Bath

by Maureen Johnson-Laird

When my mother worked as a house cleaner, she was often given the keys to apartments. She went to one of her regular jobs one dreary Monday morning and let herself in through the front door. The couple who owned the apartment were usually both out at work so she was surprised when, she heard a loud gurgling noise coming from the bathroom.
___“Anyone at home?” she called out. No reply.
___She put her ear close to the bathroom door. Yes, there was a definite gurgling sound.
___She rapped on the door loudly.
___“It’s me, Sully,” she shouted. Still no-one answered. She got out her cleaning materials to start work, but after a few minutes she decided to check the bathroom again.
___She opened the door cautiously and then took two steps back. A naked man, his eyes closed, was lying slouched in the tub and the bath water was bright red. She recoiled in shock, and tried to regain her composure. She risked a quick glance to see if he had slashed his wrists, but his hands were under water. She was nervous to touch the man’s body, so she stared at him for a long time, wondering what to do.
___Eventually, she lifted one of his arms and peered at his chest to look for any sign of a wound.
___The body stirred. The man awoke with a terrific start.
___“What are you doing, Sully? Can’t you see I’m in the bath?” he said.
___“Sorry, Sir. I thought you were dead.”
___“I must have fallen asleep while I was reading,” he said.
___“Why is the water red?” she said.
___“Maybe it’s because I was reading a red book,” he said. He started feeling around in the water with his hands. He held up a slim tome with a red binding that was dripping with soapy water.
___“Is it a thriller?” Sully said.
___“I borrowed it from the library. It’s a novel about a hemophiliac.”