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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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BARELY

by Michael C. Keith



 

We are ashamed of everything that is real about us . . .

just as we are ashamed of our naked skins.


-George Bernard Shaw

 

 


Jason Conway climbed from the shower at 6:28 A.M., quickly dried himself, and slipped on his boxers. At 6:30 the T-shirt  he attempted to pull over his head flew from his hands and landed on the head of his wife, who was sitting naked on the commode.

 

"Very funny, Jason," mumbled Lacy Conway, from beneath the cotton garment.

 

"I didn't do that," protested Jason.

 

"Oh, sure. It just landed here on its own," replied Lacy, throwing the T-shirt  to her husband. 

 

Again, Jason attempted to pull the undershirt over his head, and again it sprung from his hands, this time landing atop the hamper.

 

"I saw that!" exclaimed Lacy. "What the hell are you doing?"

 

"Nothing! I didn't throw it. It jumps away every time I try to put it on."

 

"Stop goofing around and get out of the bathroom. I have to take my shower."

 

"I'm not goofing around," grumbled Jason, grabbing his T-shirt  from the top of the hamper and leaving the bathroom.

 

He tried to pull the undergarment over his head three more times, but each time it sprung away as if invisible hands were yanking it from him.

 

"What the hell . . .," Jason growled, kicking it across the bedroom and fishing another undershirt from his dresser.

 

Before he attempted to put on the new T-shirt , he decided to slip into his trousers, but the unseen power that had denied him use of his T-shirt  yanked them from his legs as soon as he started to raise them to his waist.

 

"Damn!! This isn't funny!" he bellowed in frustration.

 

Again, he tried to put on his pants, but it wasn't happening. Before they reached his knees, they were airborne, flying to the other side of the room. As Jason sat on the bed dazed by the bizarre event, he heard his wife cursing loudly in the bathroom.

 

"What's the matter, honey?" he called, moving swiftly to the bathroom door and opening it.

 

Inside he found his wife standing on top of the toilet bowl grabbing for her bra, which hung from the ceiling. Her panties dangled near the light fixture a few feet away.

 

"They won't go on!" she repeated, frantically. "They fly off just like your undershirt did."

 

"Come on down, Lacy. You'll fall. Something's going on. Maybe we got a..."

 

"A what?" snapped Lacy, dismounting the commode.

 

Jason led her from the bathroom by the hand, and they both plopped down on the edge of their bed.

 

"I can't put on my pants either. They just keep coming off," said Jason, reaching for his socks and sliding one onto his foot.

 

It moved around like a hand puppet and then shot across the floor landing against the closet door.

 

"Oh my god," said Lacy, whimpering.

 

"Put on your robe, honey. You look like you're freezing."

 

Lacy sat staring at the sock with her mouth agape. Jason fetched her bathrobe from the back of the wingback chair next to his wife's bureau and swung it over her shoulders. It immediately sprung from his hands and flew upward into the ceiling fan where it became entangled in its rotating blades.

 

"Shit! This goddamn house is haunted," shouted Jason, reaching for the switch to stop the fan.

 

Lucy jumped from the bed and ran to her closet.

 

"This is freakin' crazy!" she screamed, pulling dresses from their hangers and desperately attempting to put them on without success.

 

While she struggled to cover her body, Jason did the same in his adjacent closet. In a matter of minutes, heaps of clothes covered their bedroom floor.

 

"Nothing . . . nothing stays on," pouted Lacy.

 

"Pick something," ordered Jason, pointing at the mounds. Maybe we can dress in another part of the house . . . or the garage. There's got to be a magnetic field or something messing with the air molecules in here."

 

The Conways grabbed items from the piles of clothes and scampered from the room. In the hall they attempted to attire themselves, but the garments continued to resist their efforts.

 

"Try the living room," shouted Jason, but the results were the same there. "The garage. Let's go to the garage."

 

"It's freezing in here," complained Lacy, bumping against their Toyota Highlander.

 

"Never mind that. See if you can put your dress on," snapped Jason.

 

Despite all of their attempts, their clothes would not stay on their chilled bodies.

 

"Oh, Jason, what are we going to do? We can't leave the house naked. Nobody can see us this way," sobbed Lacy.

 

"I know," said Jason, sympathetically.

 

"And my hair. I brush it but it just goes back to this," she said, pointing to the disheveled mop on her head.

 

"I have to call work and let them know I won't be in," said Jason, following his wife back into the house.

 

"What are you going to tell them?"

 

"That we need an exorcism," replied Jason, pressing a button on his cellphone.

 

After five rings, he reached his company's answering machine. Where was the receptionist, Jason wondered? She was always there by 8:30, and it was almost 9:00. By now he would be arriving at work, too. If things were normal, but they were far from normal, he thought, with rapidly mounting trepidation.

 

It was after 10 A.M. when someone besides the recorded voice responded to Jason's phone call.

 

"Alice isn't here, so I'm fielding calls. Only two other people came in. Seems we're the only ones that were fully clothed when it happened," declared Mark Howard from marketing.

 

"When what happened?" inquired Jason.

 

"They're not sure, but it seems around 6:30 this morning, if people weren't already dressed, they stayed that way. If you had some of your clothes on, you kept them, but you couldn't put on anything else after that. You were stuck the way you were. So a lot of people are either half naked or totally naked. They think it might be an anti-matter thing, whatever that means. It's all over the news."

 

Jason hung up and hit the TV remote. The headline across the bottom of the screen read:

 

COUNTRY IN STATE OF UNDRESS

AS CLOTHES DEFY USE.

 

A reporter gave the details.

 

So far it appears that the vast majority of the population has remained inside their homes, having lost the ability to dress. Scientists are at a loss to explain why people are not able to put on their clothes. The White House

indicates that the Vice President will soon address the country on the matter. This raises the question about the President's own state of dress. The Commander-in-Chief has yet to be seen.

 

Lacy let out a scream. "What am I going to do? I'm totally naked. At least you have shorts on."

 

"Oh, and like I want to be seen in these," said Jason, snapping the waistband of his boxers emblazoned with rubber duckies.

 

"Better than nothing. I'm so cold. Put up the heat," ordered Lacy, collapsing onto the couch and attempting to cover herself with a pillow that flapped away from her.

 

For the balance of the day, the news was filled with accounts of partially or totally naked celebrities, among them government officials, professional athletes, and film stars. All occupations suffered from shortages of personnel. Services were cut back as businesses lacked the employees to continue normal operation. Life was grinding to a halt as unclothed humans chose to remain out of sight. The world faced a growing quandary.

 

***

 

A week into the dilemma, the Conways were nearly out of food, and they were not alone in that situation. Delivery services were overwhelmed, since their ranks, too, had been drastically reduced by what was now being called "The Undress," by the media. Speculation about the cause was rampant. The most popular theory was posited by the Center for Extraterrestrial Studies, which held that aliens were likely conducting an experiment or enjoying a joke at the expense of Earthlings. In the end, most people felt there was no plausible explanation for what had happened at 6:30 in the morning on the 25th of October.

 

Among the Conways' relatives and friends, only two had been fully attired when The Undress occurred. Lacy's brother, always an early riser, was already at work when most of the country's population was preparing to greet the day. She had spoken to him on the phone, and he had agreed to grocery shop for them. Meanwhile, Jason's best friend and avid jogger, Perry Myles, had visited and, likewise, agreed to assist the Conways in any way he could. Despite the bizarre nature of the situation, Perry could not conceal his amusement over the predicament confronting half the world.

 

"My boss can't leave the house either. Naked as a jaybird, and that's not a pretty sight considering how fat he is. Hey, like the rubber duckies, buddy."

 

"Better than nothing," snapped Jason.

 

"No offense, but this whole thing is pretty hysterical when you think about it."

 

"Yeah, it's real funny not being able to leave the house or have a normal life. You have any idea how this is going to change everything?"

 

"It already is changing everything. I'm in charge of the dealership now. Of course, car sales are off big time, because so many people can't go any place. You should see the highways. Traffic is way down. Like a holiday out there. Things have pretty much come to a halt. You been watching the news?"

 

"That's all I've been doing," responded Jason, nodding toward the television.

 

"Well, it's a hell of a lot more peaceful in the world. All quiet on the war fronts, they say. Guess naked soldiers don't like it when their guns are exposed," chuckled Perry.

 

"I can't see the humor in any of it. Things are crumbling, man. Wall Street is in the dumpster and they say there's going to be massive shortages in everything from medicine to milk. Not so funny, pal," replied Jason, glumly.

 

"Sorry, I'm just trying to make light of a bad situation. I guess it's easier for me to do that when I'm not bare ass. I try not to dwell on what's happening, because it's scary as shit. I mean, why would aliens do something like this, and who knows what they'll do next?"

 

"Not sure I buy the ET theory. Why the hell would they do something like this?"

 

"Maybe they're laughing their asses off up there on Mars."

 

"No one knows what's going on. Not even the so-called experts. All anyone knows is things are really screwed up."

 

"Well, I, for one, think the VP looked pretty damn cute in his PJs. You see him? I almost crapped myself. No sign of the First Lady either. Maybe she's like Lacy. Hey Lacy, come on out. Not good form hiding from your company," yelled Perry, winking at Jason.

 

"Drop dead!" replied Lacy, hiding in the kitchen.

 

"People are just going to have to get over their inhibitions if things are going to get back on track," observed Perry, turning serious for a moment.

 

"Don't see that happening any time soon," replied Jason, escorting his friend to the door.

 

"I'll get the stuff you want in case the power goes out, but the utility companies say they have enough personnel to keep things fired up."

 

"I'm not that confident. The lights have already been flickering. Don't want to be left in the dark. Appreciate it, Perry."

 

"No problem, bro. You better get back inside before the neighborhood sees your duckies," said Perry, pointing to Jason's shorts.

 

"Shit," replied Jason, suddenly aware he was standing on his front steps in full view of a passing school bus that appeared half-empty.

 

***

 

It took the Conways two nights to figure out how to cover themselves in bed. After non-stop battles with flying blankets, Jason inserted a piece of two-by-four between the mattress and box spring so they could burrow between them to keep warm. Even with the thermostat cranked up to almost 80 degrees, Lacy still complained of being cold.

 

"So this is how we're going to live our lives?" she lamented over the phone to her mother, who also had emerged from the shower at the fateful moment when humans were no longer able to clothe themselves.

 

"Your father had his robe on, but nothing under it and no socks or slippers. He's had to fetch wood for the fireplace barefoot. Stepped on something and cut his foot. We called Dr. Peters' office, but there was no answer. He's probably naked like the rest of us. The cut looks better though, so I don't think it's a big deal."

 

"Can you and Daddy come over after it gets dark? I'm bored and lonely," Lacy pleaded.

 

"Oh, I don't think I'd dare leave the house without clothes on, honey. Maybe Daddy can come by. I'll check with him when he wakes up from his nap, okay?"

 

Later in the day, Lacy's mother called back and reported that her father had no intention of venturing out in public in his old robe, adding that his foot was too sore to walk on anyway. This news deepened Lacy's gloom, and she climbed between the mattress and box spring and sobbed.

 

As he had for days, Jason sat in the living room glued to CNN. Nudists around the country had seized The Undress to expound on the virtues of their lifestyle, suggesting that it was the answer to the dilemma confronting the world. A female reporter clad only in a bra and slip asked the director of the American Naturism Society to explain:

 

There's nothing more natural in the world than the human body. Covering it is a perversion of what nature intended. We praise the beauty of the stallion and lion, but are their forms concealed by fabrics? Of course they're not. Discarding clothes liberates us and returns us to our purist state. Besides, it's healthy, comfortable, and relaxing. Nothing worse than getting all sticky and knotted up in underpants on a steamy, summer day.    

 

The concept made sense to Jason, but he had to admit that the idea of living in a world where everyone was in a state of various undress would take some getting used to. It surprised him when a growing number of government officials and prominent figures suggested that nudism might be the solution to The Undress. Religious leaders, except for those in the Catholic Church, were adamantly opposed to the revolutionary proposal. Rumors circulated that the Pope was caught naked at the hour of The Undress, explaining why the world's largest Christian sect was not averse to the notion.

 

***

 

As the debate continued, a small percentage of the population embraced nudism as the answer to the problem. It gradually became common to encounter a naked person striding down a street or shopping for groceries. At first some early converts to nudism were met with hostility, but as it became more and more apparent that no other solution to the crisis existed, resistance faded. Still, the majority of those caught short at the moment of The Undress remained secreted from public view.

 

A sudden, unexpected event substantially changed that. As the Conways snuggled before the television, a bare-chested commentator announced an important news update from Washington. The screen switched to the large double-doors that concealed the long red-carpeted corridor in the White House. When the entrance opened millions of viewers beheld the stark-naked figure of the President as he strode to a waiting podium.

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"...Nixon, with edited transcripts of the Nixon White House Tape conversations for the broadcast of his ad[dress] to the Nation."
 
                                                          -Wikipedia