Sample P28 from Carol Hoover, "The Shorts on the Bedroom Floor," Story, XXXIV: 133 (February, 1961), 38-42. A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,027 words 65 (3.2%) quotesP28

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Carol Hoover, "The Shorts on the Bedroom Floor," Story, XXXIV: 133 (February, 1961), 38-42.

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Martin felt it was incredible that the situation had come to exist at all . And once begun , had grown to such monstrous proportions . The pair of white cotton shorts ruled his life .

Lying awake at night , he could see them , laid out on the floor of his mind . When he rose in the morning , the image was still there .

He had always been a messy and negligent man . In his bachelor days , his bedroom had been strewn with clothes which his mother , or later the hotel maid , generally saw fit to put in order . No doubt Dolores resented following in their footsteps .

But it was fun those first days , kidding about the trail of garments he left littered across the rug . There was an assertive maleness in his grinning refusal to pick them up . Half slyly he enjoyed seeing her stoop to lift the things .

He remembered the first time he saw her , standing across the room at a party . The smooth curve of her neck , very white against hair which curled against it like petals . Her hair was the color of those blooms which in seed catalogues are referred to as `` black '' , but since no flower is actually without color contain always a hint of grape or purple or blue -- he wanted to draw the broad patina of hair through his fingers , searching it slowly for a trace of veining which might reveal its true shade beneath the darkness .

So he sought her out , and spoke to her , and thought of his hand in her hair . Or against her back , pressed on the column of vertebrae , which held her so magnificently straight and unyielding , until the segments of bone made tiny sharp cracking noises , like the snapped stem of a tulip .

But , to put it bluntly , nothing snapped . Yet that had not seriously troubled him , not then . They married . More he could take at leisure . All Martin thought he needed was time : to what better use could time be put ? ?

He saw later that they had made their marriage too quickly . There was too little occasion beforehand for resistance , the brave strong delights of emotional clash and meeting . They had left themselves too much to discover .

But , at the start , his new life felt invigorating . Good .

It was on the tenth day after the wedding ( how could it have been so soon ? ? ) that he dropped the shorts on the floor .

`` Now , I'm not going to pick up those shorts '' ! !

Martin gave her a teasing pat . `` I think you'll get tired of them there '' .

In the morning the shorts were where he had left them . He smiled to himself , and decided not to mention them till Dolores did . It was almost too easy . For he had just remembered : tonight they were having their first guests . The shorts would not be on the floor when he came home that evening .

He was wrong . The rest of the bedroom had been groomed to a superhuman neatness , but in the middle of the carpet lay the disheveled shorts . They gave the room a strange note of incongruity , like a mole on a beautiful face .

He saw that Dolores intended to wait until the last minute , thinking he would get nervous . Quietly he determined to foil her . I can be as stubborn as she can , he thought ; ; my nerves are as strong . She'll rush to the bedroom when the doorbell rings .

It rang . Ten minutes early .

Martin was standing a few feet from the front door . He swung around , eyes toward the bedroom , some fifteen feet away . Dolores stood motionless in the doorway .

He could not cross the living room , brush past her , and bend down to retrieve the shorts .

Martin turned his back . He strode to answer the bell .

Bill's hat was deposited in the hall closet . With the most casual and relaxed manner in the world , Dolores led Anthea to the bedroom . Martin strained his ears .

At first he could not be sure . Then he caught just enough to know that the shorts were still there . A glissade of giggles slid over their voices .

All evening Anthea favored him with odd , coy looks . Clearly she had been instructed `` not to say a word '' . For some reason , this ellipsis in the conversation spread until it swallowed up every other topic . At last there was a void no one could fill . The Brainards went home early .

Martin realized , later on , that he should have `` had it out '' with Dolores that night . As violently as possible . But he was so taken aback , he could not believe any rage of his would make her give in . On the contrary , it would only weaken his position if he fumed , while she stayed calm and adamant . And if he surrendered after raving at her . He shivered .

Suppose he ran up the white flag altogether ? ? At once . He considered the sober possibility .

In his head was the echo of those titters with Anthea .

There was something about private feminine whisperings which always made him feel scabrous and unclean . He remembered his mother gossiping with her neighborhood women friends , lowering her voice to a penetrating hoarseness which might be trusted to carry to the head of the stairs , where he crouched listening . He could even recall the last time he sat there . She was talking about him that time , because he had done some bad thing , something she disliked , but `` Afterwards Martin said he was sorry . He apologized so sweetly , I couldn't keep being annoyed with him '' . It wasn't even true that he'd said he was sorry that time ; ; he had in fact said simply that he wished the thing hadn't happened , which was as honest as he could put it . But his mother told the story over and over , till her `` Martin said he was sorry '' was as much a part of her as the shape of her thin , pallid ears .

The battle had to be fought . Let the best sex win .

But his resolution hardly seemed to help . If the situation had been bad , it now got worse . About this time people began `` dropping in '' , considering that the newly married had been left alone long enough . Angrily Martin wished they had delayed the wedding and gone on a trip -- preferably one that lasted months -- instead of deciding not to postpone the date until he could get away . Here they were at the mercy of anyone who chose to come by . These stray people nearly always insisted on Dolores showing them around the apartment . Of course , the tours of inspection included the ever-present shorts .

It was curious how the different visitors took this . Some tried to ignore the blot on the bedroom's countenance . Others asked . Quite a few laughed . To them all Dolores told a lighthearted and witty tale .

`` It's a little contest Martin and I have '' , she would begin gaily , carrying the anecdote through a frothy and deceptive course . While he waited in the living room .

Once Martin went along . They entered the bedroom , and Dolores said nothing . Then one of the guests showed his merriment . `` You were in a hurry , weren't you '' ? ? Martin would have liked to break the man's neck . Dolores smiled ; ; she let the interpretation stand . Now Martin heard himself give a snort of mock good nature . With her eyes Dolores dared him for the truth , ready to begin : It's a little contest --

Never again did he enter into the ritual of showing the apartment .

They kept up a rigid pretense of speaking relations . But Martin seldom felt the impulse to talk about anything . What to talk about ? ?

Dolores kept picking up any of his clothes ( except the fatal shorts ) which he left about , but he had been robbed of pleasure in scattering his possessions . He fell into the habit of putting his clothes in drawers and closets , so his life might impinge as little as possible on hers . The shorts alone remained .

In his moments of worst agony , Martin imagined what his friends were saying . The sound of their amazement . Bizarre : He could hear the word . The most bizarre situation . We were up to visit them and

He had thought her exactly what he wanted . Six weeks of marriage and I'm using the past tense , he told himself furiously . Pursuing his idea , he saw that it would be impossible to leave her now . Everyone would know why ; ; he would cut a supremely ridiculous figure .

He was trapped .

Day and night Martin could not drag his mind from the dilemma he had made for himself . His mind scurried frantically , seeking an exit . Alternately he had periods of hostile defeatism in which he determined sullenly , morosely , to live out his life in this fashion . Nothing would change , nothing would ever change .

When the solution finally came to him , one night while he was in bed , he was so shaken by its simplicity that he could only wonder why it had not occurred to him before .

In a frenzy of excitement , he considered his plan .

Beside his shorts , he would place something of hers .

Instantaneously he would have won an immeasurable moral victory , for if she picked up , say , a pair of her panties , she might just as well lift his shorts lying alongside -- the expenditure of energy was almost the same . He felt that it would be a particular humiliation to Dolores to pick up her own underwear which he had laid on the floor . Furthermore , he could go on repeating the maneuver endlessly : every time he went in the bedroom , he could drop a slip or a brassiere , or maybe a girdle , next to his shorts . Sooner or later , Dolores would crack . On the other hand , if she didn't remove her own things , it would be difficult to explain to the parade of guests which traversed the apartment .

Martin guessed that Dolores would not be so eager to tell the next installment of her story . The tale , he thought , would become less gay . She had used his rumpled shorts as the very image of his childishness , his lack of control , his general male looseness , while she remained cool , airy , and untouched , the charming teacher who disciplined an unruly body . To have her underclothes linked with his on the floor would draw her visibly into a struggle both bitter and absurd .

Something in the back of his mind was aware that the magnificence of the plan lay in his faith , that the idea would work because he believed in it , since his courage and virility were involved , because it was truly his . The knowledge kept him from analyzing his scheme to death , and took him through the last hours of that night in a peace of exalted fanaticism .

The next morning , while Dolores was out of the room , he went to her bureau drawer , took out a pair of nylon lace pants , and tenderly dropped them next to his shorts . He sat down on the bed .

In a surprisingly short time , Dolores appeared . To his delight , her eyes focused at once upon the two garments . Slowly and deliberately she reached down and touched the lace with her fingers , then hesitated for about a second . Ah , he thought , she's going through the chain of reasoning which says she might really just as well pick up my shorts too . He saw that in a moment she had grasped all the implications of a plot which had been weeks in occurring to him . Extending her fingers another inch , she caught up the shorts , and swiftly left the room . She did not look at him , but he noticed that her face was flushed and her eyes unsteady .

They breakfasted together , but Martin did not refer to his triumph , and Dolores found a great deal to do in the kitchen , bobbing up and down from the table so that talk was impossible . Well , Martin thought , That'll save . He left for work in high spirits .

As he relaxed that day , Martin realized how tense he had been these past weeks . He found that he no longer hated Dolores ( he knew how much he had hated her ) , and he was surprised at a resurgence of an affectionate feeling .