Donitz and the Mattress — Dan Nielsen

Donitz parked by the Salvation Army Store. He had an apartment now. His first. He’d always lived with Kuzmina. But she died. Kuzmina was ninety-seven. Donitz was seventy-nine.

The Salvation Army Store reminded Donitz of Kuzmina’s house. The way it smelled. The things that were in it. His apartment had no smell and nothing in it. Donitz chose a futon pad and a clock/radio.

“Does this work?” Donitz asked the crone behind the counter.

Bending herself in half, the crone plugged the cord into an outlet. It reminded Donitz of Kuzmina. How she bent herself in half to scrub the toilet. The radio lit. Static played. Donitz turned a knob. Someone spoke Spanish. Donitz stared at the numbers. 5 changed to 6.

“I’ll take it, and this,” Donitz said, indicating the futon pad. He paid with cash. His wallet was crammed. He’d sold the house. Donitz hated that house. He’d felt that way for seventy-five years. Since he was four. Before that he couldn’t remember.

Donitz struggled with the futon pad. He made it as far as the door.

“Carl! Get out here!” the crone cawed.

Carl appeared with knife and twine. He rolled the mattress tight and tied it in two places.

“You might want to get some stuff for this,” Carl said. “If you know what I mean.”

Donitz had no idea what Carl meant.


“I have the lice,” Donitz said.

The pharmacist placed a small box on the counter. “Follow the directions,” the pharmacist said.

Donitz drove to the hardware store.

“Can I help you?” a bearded man in red coveralls said.

“I need bug spray,” Donitz said.

“Aisle seven,” the man pointed.

Donitz chose Raid. It kills bugs dead.


Donitz sprayed until the can stopped. Inside the small box was a little tube. Printed on the little tube were directions too tiny to read. Donitz used it all. It didn’t seem like that much.

He set the alarm for twenty minutes. Fumes made him woozy. He laid down. He lost consciousness. Hours passed.

He awoke in pain. The alarm was broken. He struggled to his feet. He made it to the bathroom. He climbed into the shower. The cold spray brought him fully awake. He looked down.


Dan Nielsen lives alone in a three-bedroom house a short walk from Lake Michigan. He’s been writing, making music, and doing art for half a century. Old credits include Random House and University of Iowa Press anthologies. Most recently his work has appeared in The Bicycle Review, New Pop Lit, Bird’s Thumb, Lockjaw Magazine and The Fem. Dan is amazing at ping-pong. He has a website called Preponderous.

Image: Old Mattress, © Vitor Antunes, Creative Commons.