Last night
Spike appeared
In the shadows
Beside the
Hot water heater,
Bruised face
A mask in bone,
Sliding into your
Awareness.

You nearly screamed.

Catching yourself,
You resumed
Folding towels,
One after the other,
As he moved slowly,
Fumbling at the lid
Of the washer
Like an old man,
Both eyes blackened
Like your mother's
After daddy beat her
Because he could.

You reached over,
Pulling it open
With your
Good hand,
With a clang
And a nervous
Smile.

Spike paused,
Staring at you,
Dumping
A bloody mess of
Clothing into
The tub.

You gently
Eased
Him aside,
Added soap,
Added softener,
Closed the lid,
Pushed "Start",
As upstairs Dawn
Whined because
Somebody ate
The last Snicker's bar.

Though he stank
Like your brother
After a night's drinking
You gave Spike
A quick, hesitant
Embrace,
Glory-crushed fingers
Brushing against
His battered
Cheek,
Before you
Picked up the
Towels
And
Walked upstairs,
Into the light.