A toothpaste tube sits calmly on a bathroom shelf. Its white and blue form crumpled just so. Not that the contortions bother the tube, it is flexible in its very nature. Just as walking with their great necks extended doesn’t phase giraffes, the uneven distribution and odd bend leaves the tube completely nonplussed.
The tube relaxes, slowly fulfilling its obvious purpose in existence, slowly dispensing toothpaste until it is cast into the vast sanitary system of a city, either to be recycled somehow or sit for time immemorial under the weight of modern society’s detritus.
As peaceful and straightforward as its existence may be, and often is for most of its brethren, this toothpaste tube is the volta upon which a family turns. The father, a drunk, was in a rage. Someone had pushed the toothpaste out of the tube in a manner he didn’t like.
He was a particular man, one with strong opinions about the mundane minutiae of his family’s existence- and things had to go his way. He bought the family its groceries- not out of some modern notion of equality in his relationship with the family’s mother, no, he was an avowed if publicly silent misogynist. Instead he bought the domestic supplies to ensure that each product was the brand and type he wanted. No one else’s opinion was even remotely considered. He brought in the money, he figured with his deranged logic, he should decide how it was spent.
The objects of the family’s domestic space weren’t just chosen in type and brand, no, use was heavily regulated too. Toilet paper was to be hung just so, clothes arranged in closets in a particular way. Inspections were frequent, punishments for infractions severe. The BAC of the father often was a deciding factor in the severity, violence rising in logarithmic proportion.
This night, though, perhaps the most important of the toothpaste tube’s existence, one of the children, the eldest son, had squeezed the tube from the top, not in a slow wave motion from the back as the father demanded. The father had noticed and lost his cool. He had drank more than usual and the punishment was greater than ever- he broke a porcelain plate over his son’s face.
The toothpaste tube, it seemed, was not just a container for dental hygiene products, but the straw that broke a camel’s back. The mother had endured, but could endure no longer. Seeing the fruit of her womb receive a plate to the face snapped her from the torpor her husband had beaten her into. She dialed the police and the family’s long night of terror began to break into dawn.
The toothpaste tube’s color matched well with the cherries and berries of the police lights that flashed through the bathroom window. It again relaxed and awaited further fulfillment of its simple purpose.