Mrs. Blandings didn’t wait for a new tissue to emerge. She dived forward and plunged her hand through the slot and into the tissue box. Inside the tissue box, Mrs. Blandings felt tissues squirming around her fingers. Strange energies sparked hot and cold against her skin. The box felt oddly deep, somehow bottomless.
Mrs. Blandings braced both knees against the box to hold it down, then tightened her grip on the twisting snakes of tissue inside the box. She pulled with all her might, arching backward at the waist, and ripped a handful of tissues from the box. She threw the tissues into the air behind her, and immediately shoved her other hand through the slot far into the strange depths of the tissue box. Handful after handful of tissues flew into the air around Mrs. Blandings. The tissues twitched but went flat and soft in the air, falling like a tissue fog through the hotel room.
The tissue box convulsed under Mrs. Blandings’ knees. It pulsed, bulging on one side and shrinking on the other, trying to force itself sideways and out from under Mrs. Blandings, trying to free itself from her relentless penetrations. But Mrs. Blandings was focused on the tissue box and her attack with all of her mind and all of her muscle.
As more and more tissues settled to the carpet around her, Mrs. Blandings felt the tissue box changing under her knees. The hard edges were softening. The convulsions were weakening. The box itself was losing shape, losing depth, becoming flat.
Then, throwing a handful of tissues into the air with one hand, Mrs. Blandings pushed her other hand into the box and felt only bottom. Her fingers pressed against only cardboard. Around her fingers she felt only air.
Mrs. Blandings reached down with her other hand and ripped. The slot at the top of the tissue box gave way. The box tore down the middle. Mrs. Blandings pulled the box in two. She flung the pieces left and right across the hotel room.
Surrounded, then, by flat, lifeless tissues, Mrs. Blandings sat back against her feet. Her breathing was heavy, but slowing. Her eyes surveyed the room, but saw no motion. With a long sigh, Mrs. Blandings tossed back her hair, then reached up to move a strand of hair thick with perspiration out of her eyes. Looking at all the tissues around her, Mrs. Blandings smiled. She reached down, grabbed a handful of tissues, and wiped the sweat from her face.
Standing up, Mrs. Blandings tossed the wet tissue into the trash basket.
Mrs. Blandings looked at herself in the mirror.
Grimacing, she grabbed a comb and began brushing out her hair. In the mirror, she looked again at all the tissues on the floor behind her. And she saw her reflection silhouetted against the white of the tissues. She stopped combing and studied herself in the mirror.
Mrs. Blandings considered the lines of her body under her blouse. The fabric, clinging slightly from perspiration and static electricity, accentuated her shape. Under her blouse, her breasts looked shapely and firm.
Mrs. Blandings smiled. She said to her reflection, “Screw the tissue. Who needs tissue?”