Laundromat, a short story by StevenHunley. Date added: 2010-09-07. Times viewed: 1711.
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By Steven Hunley
I went outside to get my notebook and copy of Maugham. I caught the worker sitting in the shade picking his nose. He pulled out his finger and examined it intensely, looking for pay dirt no doubt. A seven year old boy red-headed and with freckles couldn’t help but look like Opie. Andy and Barney were nowhere in sight.
A tall dark man wearing a baseball cap sported a brown flat nose right between his eyes. He unloaded his basket into a cart then rolled it towards the stainless steel machines that did all the work.
The tile floor was slick, probably because I’d spilled Suavitel and it promised to make the floor smell like “Field Flowers and Fresca Primavera” whatever that is. It smelled real fresh but was dangerous and slippery as hell. Too yiny and yangy to my way of thinking. So I ran to get paper towels.
It was so dramatic, running through the Laundromat willy-nilly, (good Maugham term that, willy-nilly) through the SPARKLEAN Laundromat. SPARKLEAN indeed! Clever add men. I hated them all.
So we had a discussion, me and my daughter, about what we hated.
She hated folding the clothes here. I hated sorting them and putting them in closets and places and spaces at home. We both detested the dirty laundry with relish. (hold the onions)
The machines that do all the work, the washers and dryers all move with similar circular motions. That’s the best thing about the Laundromat. It can hypnotize you. The sound of the sloshing water, the circular winding patterns that appear with the soap ever moving. The flowery smell of the fabric softener as it caresses your nose.
The Spanish and Portuguese and Salvadorian girls know when you’re watching them when they tug up their pants. They pull up their low-cut stretch jeans with panache, and try hard to appear unconcerned that you’re watching. They fail. They are yours for the visual liking.
A small brown boy wearing shorts and a T shirt walks by with a can of Coke in his right hand and a bag of chips in his left. Around his neck, binoculars made of plastic with spaceships on board as designs. He’s ready for something.
A brother and sister fight over a vending machine. Their mother appears from nowhere and begins pounding on the machine with her fist. No candy comes out. The children watch her with brown despairing faces that hold little hope. The mom reads the Pennysaver, Hispanic Edition, looking for bargains, planning and calculating a safe way through the day for her family, doing what mothers do. She makes her decision. She hands out her instructions firmly and clearly.
“Leave the candy now!”
She shoes them away with a light sweeping motion of her hand, as if she has a feather duster in it, as if her children are chickens. Maria is her name.
“Get away get away little chickens,” she tells them.
She’s a mom. That’s what they do. The children obey. That’s what they do best…if they know what’s good for them.
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