Laundry Day

Submitted into Contest #31 in response to: Write a short story about someone doing laundry.... view prompt

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Fantasy Fiction

Rushing home from my college work/study job tonight is a bitter/sweet task. Spending the day in barely tolerable clothes overdue for a wash was embarrassing. So passing the day in my office and avoiding people was the bitter; stripping down to my briefs in the parking lot to shed the smelly apparel was the sweet part. I haven’t driven naked since my original college days. If a cop stops me — well, I have my dirty clothes to show him or her. Oh please Lord, let it be a “her.” A guy’s got to have some fun. So what’s the plan, ‘self’? Mom’s washer is broken, but I’m still grateful she left it to me so many years ago and for it lasting so long. My priority is to study for my college finals, so I can’t spare the time and distractions at a Laundromat tonight. I’ll hit it first thing tomorrow so I’ll have fresh clothes for class. Maybe going back to college after a ten-year lapse wasn’t such a great idea. It has been much harder than expected to rebuild study habits and manage my classes and work. Oh, oh. Sirens and flashing lights are never a good thing. I keep forgetting, careful what you wish for. Two female officers approached my car, flashlights on, hands on guns. One look from both attractive officers and I began to rise to attention. “Hands out; open the door from the outside. Step out of the car, sir.” “Yes, ma’am, umm officers. As you can see, I’m not armed and have nothing to hide. What did I do?” “You rolled through a Stop sign. Why are you driving in just your briefs and shoes? No, it’s not illegal, just a bit unusual. Is that a gun in your shorts?” “Hell no! I mean no, officer. It’s just me. All me. My smelly clothes, there, need washing so I took them off.” She shocked me when she frisked me there then looked inside my shorts. She smiled at the other officer. “OK. No weapons. I’ll believe you. Get going and pay more attention; be more alert and careful.” She patted her gun to make her point. I got it. My heart pounded as I realized I could have died over a Stop sign. Cheating death is a rush! Getting home safely, I ordered pizza and hit the books. Early the next day, I had to park down the block and across from the Laundromat. Crossing the street with my bulging laundry bag on my back, I saw a terrified woman run screaming from the empty Laundromat. Naked, she held some tattered clothes against her front as she ran. No need for that, even on Halloween. Too focused on her rear, I didn’t see the green, city bus until it sped by me within inches. I gasped at the close call then slapped and cursed it. That was the second time I cheated death in two days! After carefully checking the rest of the traffic, I gracefully thread through the lines of hectic vehicles. Though still curious about the pale screamer, I shrugged and gingerly opened the worn glass door with the diagonal crack. No time to waste, I had college exams, a swim meet PE final and dentist appointment waiting for me. Reluctant to leave my clothes here too long, I hoped to reduce the risk of losing them by waiting for the first load then returning for the rest between appointments. One washer noisily did its business in the empty, pastel green room as a stainless steel dryer noisily tumbled a large load of clothes. Lights suddenly dimmed and shifted orange. The dryer’s thump-thump-thump noise changed to a more rhythmic beat matching the dance music suddenly coming from the washer — swish-a-swish-swish-swish. A basket unaccountably fell off a worn, yellow, Formica-topped table nearby. A thin haze filled the room and fogged the windows. By squinting, I saw fuzzy, gossamer forms dancing with lively, puffy, empty clothes—shirts or jackets on shorts with long lost, mismatched socks. The more I stared, the clearer they became. Two forms resolved and looked familiar. “Mom? Dad? How are you here?” They waved and smiled. “You both died in the 90's. Why are you naked?” They approached smoothly, calmly, dancing Cha-cha all the way. “Hello son. All spirits are as naked as we were born. There is no modesty after death. Why would we want to persist for eternity in dirty, tattered clothing anyway? We’re here celebrating with our parents.” They pointed behind me. Mawmaw and Pops, holding hands, also naked and dancing, floated through a table on my right. Their bodies were wrinkle free and younger than I ever saw them; they looked fit and hale. “They waited for us since the 50's. We’re dancing with these coats and assorted old laundry spirits since this is their promotion day. They could have left any time, but chose to wait for us, then you, to come before leaving this world. Aren’t you curious where your laundry and clothing went?” Startled, I looked down and saw that I too was naked and my laundry had joined the other dancing clothes; the dirtiest had hopped into the running washer. “Are these all clothes that we lose in laundry? Mismatched socks are doing a separate Quick Step/Waltz dance. Lost clothes have a limbo too? Wait! How, why am I naked?” In a whirlwind, my life images paraded swiftly before my eyes: climbing onto my first school bus; smoking in the boys’ room; my first car and all those adventures; moving out to attend college; packing my laundry bag this morning; that screaming woman and the reckless city bus; and meeting my long dead parents and grandparents. “The bus! It-it didn’t miss me. I’m . . .” “Dead? Yes, son, you are. We waited for you. That woman you saw running, she had a heart attack here and saw us as she died. The thump when she hit the ground restarted her heart and she, umm, . . . left. Come dance with us. We have so little time. Our parents are leaving at dawn and they want you to know some things you’ve always been curious about.” Before they began, I noticed how much calmer and happier they were and how well they got along with my parents. That was new! They called dad by his name instead of “you-bastard-you” without explaining. “Yes, child, we were not married when your dad was born. We needled him for years and he was too ashamed for us to tell you the truth. Here, we learned none of that matters. A philosopher once said ‘you pack your own chute’ then jump out of a plane. When you decide that being illegitimate brings shame, or tossing dirty socks and clothes everywhere is critically important enough to end a marriage, or exposing too much ‘private’ skin is a traumatic embarrassment, you make it all true — for you. Your life and ours would have been so much easier and richer if we just accepted that truth. We are not capable of telling the living these lessons, so don’t fret about informing your girlfriend. The living are all doomed to learn these lessons too late unless they follow the teachings of the great Masters the Creator sends us.” “OK, pops, that’s enough gloom. This is a party. Dance with us, son.” Dance I did. At dawn, we held a group hug then watched an empty dryer swing open its door, brightly light its interior and welcome my shrinking grandparents. “Now son, in case you’re wondering why we didn’t leave with them, my parents left a secret for us to tell you. Remember when your girlfriend broke up with you five years ago and moved in with her parents for nearly a year before coming back to you? She gave birth to a girl, but gave her up to adoption. You have a choice. You can wait for the child to come here in her time, or you can leave with us in the next dawn window. If you like, we will stay with you and dance until the right time.” Mind blown. I’m a dad? Great news — no college exams and no dentist! “So, you’re telling me I can’t let her know, but I can watch her grow while I wait? If I can, then it’s an easy decision.” And so we danced every day for years until it was time for me and my parents to meet my daughter and her mom the same day.

March 06, 2020 21:01

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