The laundry machine

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



Often, it required two, or even three trips for Maggie to haul all the week’s laundry down to the laundromat. Between Petey, Phil, Henry, Dooley, Mikey, Micky, Nikki, Gurdy, Bobby, Pauly, and Finnegan, Maggie had her day’s work cut out for her. Toiling through the snow covered sidewalks, she would make her rounds while the kids were at school and her husband Gurdy was working at the post office. Between trips, Maggie would fulfill here other duties. A quick stop by the meat shop for the evenings mutton, or pork chops, if it were on a Wednesday. Next, she would gather carrots and parsnips and potatoes for a stew of some kind. And always, Maggie brought home another half dozen bottles of ale for Gurdy’s after work, pre- dinner, during dinner, dessert, after dinner, and before bed fix.

“How was dinner?” 

That was the standard opening question amongst all the ladies at the laundromat. 

“How was dinner last night?” 

“Did you try the new recipe?” 

“Was there enough?”

“How is little Petey? Still sick? Oh, oh. Poor dear!” 

Maggie came in one early afternoon to the usual chatter amongst the other ladies and the cacophonous sound of all the laundry machines working in together unison . Her face was rubicund from the cold winters day, yet she was sweating as she took off her coat, revealing her sturdy frame and her damp, thick, meaty arms. 

The ladies nodded greetings to her, and mechanically opened up the circle they had formed for Maggie to enter and listen as Fran continued listing off the day’s stories. 

“Gerald has been laid off for weeks and Matilda and the young ones haven’t even got a clue!” She said. 


“Oh, dear.” 

“Oh, my…” 

The ladies echoed in chorus. 

“Did anyone see the sale on beets?” 

Maggie wasn’t taking part in the conversation as she normally would and the other ladies pretended not to take notice. Fran, the usual ringleader of the group, simply carried on the conversation, as she had normally, aside from casting sidelong glances over at Maggie and gesticulating confusion to the rest of the ladies as she spoke. 

“I heard that.”

“I heard that too.” 

“Where did you hear that?” 

The ladies were all only half- listening at that point. Ten minutes had gone by and the issue was revealing itself to them like a rotten potato, or a fly in the ale. 

“Yeah I heard about her son. Poor lad. Fell right off the cliff…” 

“These kids just cant handle their liquor anymore, not the way their fathers could” 

“Oh, Sue. Don’t you have any remorse?”

“Not really.” Sue smiled a menacing smile

“I heard that the bank is opening earlier now….”

Slowly the circle opened up and the ladies inched closer towards Maggie.

Maggie still wasn’t participating.

Anticipation was building. 

Patience was waning. 

Conversation was coming to a lull.

It was only a matter of time before they would open up the can of fish that was stinking up the day’s laundromat gossip exchange. Maggie felt the silence festering like a blood clot. It was the first time the laundromat had ever been so quiet and the sound was so unnerving she found herself shaking. She tried to ignore what was happening. She tried to ignore the rumblings of undigested chicken from last nights supper in her belly. She tried to ignore the sleeplessness and anxiety ridden dreams she had been plagued with. Nevertheless, it all bubbled to the surface. But before anyone could make mention, something happened that availed them from ever needing to. As Maggie proceeded to dump open the green sack that contained her husband Gurdy’s laundry, which she did every Thursday, a pair of pink lace panties about several waist sizes smaller than Maggie wore rolled out in a crumpled ball from being mixed in with a pair of Gurdy’s underwear. The ladies were no strangers to each others delicates. They knew for certain that the pair was not Maggie’s, nor either of her two daughters. Maggie looked stunned for several moments, as did the other ladies. 

As though nothing had ever happened, Maggie continued with her business and proceeded to do the load of laundry. The other ladies dispersed over to their respective machines, only engaging in some half heated attempts at idle chatter, solely to fill the silence. Regaining her composure, Maggie sat on a bench and calmly searched her purse for a package of cigarettes. She wasn’t a smoker by any means, but she kept a pack in her purse that would sit all year round, strictly for emergencies and only the most special occasions. Maggie lit a cigarette and sat by, watching the laundry cycle round and round.

With the load finished and with dinner already cooking on the stove back at the house, Maggie rounded everything together and hauled her way home along the icy sidewalks. It was snowing out and she felt cold sweat dripping under her arms. A layer of frost built around her tear stained eyes. Her teeth were gritting together, but her thoughts were racing too fast for her to even take notice. The usual impulse to smile and wave at all the neighbours she walked on past had alluded her. The only thing on her mind was tending to the dinner on the stove. 

As she approached her house, she noticed Gurdy’s car parked in the drive. He had been seemingly ill since the weekend before, and Maggie presumed that it had finally caught up with him enough to have to leave work early. There was smoke rising from the chimney. Thankfully their lazy sons had stocked the house full of firewood. Oftentimes, Maggie herself would go out chopping in the backwoods, because no-one else ever seemed to do it. As Maggie arrived at the door, something caught her eye. The glimmering ax blade, which the boys had left leaning at the front door despite constant admonishments not to. Maggie stared at the blade for a few moments in a complete daze. For some odd reason, unknown to her, her mind trailed back to the whirring sound coming from the laundry machine as it cycled around. 

Maggie went inside to find that the stew cooking in the pot was made to absolute perfection. The roast she had left in the oven looked tender and delicious. She crept upstairs to check on Gurdy. The wooden staircase made squelching creaks that resounded through the entire house. Maggie approached the bedroom and opened the heavy wooden door to find that indeed, Gurdy was in bed, asleep. The sound of Gurdy’s snoring set her mind ablaze. Upon hearing it, she was again taken back to the rumbling laundry machine, cycling round and round. 

By the time Petey, Phil, Henry, Dooley, Mikey, Micky, Nikki, Bobby, Pauly, and Finnegan, were all home, dinner was already laid out. Everyone took their usual place at the table, except for Gurdy, who was “Too sick” as Maggie explained, and “Needed his rest.” Maggie enjoyed the silence of everyone eating to their contentment. “The quieter the table, the better the food is…” As her mother used to say. 

The next day at the laundromat, Maggie walked in to the normal, smiling greetings from the rest of the ladies who as always, had been standing in their usual circle. Friday was linen day, which Maggie brought in a brown laundry sack. Maggie smiled warmly at the rest of the ladies, and proceeded to dump the sack full of linens onto a table. Fran was the first to look over, and after seeing her worried expression, the rest of the ladies craned their necks instantaneously to see Maggie’s white linen bed sheets, soaked with blood. On that day, the laundromat was quieter than ever before. The only thing that could be heard was the rattling laundry machines

March 06, 2020 22:08

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15:56 Mar 15, 2020

Wow! I really enjoyed this. I suspected the ending as it was closing in, but you built to it well, so that it was not a given, nor did it come out of nowhere.


Matt Render
01:21 Apr 11, 2020

Thank you for reading! I appreciate the kind words and the useful feedback


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