Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Bad Laundry: Part 3

A drawing of a beat up old dryer with graffiti on it and "Bad Laundry" scrawled across the front.
The conclusion of a three-part spooky story in time for Halloween. If you missed the first two parts of the story, scroll down to find them below this post.

By Lucianne Poole

Three wild-eyed men stormed in. I knew at that moment I was done for. They stood between the only exit and me. Trapped, I froze like a doe in the headlights, hoping not to be noticed. I could only stare in dismay – they had no laundry bags.
It could only mean one thing.

The first man, in his late 20s, obviously provided the muscle for the group’s nefarious purposes. His large biceps were tattooed with evil-looking barbed wire. He also had a shaved head and an ugly scar running down the right side of it. No doubt it was easier to carry out orders with less brain.

The second man was about the same age, but taller and thinner with dark hair. He was compulsively grabbing at clothes left on the table adjacent to the door. I earmarked him as the probable toilet-seat stealer.

As the marauders paused to rip open dryer doors and rifle contents, I could see the third man, obviously their ringleader. He was in his 50s and had the long ponytail and Birkenstocks of an aging hippie. He carefully picked his way over the hidden crater. This was, no doubt, one of his haunts. Framed by rounded-wire glasses, his eyes searched the room and lit upon me. He hesitated.

“We just got a call from our roommate,” he said to me.

I thought I heard a note of apology in his voice. No doubt it was a trick.

“He’s in Cuba, but he forgot to pick up his laundry before he left last week.”

As if to confirm the fact, scar-head said: “These dryers are giving off residual warmth; they’ve recently been used. Therefore, this can’t be Clive’s stuff.”

“You could ask the attendant in the car wash,” I squeaked, playing along with the charade to gain precious time. “He supervises this place.”

The ringleader nodded and ordered a retreat. The trio filed out. I sprang to my feet and ran to my washers. My heart sank when I realized they were still on “rinse”. My eyes darted to the door, now unobstructed, and back to the washers, now juddering alarmingly as if protesting my imminent escape. And then it hit me. I realized that freedom could only come at a high price: no underwear, not to mention my new pair of designer jeans.

Five minutes later the doors of the laundromat swung open again. The swearing attendant entered swearing and wielding a full garbage bag. The three “roommates” followed hot on his heels.

“People leave their f***in' stuff all the time,” the attendant said, unceremoniously dumping the bag on the table. “What I want to know is, what are they f***in' wearing?”

The roommate with the dark hair and fleet fingers sorted through the clothes. Every now and then, he would hold up an item and say things like: “Would Clive wear something like this? Are these his colours?”

The men soon realized that they had no clue what Clive wore, nor did they care. But when the dark-haired man retrieved a white lacey bra, the words died on their lips.

“Well, I guess that can’t be Clive’s!” scar-head said with a forced laugh. But his eyes said he sure as hell hoped it wasn’t his roommate’s.

The roommates admitted defeat and, empty-handed, they began to file out of the laundromat. The dark-haired one suddenly stopped in his tracks.

“Wait a second, I have to use the washroom.”


Bad Laundry is the true story about my strangest trip to my local laundromat in Ottawa, ON, Canada. It was also the last creative writing piece I submitted for publication. Geist (to which I sent most stories, although I guess I shouldn't have put all my eggs in one basket) rejected Bad Laundry in 2009: ".. the story is focused more on the narrator's anxiety than on the story that is unfolding in front of her."

After that rejection, I decided to channel my efforts into writing (and re-writing) my paranormal novel. I've entered the novel into a NYC-based contest this week, so we'll see if the efforts paid off!

Meanwhile, let me know what you think of the story and the original art.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Bad Laundry: Part 2

A three-part spooky story in time for Halloween. If you missed the first part of the story, scroll down to find it below this post.

By Lucianne Poole

Photo of a window showing peeling letters spelling "laundromat".
A sinister message is scratched above one dryer: "Eats loonies".

“F***in' pigs!”

Startled back to the reality of my impending doom, I was disappointed to see it was only the surprisingly well-groomed attendant, who also operated the gas station next door. Fortunately, my overloaded washers escaped his notice; his eyes were on the floor.

“I clean this place every f***in' day and they leave their crap everywhere,” he said as he furiously grabbed litter off the floor.

Who are they? I wanted to ask. But instead, made reckless by the full moon, I ventured: “Maybe you could put a garbage can in here?”

“It’s over there,” he said sullenly, pointing to the garbage can next to the door. “They stole the other f***in' one from under the table. They steal everything,” he paused and narrowed his eyes at me, as if he had something else to say but wasn’t sure if I could handle it. I must have passed the test because he uttered darkly: “You know why the washroom is always locked?”

“No,” I replied, thinking of people at the laundromat I had never seen again, their bodies stacked neatly in various states of decay.

“Because someone stole the f***in' toilet seat and the light switch. F***in' f***ers.”

“That’s not stealing, that’s mental illness.” I leaned against one of the tables for support. It was disturbing to think that someone was out there stealing toilet seats from places like this.

“You’ve got that right,” he snorted. He dumped the detritus from the floor into the garbage can and threw open the first washer. Grabbing armfuls of dirt-grey carwash rags, he threw them into a dryer and slammed the door. Without another word, he stalked out of the laundromat.

I perched on one of the tables, careful to avoid a bluish stain. I was trying to envision the type of person to steal a toilet seat from a filthy laundromat, when the door flew open again.

Three wild-eyed men stormed in. I knew at that moment I was done for. They stood between the only exit and me. Trapped, I froze like a doe in the headlights, hoping not to be noticed. I could only stare in dismay – they had no laundry bags.

It could only mean one thing.

To be concluded next week....

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Bad Laundry: Part 1

A three-part spooky story in time for Halloween
By Lucianne Poole

Sometimes it's safer to be outside rather than inside a laundromat.

“So you go to the gross one.” 

“It’s closer to my apartment, and it’s cheaper,” I replied defensively.

“All the weirdoes go to that laundromat.”

My friend was right. The place was the worst one I’d ever been to. It was filthy, the washers and dryers constantly broke down, and it was full of stray socks and suspicious characters. It was a blight on the scrubbed face of Ottawa.

I knew I was asking for trouble when I went to the bad laundromat on a full moon. Everyone knows all the crazies come out on the full moon, but I had no choice; I was out of underwear.

Armed with a fearsome bag of laundry, which – I realized with dismay – could only be used as a weapon when full, I made the 20-minute walk to my probable doom. The birds were singing and the daisies were nodding in the late afternoon sun. I was soon lulled into a false sense of security.

I swung open the door of the laundromat and was enveloped by a humid sub-tropical climate created by 10 washers, five industrialized dryers and no ventilation. I proceeded with care along the eight-foot-lint-covered black mat; it had been thrown down the previous month to cover a small crater in front of the first washer.

During months of rinse cycles and spin dries, I had watched in fascination as this pit formed. Like some geological phenomenon, the end of a ridge stretching from the door had slowly collapsed into a 30-centimetre wide gap. Once I peered down the hole, expecting to find an ancient crypt, but it was only a shallow hole full of rubble and used fabric softener sheets.

Other litter – empty chip bags, candy wrappers, and used fabric softening sheets –  was strewn across the floor.

Despite its state of disrepair and lack of air circulation – which depended on if the door was open or closed – the laundromat always smelled pretty good in a downy fresh way.

I threw down my duffle bag and separated my whites from darks. With the speed of a pro, I crammed three loads of laundry into the two best washers – they didn’t break down as often as the others.

I was almost finished overloading – tossing in my last pair of underwear – when the laundromat door flew open.

To be continued next week. . .

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Knitting Man

By Lucianne Poole

The Bank Street stop where the quick knit took place.
Man at the bus stop

leaning against the garbage can

needles flying,

stabbing the cold air.

Furious race against time

to finish the baby blanket,

in fresh cream wool,

before the number 7 arrives.

Steel-framed glasses on

a nose red with cold.

Like a male grandmother

who likes a good brawl.

Wild, wind-whipped hair

rises in warning.

He looks up sharply.

Roar of traffic,

but no bus.

Our eyes meet.

His glare says:

"I don't want to hear it.”

Here's another wierd story from my years riding the number 7 bus in the city of Ottawa, Ontario. Knitting Man is one of the few poems I've written. In 2009, I submitted it to Geist, which published my story Chainsaw Man. Geist gently rejected it as "a bit slight to stand on its own." If only I had taken a photo of him...but then knitting man may have stabbed me or at least given me a good jab with one of his needles.

Update: I think I've discovered the identity of "knitting man". Check out this article in the Ottawa Citizen.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Chainsaw Man

By Lucianne Poole

The number 7 is best taken outside of rushhour with no chainsaws.
A man with a chainsaw boarded the number 7 bus at about 7:45 a.m., when I was on my way to work in downtown Ottawa.

He hopped on at the corner of Catherine and Bank. He looked a lot like the other male office workers—medium height, greying brown hair cropped army style, business suit, plastic-rimmed glasses, black shoes that were scuffed and worn at the heel.

But instead of a briefcase, he held a chainsaw.

The surly crowd of morning commuters parted readily as the man made his way to the back of the bus. He calmly held the saw with the blade pointing down, as if he were holding a knife.

Suddenly, the bus lurched forward. The chainsaw man grabbed a pole and the blade flew up in the air, the saw’s cruel teeth glittering in the sunlight. All eyes were on the chainsaw man and the air was still as we waited silently and passively for him to start the motor and carve us up like a Sunday roast.

But the only thing that moved was a pink tag, which swung from the chainsaw at the end of a delicate pink ribbon. Something was written on the tag, which could have been a price tag. Perhaps he had just bought the chainsaw—it was very clean and shiny. Or maybe it was a gift tag: “Darling, happy birthday. Enjoy the chainsaw.”

The bus shuddered to a stop and more people surged on, but no one went near the man and his chainsaw. Someone stood up to get off the bus and the chainsaw man sat down heavily in the vacated seat. Would it be easier to cut people’s legs off from that angle? His expressionless face and downcast eyes gave no clue to his plans.

He tucked the chainsaw on the floor behind his legs, blade parallel to the ground. Then he seemed to change his mind and turned the saw on its side, blade up. Maybe he was worried that the lurching bus would send the saw hacking into his ankles. The woman next to him faced the other way, as if to turn her back on imminent carnage. In her final moments she would be looking in the direction of Parliament Hill.

The bus stopped near Sparks Street and the chainsaw man leapt to his feet, grabbed his chainsaw and jumped down onto the steps of the back door. The door swung open, and like a silent Rambo he launched himself through the air. Across the gutter and onto the sidewalk he flew, swinging the chainsaw in an arc deadly enough to mow down anyone in its path. But the saw returned to his side unbloodied, and the chainsaw man made a sharp left turn and continued down the sidewalk. The bus doors closed behind him.


This story was first published in Geist in Spring 2005. Chainsaw Man was also told at the Ottawa Storytellers Festival in 2006 at the National Arts Centre.