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.