A Short Story By Woman on Pause
She checked out her cuticles. “Damn, is there ONE decent place in Ft. Polk Louisiana to get my nails done?”
She started to push back her cuticles with her opposite hand. “I really really wish I hadn’t forgotten my book. I would read a fucking VD pamphlet right now if I had it.”
A quick survey of the place showed NO reading materials. The vending machines were bare. Not a soul in the place except Betty, Jeanine, Lois, Edna, and good old Louise.
She loved Louise. Louise was the best in the place. Louise was hard working, did the job, but was gentle and that was the exact combination she needed. There were others lined up but the black stenciled names had long been worn away.
Only in Louisiana did they name their dryers. They were the LARGE commercial variety in a dumpy Laundromat in Leesville. The washers were normal, the kind you would find in your house. But the dryers, oh the dryers… These were front loading, avocado green, mammoths. You could fit two loads into one and cut your time in half.
And Louise was the girl for her. Bette tended to never get hot enough. No matter how many quarters you fed her. The others were ok, but Louise was the belle of the laundry ball.
Since she picked prime time to be here, Wednesday at 7pm, church time for the locals, she was left in peace to listen and wait for the washer click letting her know that it was time to transfer the clothes and that she was only about 45 minutes from getting the hell out of here.
One day she would have a washer and dryer. They wouldn’t be fancy but they would do the trick. And she was always amazed how excited she got to do laundry now that she didn’t have to haul her and her husband’s clothes twice a week to be laundered.
I mean, she just had to walk to the back of the house and start it up. Go watch TV, or cook dinner, or practice fucking Tai Chi. Whatever she wanted!!
That day was to come soon, but for her not soon enough.
“Sweet Jesus thank you.” She got up, officially bored out of her mind, and dragged the two green plastic laundry baskets and began the chore of lifting 4 loads of wet laundry and transferring it to the dryer.
Towels, jeans, sheets, sweaters, BDU’s, cook white’s, scrubs, undies, boxers, anything she could find to gather up after work and get clean so she wouldn’t have to come back until at least Saturday.
She sat back down, crossed her legs and began to look at her toes. She needed a pedicure too. That hooker at “Curl up and Dye” cut her cuticles last time. “Not going back there, and I doubt I am welcome since I did kick her in the chin.”
She takes a quick mental inventory of what she has at home to do a quickie pedi.
Her thoughts are broken by the door opening and a man of about thirty walked in. He had dirty brown hair, a red hat, white t-shirt, and an old pair of jeans.
She thought, “Oh good the Maintenance Mr. is here.” See, normally in these places there is a guy. He wears coveralls and makes sure the lint traps are clean, sweeps, makes sure there is no hogging of the washers and most importantly he took good care of Louise. It was dusk, and this was about the time he would be in.
She didn’t see car lights behind her so he must live near by. Typical for this area. Not many folk drive. A good amount walk. Even if it is 107 degrees and it feels like you walk into a hair dryer on Hi when you walk out of the house. They still walk.
This particular place was a quite a find, open till 10pm and off the beaten path. She called it “LAUNDRY GOLD.” She had only been here about 4 times but had already decided this was it for her until they could save up enough for a W&D of their very own.
A packed Laundromat is the kiss of death. You can spend six hours doing five loads and you can kiss that day GOODBYE. She had this down to an art. If you are going to play white trash wifey-poo in “The end of the earth” Louisiana then you better have your smarts about you.
She went back to examining and criticizing her cuticles.
He walked in and went to the back corner where Bette met in the corner with what looked like “Glna” the lettering had worn off, so she hadn’t bothered using it.
And there he stood.
He didn’t go in the back and put on his coveralls. He didn’t grab the broom or check to make sure the Tide, snuggle, and spray and wash were fully stocked in the “Laundro-vend.”
She looked up and glanced at her dryer darling Louise.
He put his hands in his pockets.
And then it came.
She had never felt this before. It was a wave. A scream from the inside of her that said something is very fucking wrong and she didn’t know if she was being silly or just out right paranoid.
“Maybe he is waiting on the wife to lug in the laundry. Or maybe he has a load in one of the washers from earlier in the day”
He just stood.
The feeling began to overtake her stomach. Ate at it so hard she had to bend a little because it was beginning to hurt.
This was 1998 and there were no cell phones. A quick look over her right shoulder showed what she remembered, an “out of order” sign on the one pay phone outside. Her car was still secure and lonesome about 20 feet from where she sat.
He finally spoke. “You seen a red truck?”
“Nah, not since I have been here” she croaked. She all of a sudden realized the feeling that was eating at her had sucked all her saliva from her throat and mouth. It felt like trying to talk with a throat full of sand.
No response. No movement, No flicker of ANYTHING.
This is what repeated in her mind over and over. In her thoughts it was quiet. A whisper. Almost afraid if she thought it too loud he could hear her think it.
She quickly and very unconvincingly thought “He hasn’t done anything. What is wrong with me??”
He scratched his arm.
Her palms were drenched all of a sudden, and her long hair, tied in a bun started to feel like a pile of hot dry hay sitting on top of her head. And she began to sweat profusely.
He adjusted his hat and began to walk towards her.
Part II will be posted Tuesday April 26th. Please check back.
*And yes, already written promise not to leave anyone hanging.
Woman on Pause