Levi Andrew Noe
It starts with that destitute smell. There’s that cheap, starchy, over-fragranced Downy whiff from half a mile away. I picture that shitty snuggle bear in those commercials. I never wanted to snuggle him; I want to maim him, in a slow, serial-killer way. Then, I think to myself, what the fuck is wrong with you? It’s a Laundromat. And I start to wonder, what if I have a small sociopathic part of myself, like Dexter’s dark passenger?
I was on one of those head trips when I lugged my month’s worth of soiled garments to Positive Spin on a Monday. It was snowing, which didn’t help that Dickens-ish, poverty-stricken feeling that I get from those bedbug-blood-drenched-semen-stained machines. At least there weren’t many people there.
There was the usual lady with the mustache thicker than mine behind the counter. I said "hi," out of formality, and she mumbled something back without looking up from her worn Danielle Steele novel. There was a middle-aged guy who was skin and bones, apart from his distended potbelly. He looked like he had either just been released from a hospital or a halfway house. Reminded me of my dad. And across the Laundromat, an old lady with platinum-blonde hair, with what hair she had left. She had a dog in her lap. It was one of those fluffy little dogs that make you hate humans for playing God with nature, but you hate the little dog even more. I always want to feed those dogs to a larger, real dog or, even better, an alligator. It started yapping at me when I looked at it, must have known my thoughts. Who brings a fucking dog to a Laundromat?
I tossed in as many clothes as I could fit into the supersize washer, then filled up another. I’ve never understood the whole separating-your-laundry thing. It all ends up faded, pilly, threadbare in the end. I sat down, picked up whatever magazine was on the chair: Better Homes and Gardens. It didn’t matter. I only looked at the ads anyway, to torture myself with the things I’ll never have.
A man opened the door with his ass, lugging an artillery box across the tiled floor. Then, there was a sound like a stanchion dragged across a cold granite floor in an echoing museum. It gave me flashbacks to when I worked for an event company, setting up galas and shit for rich assholes; I know the sound well.
The guy was wearing army camo and the box seemed heavy enough to actually be full of artillery. Alarms went off in my head. There are so many crazy assholes in this world. I bet most of them use Laundromats. No one else seemed to notice. I pretended to be heavily invested in my magazine, but remained fixated on the box.
He pulled out a few shirts, socks, pants. I watched him look around to see if anyone was watching. No one was, except me, and I was as covert as James fucking Bond. He started shoveling in what looked like gray dirt into the washing machine. With each shovelful, plumes of ashen clouds emerged. The crazy bastard was pouring in cement.
My immediate impulse was to shout and raise hell at this psycho. But I didn’t. And then I had to think about why I didn’t. Maybe this guy hated Laundromats as much as I did. Maybe he was protesting society and poverty and the 1% that led people to hellholes like Laundromats in the first place. I could have gone on speculating, but then he came and sat right next to me.
This was the last thing I expected. Worse, he started talking.
“Ya ever been on a mountaintop?”
His voice sounded like if a shark had grown lungs and learned English.
“Yeah, I have, but it’s been—” he didn’t let me finish.
“Ya can see fer miles and miles and the clouds look so close ya could scoop ‘em up. And the whole thing actually makes sense fer once. Not like this place,” he indicated the Laundromat and the human world, I assumed, “Nothin’ makes no goddamn sense here. Nothing!”
He spat. He actually hawked a rather large and phosphorescent loogie on the floor.
“It just keeps movin’! Keeps turnin’, keeps spinnin’!”
He got himself worked into a frenzy, waving his arms like a windmill. I thought he was going to break the detergent dispenser, or throw his shoulders out. But then he sunk back down, deflated.
“It jus’ gets too much fer a man.”
He sniffled and I thought he might cry. He looked away. I wanted to reach out and touch him, or at least pat his back. But I didn’t, obviously.
“Sometimes I jus’ have to make the spinnin’ stop.”
Was it crazy that he was actually making sense to me?
The washing machine started to groan and gasp and wheeze. He closed his eyes, steadied his breath, and went from Ted Bundy to Buddha like a goddamn angel was descending upon him.
There was a shuddering, lurching clank. And, finally, a steady clunking creak like the ticking of a washing machine time bomb.
The man knew his cue. From Bundy to Buddha to Harrison Ford in The Fugitive, he leapt to his feet and dragged the artillery box back the way he came.
The chaos, clamor, and yapping that followed seemed to occur in another world to another person. Floating through the smoke and screams and accusations, I picked up my sopping clothes and went home. And, after four years of silence, I called my father.
Levi Andrew Noe was born and raised in Denver, CO. He is a writer, wanderer, yogi, entrepreneur, and amateur oneironaut. His flash fiction collection Rain Check was published in August 2016 from Truth Serum Press. His flash fiction, short stories, creative non-fiction and works of poetry can be found in Connotation Press, Boston Literary Magazine, Bartleby Snopes, and Literary Orphans,among many others. Levi is the editor-in-chief and founder of the podcast Rocky Mountain Revival Audio Art Journal.