Story

Dryer #11

by Dan Korgan



Through the dusty window, a cardboard sign from outside the Laundromat reads, FrEE SoAP OpeN 24 hOURS. This is where I do my wash and think about things and I've been doing a lot of the latter lately because I just lost my stupid little job.

So, OK, I am one of those people who enjoys invading the privacy of others. From my experience, though, there are a lot of lonely people listed in the phone book. And a lot of people who would never work in a crappy place like a call-center where the managers think only in terms of profit and have you chant Volume is OUR Friend ten times before you sit down and begin to make phone calls. Well that's an exaggeration of course, but they had no right to fire me - I politely backed out of the pitch because a client told me he could not pay his rent and I could tell he was all broken up inside. All some people need is to have a little talk and let off some steam.

Wash World is a dirty little place. At one end of a long wooden table is a defunct black and white television set. At the other end, a stack of newspapers. The tile floor is cracking and a footpath of children's bare feet circle the island of washers. Every once and a while an innocent patron will turn up and employ the one and only triple loader, a washer that sits on a broken foundation and shakes the entire building during the spin cycle.

As I watch my clothes tumble, I squint my eyes and try to imagine these articles of clothing belonging to someone else. The solids and plaids, stripes and polka dots, green, blue, pink, orange, have to belong to someone meaner or to someone who has no feelings whatsoever. I'm going need to get tough and hostile if I'm going to find a new job, if I'm going to pay my rent, if I'm going to eat again... Then this barefooted man crashes the front door. He marches straight to my dryer and begins to put my clothes into his basket!

"Excuse me mister," I say. "Ah, dryer 12 is mine."

"Oh, no, these are my clothes," he says.

"Ah, no. Those are mine," I say.

We talk politely this way, until finally, he wells-up and says, "This is my stuff, Mister!"

"I'm not the fighting type," I say.

"Well, I'll mess you up."

"Look mister, you've got the wrong guy and the wrong dryer."

"And I'll mess you up," he insists.

"You're touching my underwear," I say.

So I begin to search the other dryers. Walking around the island, "Look," I say. "All these here dryers, could one of these be yours?" This man takes some interest. Maybe he thinks I will find my dryer or perhaps this is the excuse he needs to find clothing in better shape than mine. Yet maybe we have similar taste. It occurs to me that maybe the attendant had moved my clothes and this entire time I had been watching this man's clothing go around and around. Or maybe this guy thinks we all have the same wardrobe - just a different combination of shirts to pants or socks to underwear. Not likely, I say. Not likely at all, so we eagerly return to dryer 12.

"Look, I have plenty of clothing," I say.

"Please," he rolls his eyes. "So, this here shirt, how many buttons missing?"

"None."

"Wrong," he says.

"These jeans. Rip in knee or in the crotch?"

"Both knees," I say.

"Incorrect," he says.

"And this pair of dice patterned underwear, made in China or Thailand?"

"Thailand?"

"Lucky guess," he says.

We keep going this way until we have each gathered a pile of clothing to our side and a pile of clothes between us that neither one of us could recognize - articles that seemed to belong to both of us, articles that had his name on them but I was able to describe a tear in the front pocket, for example, or articles that were too large for either one of us. Then he gathers these leftovers and stashes them into dryer 11.

As I stand in front of my car in the parking lot, I dig through my front pocket. Basket hiked up onto my hip, I find my keys and begin to unlock the door. So this other man is standing there and I struggle to imagine my car shaken apart into its bilaterally symmetric pieces - the sharp sun glints off the driver's door window and we try to glare at each other, mean and stubborn like, my face in his and his in mine.

end



Dryer #11 (c) 2008 dan korgan