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The dearth of sound in the empty lot

The laundry man’s preferred location is next to a large provider of fine liquors, alcohol, and/or booze for thirsty individuals. This means one can expect no less than two winos loitering somewhere along the street in front of the store on the corner, the laundromat next door, and the motel on the right side of the laundromat. They are the gentlemen no one speaks of (or speaks to, for that matter). Gentlemen whose days have been better and whose nights would be ended but for the saving grace of sweet Lady Liquor. They are sometimes loud, at times a bit shaky, but always a reminder not to drink alone.

The parking lot for the Laundromat requires customers to drive around back through an intricately hidden driveway. It cost the laundry man several sidewalk excursions and two Tall Lattes from the Starbucks establishment across the street (105 calories and $5.90, no tax) to eventually discover the hidden oasis. As he circles around and enters the hidden parking lot it appears to be at capacity, though on closer inspection he does see one parking space in the rear corner of the lot, facing the chain link fence of the motel. On his more inquisitive or introspective days he wonders why he is always granted a spot by the urban gods, but on this particular day he does not question divinity and proceeds into his place in the line-up. He finds himself between the eight foot-high red pickup truck and a rather timid beige Corolla, itself nudged between the aforementioned phallus and a poor orange imitation of the A-Team’s garishly painted van. The laundry man keeps his black supermarket sun glasses on as he steps out of the street-worn Jeep (a deep shame of his, for you see a Jeep is not intended to be driven into the grave on asphalt) and walks around to the other side where a passenger seat stands between him and three blue garbage bags full of laundry (he failed to appear at the Laundromat last weekend). He collects the sacks, over the shoulder they go (two in one hand, one in the other), and walks across the vastness of a parking lot devoid of life. Behind him the Jeep acknowledges his parting with a single beep.

The dearth of sound in the empty lot becomes all the more apparent as his footsteps and the melancholy sobbing overtake him. One glance to the right, beyond the green fence and low-hanging branches of trees in dire need of a pruning, reveals the source of the latter: violin guy. The red faced, curly haired youth sits on the stairs behind the motel, where the smokers and the more entrenched motel residents gather in the evenings to talk of days past and days to come. It is in the late afternoon, when the laundry man visits, that violin guy plays the sweet, sad songs of forgotten masters. He sits facing the back of the motel lot, away from all eyes that may come upon him. The left wrist locked then vibrating then back to steady in the span of two or three blinks of an eye; the bow gently gliding across the worn resin. The laundry man, a simple man, does not know of tone or harmony or chords, but he hears the weeping of violin guy’s instrument and knows it is something he should appreciate when he can, as he has for the month and some days that violin guy has been sitting behind the motel, playing the undeterminable serenade for the motel residents and laundromatters carrying their bags and baskets across the lot. Several seconds later the laundry man nears the back entrance to the laundromat where he sees a duet of dirty pillows on the ground, next to a gray cast-metal pole. A leather strap lies tied to the pole, and tied to the strap lies a boney, white brown-splotched dog. The dog has discovered pirate treasure (or something just as interesting) behind the nearby rusted green dumpster, and pays no mind to the laundry man and his garbage bags.

He enters the building to find the familiar glow of sickly pastel yellow and a news program playing on the television hidden away in a recess of the wall above rows of glass holes. Further along, at the bottom of the convenient ramp, he is struck by the enticing aroma of fabric softener and drying sheets. It fills the space, the gaps and crevices, and engulfs the rather unsavory air around some of the more free-spirited individuals in the Laundromat. The laundry man holds his bags closely as he maneuvers through the gauntlet of laundry baskets, bags, and carts that people feel compelled to place along his path just before he arrives. Once he reaches the other end the laundry man discovers that the machines he intended to use are available. His machines are always available, another apparent gift from the urban gods. He chooses three machines; one for the contents of each of the three sacks. First are the whites (not many of those), next are the browns/beiges/grays, and finally, the largest load: the blues and blacks. The laundry man’s vast collection of denim pants, in varying shades of blue and black, are always the largest load. Once the three loads of laundry are safely placed in the machines he opens the black slots along the top and pours in an equal amount of detergent and fabric softener, each in the specified holding area where the liquids wait to play their part in the thirty minute cycle. The fate of the laundry is, for the moment, out of the laundry man’s hands.

The laundry man wanders outside with phone in hand and makes a call to the cousin, who had left a voice message the day before. The cousin has a request.

“I’ll need more information.” The cousin responds, explaining what is needed and when. The laundry man listens intently; the brown-splotched dog continues swiping its dirty paws at the corner of a green dumpster and the bow continues sliding along strings of inexpensive metal. Twenty minutes are invested in listening to the details of the request, discerning the details past the broken English and worse telephone signal. The cousin asks a question.

“Don’t worry, it won’t cost a lot.” The truth is it will not cost anything. The laundry man is in debt to the cousin for inviting him into his home when the laundry man was a wandering soul with no Laundromat to call his own. In all likelihood the laundry man will now feel obligated to travel out beyond the shores of his land – across the lush mountains to the East where men with families live to provide a better environment for their children – to visit the cousin in the heat and quaintness of his valley home. But the cousin and his wife are good people, so the laundry man should not mind. The laundry man ends the call with thoughts of unwanted travel on his mind. It bothers him; he does not know why. He returns to the interior of the Laundromat to stand next to the machines, watching the television and not knowing what he sees.

When the machines cease their violent vibration the laundry man opens them and reloads the three sacks. He stands and stares at the wall below the television; two rows of ten large, emotionless eyes stare back at him. He chooses two from the many lined up along the wall and pulls the doors open. The white laundry is required to remain alone for reasons unknown to him (and others as well, he suspects) and are loaded into one hole alone. Along with the whites he places two sheets of sweet-smelling fiber, the same sheets that are found littering the Laundromat floor. A girl appears on his right as he starts to seal the hole again, slipping through between the laundry man and a large basket someone placed on the opposite side of the aisle. She is very young, and obviously of southern origin, wearing a shirt marked with green spots of varying size and tone. The laundry man smirks, unbeknownst to him, as he recalls a time when he wore clothing very much like the girl’s shirt. He returns to the other sacks and empties them into the second hole, placing three of the same fibrous sheets in along with the dark laundry. As he stands there placing the laundry in the hole the green-spot girl passes behind him no less than five times, each time pressing closer and closer to him until he feels she will suffocate him. The laundry man’s smirk vanishes as he thinks to himself that the girl should learn to control her affections, or at the very least restrain herself from rubbing against strange men.

When the laundry is loaded and trapped in the inescapable thirty minute cycle the laundry man retreats to the empty lot once again. He faces the loneliness, accompanied only by the rather somber melody from violin guy echoing to him across the lot and trees, in order to retrieve a book purchased from the local book retailer. He beeps the Jeep (two beeps this time) and then unlocks the door to pull the book out of its plastic bag; a tale of death, with an introduction by the author’s melodic muse. He takes the book and returns to the Laundromat where the indoor park benches await. As he approaches the benches near the front of the Laundromat he notices three whimsically cloudy men sitting, huddled on the wooden bench farthest from him. One sits with a device atop his lap, the two others flank and chat with him. The laundry man forgets the men are there just as quickly as he noticed them, and takes his place on the empty bench. He looks at the symbols sporadically located throughout the pages of the book, and finds meaning in them.

What would you do if you went for a stroll with Death and she offered you a hot dog?

Time is derailed as the laundry man sits, and when he finally glances up from the book he sees that the cycle is complete. He pulls a strip of paper from his pocket, the receipt for the book, in fact, and places it in the book to remember where the symbols resume their message (he will more than likely not resume for another month). He pulls the garbage bags from his pockets and proceeds to the fill them with the fresh and admirably clean laundry. He should fold them but the Laundromat is fast becoming full, and he does not wish to linger. The laundry man is not one to quibble over wrinkles.

Three sacks full of laundry and a book rolled into his back pocket, he returns to the entrance, leaving behind the sweet aroma and green-spot girl and men reaching over each other’s laptop devices. As he leaves the Laundromat he looks to his left to see two people, one a short, stout blonde woman and the other a lean, dark haired man, sitting on two dirty old pillows. A white dog splotched with brown sits between them on its haunches, looking in the laundry man’s direction. The people on their pillows do not notice yet another man walking out with his clothes in hand.

The laundry man walks across the parking lot. Overbearing silence indicates it is late in the evening. The laundry is once again complete.

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