Sunday Snippet, Flash Fiction, The Zen of the Washateria by Bill Chance

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”
― Rumi


The Zen of the Washateria

Craig always struggled with the door to the laundromat – holding the basket and pile of hangers while he pulled the door was tough. He knew most of the other customers of the “Wash It Proudly” washateria walked in and pushed the metal cart out to their cars, but he never did that – he didn’t think his weekly washing was enough. But once he was inside and the familiar heat, humidity, and Mexican radio pouring out of the speakers washed over him, he grabbed one of the metal carts with the high bar for hangers. How every one of them could have a wonky wheel was something he never could understand, but he had mastered the technique of using the bar risers as handles and pushing the cart to the washer he wanted.

There were three dollar washers, bigger four dollar washers, and giant nine-fifty washers – used by professional clothes washers and folks with giant families. His load looked a tiny bit bigger than usual, but he had only been able to scrounge up twelve quarters at home so he had to cram it in a three dollar washer. Who used quarters anymore? All week he kept an eye out for spare change – looking in the return slots of vending machines, paying with cash, calculating the change so he would get quarters. Clerks always looked at him strange when he would give them two dimes and a nickel and ask for a quarter – but it was what it was. There were some change machines down at the end, and a few of the washers took credit cards… but this felt like cheating to Craig.

All the women at the laundromat were carefully sorting their wash – whites, cottons, synthetics… but this was too confusing to Craig. He threw it all in and pushed cold. Simple. Who cared if his gym socks weren’t the whitest in the world. Polo shirts and jeans – they were easy to wash and never needed to be ironed. The washer did its work quickly – a digital timer counted down.

The giant dryers were all free. A big sign said “IF YOU DIDN’T WASH IT HERE, YOU CAN’T DRY IT HERE.” It took a half hour to dry, which gave Craig time to watch the other customers go about their routines or to simply stare hypnotized at the rows of rotating drums full of colorful tumbling clothing. When his load was dry he hung up his shirts and pants on the overhead bar and tossed the rest in the basket. The door opened outward so it was easier to go out with the basket than it was to get in.

Craig always parked his BMW Series 7 Sedan around the corner from the “Wash It Proudly.” It was a bit of a walk past all the faded worn out cars of the other patrons, but he didn’t want to be judged by his expensive ride. The basket went into the back and he used the hooks on both sides to hang his shirts and pants. He was more solemn on the drive home than he was in the trip to the laundromat – he was a bit sad – in many ways this trip was the high point of his week. He always dreaded the last bit of the trip up the long driveway across the front acreage of his estate. He tensed as he saw Maria in her trim uniform standing outside the front portico – waiting for him.

“Mister Vandermeer, why do you do this?” she scolded him as he climbed out of the BMW. “You know that is my job!”

“I know Maria… it’s just… it’s just… Well I can’t explain it. I want to do my own laundry.”

“But sir, we have a large laundry room here. It’s as good as any commercial laundry.”

“I know Maria.”

She pulled out the hangers from the car and handed the bundles to two other housekeepers that suddenly appeared. Maria then hauled out the basket herself.

“Mister Vandermeer! You didn’t even sort your laundry. I’ll bet you didn’t even use bleach or hot water on the whites!”

“Maria, I think my clothes last longer if I wash them in cold.”

“Last longer? You should throw these away. You should always wear new clothes.”

Maria turned, spun and went into the house carrying the basket. Craig Vandermeer followed inside, then turned into the media room on the right. There was a heavy glass, a container full of large custom ice cubes, and a two hundred dollar bottle of single malt Scotch sitting on the counter, waiting for him.

“Don’t mind if I do,” he said and poured himself a drink.

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