Saturday at the Wash & Dry, Fluff & Fold

By Richard L. Shelby

I watch my clothes go around in the dryer. A pair of tennis shoes goes “ker-thlunk, ker-thlunk.” Why do I wash the kids’ tennis shoes? They’ll be dirty by Monday. But I’ll make them white like new, if only for a day. The blonde next to me is folding clothes. Her loudly cracking gum competes with the tennis shoes for the annoyance prize. Seeing her reminds me that I need to get my roots touched up. Maybe Wednesday—I could take a long lunch break.

        ker-thlunk, ker-thlunk

        Sally, the laundromat attendant, is helping the blonde stack her towels in a hamper. Sally talks about her boyfriend and shows the ring. She raises her arm and poses her left hand. Maybe she’s imitating a QVC jewelry model. She talks excitedly about the boyfriend and how he proposed. She showed me the ring earlier, the first thing when I walked in. She thrust her hand out energetically and stuck the ring under my nose. The small diamond was only a glint as it reflected the florescent light from overhead. She was deliriously happy, almost deranged, but now she has calmed a bit to her usual animated self.

        ker-thlunk, ker-thlunk

        I reach for a cigarette and glance at the clock. Damn—it’s not yet noon and I’m halfway through my pack of Marlboros. I said that I was going to cut back.

        Nearly noon. Maybe John is back from his truck-buying venture. When he left this morning he was sure he would find one we can afford. I hope so. And I hope it lasts longer than the last one. He’s got to find something because I can’t keep dropping him off at work on my way in. It makes me late. They don’t like it if you’re late too often even if it is because you and your man have to share a ride.

        ker-thlunk, ker-thlunk

        One of my dryers stops. I open the door and touch the clothes—still a bit damp. I pull out coins to send them through another cycle but hesitate. I could hang them outside at home. I look at the seventy-five cents in my hand. That’s half of a school lunch for Jody. I put the quarters back in my pocket. I fold quickly in rhythm to the tennis shoes. At last the remaining dryer stops. I praise the absence of the “ker-thlunk.”

        Another week’s laundry done—clean clothes again. The clock shows twenty after twelve. I wanted to finish by lunch time and I’m close. When I’m here past lunch time I get tempted by the vending machine snacks. I don’t need them. I’m still trying to lose those extra pounds from the holidays six months ago.

        I pick up my purse. Suddenly remembering that the strap broke yesterday I place it in the laundry basket. Sally is near the door talking with a friend. Her smile is wide and she excitedly relives the proposal. I doubt she understands what lies ahead. Why should she?

        I pick up my basket and make my way to the door. Sally, ever helpful, reaches over and pushes the door open. I head out to my car.

        “See you next week?” she asks. 

        “I’ll be here,” I reply, less joyously than she.

        Her hand is poised on the open door and a ray of sunshine bounces off the ring. The diamond seems larger than before. I look at her beaming face. The gleam in her eye is brighter than the diamond. As it should be. I hope they both shine for many years.


Richard L. Shelby is retired from a career in healthcare information technology management. Retirement provides him the time to pursue previously neglected interests, one of which is writing fiction. He also writes nonfiction pieces on religious and theological topics. Mr. Shelby live in rural central Kentucky, where the slower pace of life and the quiet of the surroundings provide an appropriate setting for musing and reflection. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between musing and wasting time, but he’s happy doing either.

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