The Laundry - a short story

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Laundry pegs on the line - short story

It was a beautiful warm summer's day when I found myself in Aunt Sylvia's house for the third time that week. My boyfriend had just that morning decided to dump me, and so my mother decided that Aunt Sylvia's was a better house than my own for my rampaging fits of sarcasm and wallowing apathy. I knew that Mum herself was going through a bad time, what with the baby and all, so I didn't fight so much.

Losing Julian, the boyfriend, was not exactly the end of the world - he was far from attractive, and I knew I might do better. His skin constantly glistened, even in the dark, and his forehead bulged like his whole head was threatening to pop. Still, he was my boyfriend, and that he'd caught me going with Dan Ackley hadn't gone down too well. I felt a bit bad about it, but not too much. Ackley was a terrible kisser, anyway, and his breath smelt like old coffee even though he never drank the stuff because it made him hiccup. I guess I was sad, perhaps more than I let on.

And so, I spent most of the day in my aunt's lounge, watching TV and trying not to listen in on her inane phone conversations with her friends. Her husband, Greg, who I refused to call 'Uncle', kept getting dashing in and out of the room asking if I wanted anything. He was an ugly spud, too. He kept tousling his hair upwards into a great dirty spiral, and there was a permanent grimace on his face that kept spasming into what I think was a kind of smile. I think he liked playing pocket billiards, if you know what I mean. I don't know - I guess some men just stand like that, maybe I do give him too hard a time.

After he'd asked me for the fourteenth time whether I wanted a drink or something - it was the 'something' that always bothered me most - and I replied that  I didn't, I started to wonder if he just didn't want me getting up out of my chair for some reason. There was a funny sort of look on his face that seemed relieved each time I said that I was happy just to sit in front of the box and keep watching my programme. And so, out of boredom, and some suspicion, I stopped watching my show, and got out of my chair to investigate. 

Sadly, I couldn't immediately see anything particularly interesting going on. Through the kitchen door I could just about make out Greg in the den, and he seemed busy emptying clothes out of their washing machine. I crept quietly across the rest of the hall and over to the room that they called 'The Office', which was where Aunt Sylvia ran her online hairdryer business, and where I knew she actually spent more than half her time gossiping with friends. 

I started to listen at the door to Aunt Sylvia's conversation, like I was some kind of bad-ass cop doing something I shouldn't - but, damn it, it would get results! Well, maybe not. After only a few seconds I was bored of just listening and found myself needing something more (I had just been watching television, after all) - so I bent down to the key hole, and gave myself some visuals to go with my audio.

I couldn't see much, but she was lying on the couch: the phone cradled between her head and shoulder. She was doing something with her feet; and though I couldn't see exactly, I guessed she was putting on nail polish or something. The look on her face was unreadable.

All of a sudden, I heard my aunt Sylvia groan in to the telephone. At the same time a breeze caught me around my waist where my jumper had ridden up my back while crouching. To my right, back down the hall, I could see that the door in the den that led out to the back yard was swinging in the breeze. My aunt broke the brief silence.

"Oh no," she said, simply. "Oh no."

The person on the other end of the line was clearly as intrigued as I was. What was wrong?

"Greg's done the laundry."

I have to admit, I didn't understand why she sounded so worried. Was it possible to do such a bad job hanging up the laundry? I imagine the person talking to my aunt wondered something similar: just how can doing the laundry be a bad thing?

I put my eye to the keyhole once more.

"You don't want to know," I both saw and heard her reply. She was looking out to her left, out through her office window, and her face suddenly screwed up with a wince that made her bare her teeth like a horse.

I still didn't understand. I knew that my mum, for example, would have been grateful as hell if I did some washing every now and then. I wondered what Aunt Sylvia's problem was.

"Well," she said to the telephone, "if you must know... the only time I've ever known Greg do his own laundry is when he's shit himself. Happy now?"

I backed away from the keyhole, almost as though it was the source of my revulsion, and was likely to start spewing forth some ghastly residue.

Within only fifteen minutes I found myself back home, howling with laughter at the kitchen table with my mum. She had been the person on the other end of the line, and the beautiful summer's day turned over with a smile. 

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