Monday, April 8, 2013

Laundry Day

Ever wonder how creepy an all-night laundromat could be? Think about this for a minute: it's late on a Sunday night and your Maytag decided that, tonight at 9:30, it would finally clunk its last. The odor of burnt bearings still heavy in the air of the mud room, you utter a short, irritated string of expletives topped off the sigh of resignation which indicates you're headed for the Laundorama halfway across town.

That was the case with Tammy Johnston. En route to the laundromat, she felt tired. The caffeine in that last cup of coffee she had during dinner had run its course. That explained, to some degree, why she narrowly missed the Acura at the intersection a few blocks back. Not a good thing, especially in that neighborhood. Still, she felt relieved, even thankful, for the adrenaline surge which would keep her awake at least until the clothes were ready for the dryer.

Tammy looked around her new environment, noticing the seating -fiberglass chairs in alternating colors of red, yellow, and orange. Oh well, she thought to herself. My hemorrhoids won't be affected by this -much. Shirts, underwear, and jeans slam-danced around a dryer which required so many quarters that now she couldn't even afford a Coke from the machine. The senior accountant became unpleasantly aware that she had nothing to read except the July 2006 edition of Watch Tower as the dryers sleepily hummed her undies to their whitest white. Along with this very definition of boredom, she felt her eyelids beginning to drop over two very dry eyes.

The thumping began. Not loudly at first, but it drew her attention. That doesn't sound like the dryer, she considered. Another thump, this time, a little louder. "Anyone here?", the woman called out to an empty room.

A third thump. Looking directly behind her, and through the class, she wasn't quite sure what she saw. Then it occurred to her: the inside of the laundromat was bright. So bright, in fact, that about seventy percent of the view provided by the window was the reflection of the fluorescent lights mounted over two rows of washing machines. Still, something registered, for a small fraction of a second, in her field of vision.

Another thump, this time from a window on the wall to her right, which was ninety degrees opposite of her seating position.

This thump was louder.

"Stupid jerks! Leave me alone! I wasn't trying to run into you!" sprang from her lips.


In her haste,  she had forgotten to bring her phone. Tammy saw the pay phone just outside the door.

The feeling of total vulnerability not only swept over her, it even seeped through every fiber of rational thought she could muster. The thumping was driving her over the wall now.


"STOP IT! PLEASE!" she implored of your tormentor. "All I wanted was to do my laundry for work!" The thump came from her left this time, sounding almost as though it were inside the room now. Tam realized the thump was louder -much louder, in fact, than the ones preceding it. It's almost-predictable sound strained every nerve of her being. Alone, in the middle of a box filled with light (and thereby revealing exactly where she was), she caught a glimpse of -was it that Acura which she had almost run into earlier? The one with the kids who were probably up to no good and looking for trouble this time of night?


"For the love of- WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?!"  


"STOP! STOP it, damn it! I'll pay you to leave me alo-"


Her neck muscles were already sore from having to spin her perfectly-coiffed head in a new and different direction every time she heard that awful sound. By now the dryer had stopped, and, thanks to the cling-free sheet left in the machine by some kindhearted soul earlier, the poor lady's Fruit-of-The-Looms were now free from static cling until tomorrow -if there was to be a tomorrow.

The cow bell mounted above the door clanged an unwanted greeting, giving her legs the tensile strength of an Olympic sprinter. "STAY WHERE YOU ARE!", she issued with near-perfect hysteria to no one. Or at least no one at the door. She certainly didn't want to go anywhere near the door, but something drew her attention to it.

A forearm was laying inside the entrance, propping open the door like an organic eight-pound doorstop.

The arm wasn't moving.


This time, one of the window panels rocked as what appeared to be a fist disappeared rapidly into the night immediately on the other side of the glass.

Thump! Thump! THUMP !!! They were suddenly everywhere, and trying to get in.

Immediately before the plates of glass began crashing and showering their thousands of shards throughout the brightly lit trap, Tammy recalled the Acura from an hour or so earlier. How the driver swerved frantically to miss her. Funny how only now she remembered something flying over the hood of her own car, as though tossed by some invisible softball pitcher.

The arm.

It was an arm which the up-for-a-promotion executive could see now, as plainly as day, along with a bone fragment of what was once a complete, healthy arm which had belonged to a kid whose only crime had ever been trying to score with a girl who was in his English class. She had, in fact, been deciding whether to use Tide or Era while that kid lay dying, along with two of his best friends -all of whom had lost arms, or parts of them, as the car they were riding in rolled viciously. The lady had done her honest-to-goodness best to retrieve the Boz Scaggs CD which had slipped off of its precarious spot on the center console and into the rear floor, only taking her eyes off of the road for a second. That kid (his name was Nicholas, but according to the obituary which would follow the next afternoon, he was called Nick by his family and friends) was thrown halfway out of his car when it finally landed on its wheels, diagonally across from Astor Drive. His friends, Tony and Jason, had also suffered similar injuries as the little red car continued rolling and chopping, rolling and chopping, until any would-be survivors, mercifully, bled out.

The glass, now all over her head, shoulders, and chest, shimmered a ruby red from the blood which was pulsing through her arteries and veins and feeding her heart a second before. The capillary action had pulled the individual rivulets of ruby red blood together now, and Tammy knew she was losing a lot of it.

But that was nothing compared to the trails which the arms were now leaving behind them as they snaked their way, first across the floor, then pulling themselves up onto the chairs, the washers -anything and everything near her, drawing closer, until she saw-with perfect clarity- the lives which are lost now, including hers.

As the arms draped themselves over her throat and torso, the hands themselves clutched at her eyes. She couldn't believe the pressure building up inside them as she begin losing her vision. Now, plunged in intense darkness and pain, she felt an ear losing its mooring, the left one, she thought. The pain was both indescribable and unbearable. Her will to fight back was too weak now as the remaining hands found their way to her throat. Dizziness and nausea completed the last seconds of Tammy's forty-eight year life.

The dryer was cold.

Tammy was...



  1. Robert - a modern version of "the thing" -- I love it. And now I can't get rid of the visuals that your story created in my mind. I will never be able to sit in another laundromat . . . alone. Ever.

  2. lol Thanks for your comment, Donna. Laundromats have always kind of creeped me out at night, because it's hard to see any potential threats which might be outside. And, of course, anyone who's inside one at night is effectively a sitting duck.

    You'll be fine in the daylight. Then again, the incessant humming from the dryers is enough to send anyone over the edge. And the heat -ugh.