I pulled my damp clothes out of the washing machine and tossed them into the hamper. The woman next to me was watching her clothes spin through the soapy water, muttering something about “death to germs”. I lugged my clothing over to the dryers on the opposite wall. The only free dryer was situated next to a large man with a buzz cut. He had the unfortunate figure of one who used to be lean fifty years earlier and had since acquired bulges of fat around his neck and gut. He nodded to me in a friendly sort of way and I caught a glimpse of his “Vietnam Veterans Who Support the Squashing of Iraq” T-shirt. My hand nonchalantly moved to cover the anti-war pins on my jacket. I’m really scared of pro-war people. I feel like they’re going to attack me and I won’t be able to do anything about it, since I’m so peaceful. So I turned away from the Fat Man, hoping that he wouldn’t sit on me or something.
I opened the dryer door. What the hell. How come every time I manage to nab one of these machines there are always someone else’s clothes inside? I straightened up and looked around the Wishy Washy Wash to see if anyone was looking for his underwear. It was pretty late, and there weren’t many people. An old lady in the corner was prodding the buttons on a washing machine, apparently unaware that you had to insert change. The Germaphobe was still staring intently at her swirling laundry as though she were watching a riveting ball game. A very thin man with very thick spectacles was reading a book of philosophy while his clothes dried. His eyebrows were frozen in perpetually pretentious arches. Judging from the way he glanced up every few seconds to see if anybody was looking at him, I suspected that he was reading the book merely to appear intelligent. It wasn’t working. He probably didn’t know a thing about epistemology and metaphysics, the pompous bastard. A Mexican guy wearing an apron was sitting by the door as his whites went through their rinse cycle. Who the hell wears aprons to the Laundromat? From the fishy smell I detected when I brushed past him, along with the blob of rice lurking around the midsection of his apron, I deduced that he was a sushi chef. It’s rather odd that there are so many Mexican sushi chefs. I see them all the time and wonder where all the Japanese cooks have gone.
No one in the Wishy Washy Wash seemed to be looking for misplaced articles of clothing, so I figured it was okay to take the clothes out. I reached in, but my hand came in contact with something firm, something that felt strangely like… “A FREAKIN’ BODY!!!! OH MY GOD THERE’S SOMEONE IN MY DRYER!!!” Everyone rushed over, then froze and stared in silence at the figure curled up in the cramped space. The silence was broken by the MSC, who said, “Vaca santa… él está muerto.” I later learned that it meant, “Holy cow… he is dead.”
“Okay. Nobody panic,” I squeaked in a panicked voice.
Everyone panicked. Germaphobe trembled and whimpered. She was probably thinking about the sanitary hazards of being in the vicinity of a corpse. I was tempted to tell her about all the wriggly bacteria that infest the body postmortem, and how they fly through the air, and how they were probably already crawling on her. But I didn’t. Under normal circumstances, I would, but I wasn’t really in the mood to lie to strangers on that particular occasion. Anyway, the MSC was jabbering away in Spanish, and I had no idea what he was talking about. The Veteran, of course, was trying to determine the best plan of action. The Philosopher was wringing his hands while he wondered aloud where souls go when a body dies. Or is there a soul at all? Or is the existence of soul merely a figment of humanity’s desire… never mind. Back to the story. The Old Lady finally had the sense to do something productive.
“Oh dear. We should call for help, of course, don’t you think? Yes, I agree. I’ll call 911.” She turned to me and said, “Goodness me, what’s the number for 911? I’m always forgetting silly things like that. I must be getting old.”
“911,” I told her. I resisted the urge to say, “Yeah, you are old. That would explain why your face is having a wrinkle party.” Of course, I didn’t say it. It’s not very nice to say things like that to a person’s face.
Old Lady was on the phone with the emergency dispatcher. I caught phrases such as “horrible” and “traumatizing” and “murder”. When she hung up, I said, “Look, I’m sure there’s a perfectly plausible reason this guy is in a dryer. You really shouldn’t jump to conclusions like that.”
“It could be a conspiracy! A government cover-up!” cried the Veteran. The others joined in.
“Is he really dead, or is it the existential belief in pure corruption? I think, therefore I am!!”
“The germs! The germs! He’s infected! Infected, I say!!”
What a bunch of loonies. They could brainstorm their ridiculous theories all they wanted. I was going to take a look inside the dryer. I popped my head in. The guy was scruffy and he smelled sort of bad. I looked a little closer, and then I noticed something in his mouth. I pulled it out. Weird…
“Hey guys, look at what I found! There was a sock in his mouth!”
“Oh, that is so unhygienic!” exclaimed Germaphobe with a shudder.
“Right… Well, why would this guy have a sock in his--
There was a loud cough. And it came from within the dryer. And then a gruff voice said, “Wow! You guys saved my life. Thanks!”
Veteran screamed like a girl, “A talking dead guy!”
“No, no, I’m alive,” said the live man, as he stepped out of the dryer. “I’m also a hobo.” I guess that would explain the funny smell.
“Well how did you get in there? I mean, what happened?” Germaphobe politely asked, as she backed slowly away from him and vigorously scrubbed hand sanitizer on.
“So I’m a hobo,” said the hobo, “and it’s been really chilly these days. So I came in here to get warm. Since there were no customers here, I decided to climb into a dryer to get extra toasty. But someone forgot a sock in there. Now, I love the smell of fresh laundry. I mean, who doesn’t? But I really miss it because, being a hobo and all, I don’t do laundry any more. So I was lying there next to the lone sock, and I just had to give it a sniff. It was amazing! But I sniffed it so hard I accidently sucked it into my mouth and got it stuck in my throat. Don’t ask me how. So I choked on the sock and passed out, and then you guys pulled it out and saved my life!”
Meanwhile, Old Lady was staring at the sock. “Why, bless your soul. I think this is my sock! I came here yesterday and then when I got home, I had thirteen socks instead of fourteen. Now isn’t that a coincidence!”
“Well,” said the hobo, “I guess you can have it back then. You might want to wash it again, because I also haven’t brushed my teeth in a while…”
He was interrupted by the scream of police sirens as three cop cars pulled up to the Wishy Washy Wash. “Oh my God! I forgot about the police! We called to report a gruesome murder, remember? Now what are we going to do?! There is no murder. We’ll be arrested for making a false call!” cried the MSC in perfect English.
“Wait. You can speak English?”
“Yeah. I like to use Spanish, though, because my rapid Spanish speech tends to cause some confusion among my fellow human beings and it’s rather fun to watch. BUT THE COPS ARE COMING! We must escape this Laundromat!”
“I’m terribly sorry about this,” I told the hobo, “but we need you to put the sock back in your mouth and get back into the dryer, or we’ll get arrested for making a false emergency call. And I’m too young to go to jail. There are so many things I still need to do with my life, like go skydiving.”
“Sure thing,” said the very kind hobo, “While I choke myself on the sock again, you guys can run away out the back door.”
So we did. The hobo crammed the sock into his mouth and climbed into the dryer. I closed the door behind him. We ran out the back door a second before the police barged in. We all scampered away from the Wishy Washy Wash, giggling with excitement.“Oh bother,” sighed Old Lady, once we were far away enough to stop running, “I rather wanted my sock back.”