A Night at the Wash & Dri

A Night at the Wash & Dri


A cherry-red Mustang convertible, top-down, appeared at the north end of Main Street’s business section. As he drove down Main Street, Jon, home from college for the weekend, saw only closed shops and empty sidewalks. He remembered what the town wags were fond of saying: on Friday night, the only difference between Main Street and the town’s cemetery is the streetlights.

 His cell phone signaled an incoming call from Bob Harvey. “Damn,” he muttered, “how’d he know I was home.” Bob had been the class joker and one of Jon’s good friends, but the summer after graduation, Jon grew tired of Bob's stupid jokes, and their friendship had withered. His parents had told him that Bob was working at the local Food Mart, and he guessed Bob was making the same jokes. He debated rejecting the call but decided he had nothing better to do and that it might be interesting to see what Bob had been up to since graduation. He thumbed accept and said, “Hey Bob, what’s up.”

“Hey, Jonny Boy.” Jon frowned at the name he had not heard since he had left for college. “Heard you were home for the weekend.” Where’d he hear that? “Pick me up and let’s go cruising for chicks.” He hasn’t changed. I must’ve been out of my mind. “Bob, I’ve. . .” Aww, what the hell. What else have I got to do? “Okay, be out front in fifteen minutes.”

Jon pulled up, and Bob hopped into the cherry-red Mustang without opening the door. “Cool,” said Bob. Jon looked at him. This was a mistake. He put the car in gear.

As Jon drove down Main street, Bob, looking left and right, said, “Where's the chicks?” Jon said nothing. When Bob realized Jon was not going to answer, he said, “With a chick magnet like this, we should be driving'em off with a stick.” He laughed uproariously and said, “Pun intended!” Jon looked at him and shook his head. Pun? What’s the pun?

“Hey, Jonny Boy. I’ve got an idea. Let’s hit the Wash & Dri.  We can get a coke and check out the chicks.”

“Bob, please don’t call me Jonny Boy. I’m not some ten-year-old kid.”

“Okay, okay. Just head to the Wash & Dri.”

“Are you sure? That’s a pretty grim place. I went there once to do my basketball stuff when my mom was sick. Boy! What a disaster.”

“Really! I always score there,” said Bob. “Big time. Com’on. Let’s check it out.”

With nothing more promising for the night, Jon headed to the Wash & Dri and parked in front of the laundromat’s big, dirty window, hoping he would be able to see anyone messing with his cherry-red Mustang convertible. He put the top up, locked it, and they walked into the Wash & Dri.

Three steps in, Jon stopped. His jaw dropped. Astonishment flooded his face and changed to disbelief. The stale odors of fabric softener, detergent, and bleach assaulted his sense of smell. He quickly checked the windows at either end of the laundry room, saw they were open and no breeze coming through them. He looked up at the ceiling fans. No movement. Stepping around the small ponds of soapy water on the floor in which balls of multicolored lint and fuzz floated, he walked to where Bob was standing, looking at a row of chairs.

Jon said, “Let’s get outta—” He looked at the ten red plastic chairs at which Bob was looking and blanched. In five of the chairs, he saw women of indeterminate ages with heavily mascaraed eyes. Two had bleached blonde hair, one had purple hair, one had henna-dyed hair, and one had a shaved head. Two had bright red lipstick. The one with the shaved head had black lipstick that matched her dog collar with spikes and leather (fake?) boots that reached her knees with soles that Jon guessed added two inches to her height. Jon looked at the bleached blonde with a once bouffant hairdo that now resembled a bird's nest, leaning left and looking as if it would collapse and fall at any moment. Staring at the bleached blonde’s sagging bouffant hairdo, a nineteen-sixties picture of his grandmother with a fantastic bouffant hairdo piled high, accentuating her small, fifteen-year-old head flashed through his mind. He blinked and saw that glasses with heavy, white plastic cat-eye frames covered in fake crystal diamonds, red stones, and blue stones complimented the deflated bouffant hairdo. Jon couldn’t tell what color lipstick the fifth woman was wearing, if she was, because her lips were so thin it was a question of whether she had any. 

Too stunned to move, Jon’s eyes continued down the row of chairs. In one chair, an old man was snoring, mouth open, showing cigarette-stained teeth with sizeable gaps where once there had been teeth. In two of the chairs, with a partially hidden chair between them, sat two of the fattest men Jon had ever seen. He wondered if they were twins.

 Jon turned around to look at the six rasping dryers, their round windows offering glimpses of tumbling socks, underwear, shirts, and other articles of clothing. As he watched, the fourth one, counting from the right, stopped. The young woman with the shaved head and dog collar got up, clopped to the dryer, opened the door, and started to take out the clothes. She stopped, turned to the chairs, and with her hands on her hips, her face showing her disgust, she shouted, “Who put their god-damned underwear and socks in with my stuff.” The two fat men looked at each other, and one got up, waddled over to the dryer, peered in, and said, “Gee. I think those are mine. Sorry about that.”

The girl began throwing her laundry into a blue plastic basket at her feet. The socks and underwear that were not hers she threw at a table attached to the wall next to a door with a sign in big red letters that read NO ENTRANCE. Occasionally, a sock or a piece of underwear landed on the table. The rest landed on the floor. Jon, looking at the woman, the fat man, and the pitched clothes, silently awarded the shaved head two points for each piece that landed on the table and one point for those landing on the floor. She wasn’t getting many two-pointers. Jon was not sure whether it was deliberate or poor aim.

Jon turned in time to see Bob walk over to the bleached blonde with bright red lipstick and stringy hair and heard him say, “Is there a coke machine in here?” She looked at him for five seconds and said, “What’m I? The information desk for this dump?”

“Ahh. Ahh . . .”

After several seconds, Bob’s head turned toward the blonde with the collapsing bouffant hairdo. Jon’s mouth dropped open. He gasped and said to himself, I don’t believe it. He’s going to hit on her. She gave Bob a look that said louder than words honey, don’tcha even think about it. Bob turned and walked to Jon muttering, “Geez.”

Ignoring Bob, Jon turned to watch the three hundred fifty pound, five-foot-six man struggling to bend over and pick up the socks and underwear that had missed the table and were scattered on the floor. With a sock or piece of underwear in his hand, he would stand up, walk to a white, plastic basket between the end of the table and the locked door, drop what he was holding into the basket, and waddle back to pick up another sock or piece of underwear. Jon could hear him breathing heavily through his nose and mouth from half the room away as he waddled back and forth. Unbelievable!

Jon turned his attention to the center of the room, where twelve washing machines set back to back in two rows of six were chugging like steamboats. He did not count, but he was sure that at least half of them, and probably more, were grinding and whistling and dribbling suds. Two were empty with crudely drawn signs that read Brok. He said to himself, how dumb do you have to be to misspell broke? He whispered, more to himself than anyone who might be listening, “I must’ve been crazy to let Bob talk me into coming here.”

He started for Bob, who was watching the shaved head wearing the dog collar with spikes. Jon could see from the way Bob was looking at her he was working up the courage to hit on her.

Hearing the door open, Jon turned to see who was entering. Three men walked in: one shirtless, one wearing a torn tee-shirt and one a tank top that was at one time white but now beige with unidentifiable stains. All three had heavily tattooed arms. The shirtless one had a ponytail that touched his back between his shoulders. A tattoo of a melange of red, black, blue, and white circles, squares, and triangles covered the shaved left side of his head and cheek. Jon muttered to himself, “Oh My God!” He rushed to Bob and whispered, “Let’s get outta here.” Bob did not move but stared at the three men. Jon shook him by his arm and said a little louder, “You wanna get us killed. Let’s get outta here.” Bob did not move. Jon looked closely at him and saw that he was mesmerized, his face showing admiration for the three men.

The shirtless man and the tank-top man walked in front of Jon and Bob. Tank-top man gave them a look that Jon interpreted to mean move or say anything, and you're dead. Bob smiled at him. Jon and Bob, hands in his pockets, watched them walk to the first two of the twelve washing machines, pull switchblades from their pockets, jimmy open the coin boxes, empty the boxes into their hand, and put the few coins from the boxes into their pockets. Jon and Bob stood silent and unmoving, watching the two move from machine to machine, including the two with crudely drawn signs that read Brok while the guy in the torn tee-shirt worked the dryers. 

Bob whispered to Jon, “I wonder how much they’re gettin?”

“Shut-up,” hissed Jon.

“Relax, Jonny Boy,” said Bob. Jon grimaced, opened his mouth, closed it, and said to himself, he’s gonna get us killed.

Wondering how the tough-looking girl with the shaved head and dog collar was reacting to what he assumed were her types, Jon turned towards her. She was ignoring the three men and their pillage of the machines and concentrating on pulling clothes from the dryer, dropping her’s in the basket at her feet, and pitching the men’s socks and underwear at the table. The fat man was standing there with a pair of very large, red bikini briefs in his hand, staring at the two men emptying the coin boxes. As the man in the torn tee-shirt approached the girl, she stopped what she was doing and looked at him. I can't believe it. She's daring him to say a word to her or touch her machine, thought Jon, watching with round eyes to see what was going to happen. His mouth dropped open as he watched the man walk away without taking the coins from her machine. He heard Bob say in an admiring tone of voice, “Wow. She’s got guts.” Jon shook his head to clear Bob's words and the image of the man in the torn tee-shirt smiling at the girl and walking away.

When the two men finished plundering the washing machines, the shirtless one walked to the locked door with the sign No Entrance, kicked it open, and went in. Several minutes later, he walked out. As he passed the laundry basket in which the fat man had been dropping his socks and underwear and an open box of Tide sitting next to it, he stopped, and one by one, kicked them across the room. Jon flinched, and Bob turned his head to follow the box of Tide as it tumbled across the room, leaving a white trail of detergent. No one said a word. The fat man still holding the very large, red bikini briefs in his hand made no move to claim the now-empty laundry basket or the trail of socks and underwear. No one checked the Tide box to see if any detergent was left in it.

Jon looked at the old man who, mouth open, snored on and shook his head in disbelief that anyone could sleep through what was happening. Careful not to make a noise or do anything that might bring him to the attention of the three men, he moved to the small bulletin board on the wall above the table. Hoping to appear, if not invisible at least inconspicuous, Jon turned his back to the room and pretended to read the yellowed business cards, scribbled requests for rides, reward offers for lost dogs, and phone numbers without names or explanations. He prayed the men were too high and too interested in getting enough money for another hit of coke to bother with the cherry-red Mustang sitting in front of the Wash & Dri’s big window. He was afraid to turn around for fear they would figure out he was the car owner. Jon asked himself if he should offer them money if they demanded the keys to the cherry-red Mustang. He decided to continue reading the bulletin board and ignore what was happening or might happen.

Finished with their pillage, the three men left. Hearing the door shut, Jon turned, ran to the window, and watched the three men hurrying down the street, ignoring his beloved cherry-red Mustang. He looked for Bob, found him, and pulling him by his arm toward the door, shouted, “Let’s go. Now.”

They ran to the Mustang. Jon unlocked it. They jumped in, and Jon drove away. As the Mustang sped down the street, Jon saw that the three men had stopped on the sidewalk and were counting the booty from their take. He wondered if the fat man was still frozen in the same spot holding his very large, red bikini briefs. He was sure that the old man snored on and that the machines hummed and wheezed, gurgled and gushed, washed and rinsed, and spun on and on.



Frederick G. Yeager 

Frederick G. Yeager is retired and living in Sarasota, Florida. He is a graduate of the University of South Dakota and the George Washington University School of Law. He practiced law in Sioux City, Iowa, worked in a bank in Chicago, and worked as International Consultant on Legal Development in Croatia, Armenia, Nepal, Albania, and Moldova. He is an emerging writer and Ariel Chart is his first professional credit.




  1. admire the older sense of this fiction. hope to read more.

  2. This is suspenseful and cautionary. I really enjoyed it.

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