Local Couple Dies in Area Home

 Local Couple Dies in Area Home 



I.                   The Assignment


“Kirk!  Get in here!” bellowed my editor, Al Caprietta.   I had barely gulped down that burnt-sienna solvent that passed for coffee at the Weekly Picayune Shopper.  I staggered down the hall to his office.  Al is one of those old-school types whom you could see wearing a pushed-back fedora with a press pass in it, wearing a rumpled brown suit and hollering for a copy boy.  We come from different generations, but after I was laid off from the public relations department at the stapler plant (not an easy job; kids are forever stapling their pinkies to desks, and the lawsuits are plentiful), he was the only one who took a chance on me and gave me a job as a features reporter.

“Whatta ya got, boss?”

“Lester, I need you to go out to a home out on Route 10.  I got a tip about a couple of deaths, and you know… .”

“Yeah, I know.  If it bleeds, it leads.”

I hadn’t been exactly winning any Pulitzers since getting hired last year, and so of course I jumped at it.  I fired up the Yugo (not the chick magnet the salesman had suggested) and headed out to interview Effie Scheisskopf.  Little did I know.


II.                The Interview


“I still don’t like to talk about it.”

Despite the passage of what should have been a healing few days, Effie Scheisskopf was near tears when she opened the door of her Fleetwood double-wide Monteverde (one of their more modest models).  She beckoned me in, steered me to a plastic-covered floral divan, and offered me a Sanka.

“Tell me in your own words what happened,” I prompted.  She nodded and collected herself; this was her first time appearing in a newspaper since she was born in 1953, and she wasn’t about to blow her chance.

“Oh, Mr. Kirk.  Sorry.  It’s just that…” She trailed off, but I urged her to continue.  She drew a deep breath.

“So, it was like any ordinary Monday.  Laundry day; you know?  I had a huge armful of clothes—mostly my housecoats--when I entered the laundry nook.  I was able to look over the clothes, and what I saw made me drop them all over the floor.  There was a huge pool of water everywhere.  I rushed over to the washer to try to see what the matter was but…”

Now, she was really crying for real.  I laid a consoling hand on her fleshy arm.

“Shhh.  Go Ahead.  Take your time.  Do you want my Sanka?”

“The washer seemed, well, dead.  I twisted the dial to see if it would start, and the grinding noise I heard, well, sir, it made my blood run cold like that time I had to run Walter over to the ER after he ate 3 whole cans of Vienna Sausages.  I told him time and time again…”

“Mrs. Scheisskopf, please.”

“I know, I know, I know.  So, I turned the knob all the way to turn it off.  The horrible noise stopped, but I knew in my heart that she was gone.  And the dryer?  Dead.  Turned the knob. Nothing.  It was like he knew it was their time and didn’t want to go on living.  You’ve heard of that; haven’t you?”

“Now, I’ve got to buy one of those slutty-looking maroon sets from Korea.  They…don’t make them in America anymore, you know...,” she said, bitterly.

 I took a couple of photos.  At the door, Mrs. Scheisskopf grasped my arm.

“Mr. Kirk?  Could you do something for us?  It would mean so much if you would write an obituary.  Me, I’m not so good at words, and Walter, well, he barely passed high school English.”

An obituary?  For a washer/dryer?  I could already hear Caprietta’s snarl resounding down the hall.  Imagine my surprise, then, when he not only agreed to it, but, well, gushed about how this might really pick up circulation in what had been a slow month, in which the most exciting story told the tale of an ant farm spill out in Tarriffville.  I sat down at my battered Formica desk and got to work.



III    The Obituary

“It is with a heavy heart that Walter and Effie Scheisskopf announce the joint passing, after a long illness, of their husband-and-wife Whirlpool Heavy Duty Plus washer and dryer, pictured below.  Together for about 25 years, they tirelessly washed and dried clothes through some of the most turbulent moments of our history, including the Clinton Impeachment, 9/11, the controversial 2000 presidential election, the Iraq war and the rise of the Kardashians.

Very much a product of their times, the husband-and-wife duo were finished in a heavy white enamel, with a frankly gross beige plastic trim featuring exposed screw heads and rotary dials, to accomplish their duties. In her later years, the washer endured an ailment which permitted clothes only to be washed using the “Normal” cycle at 9 minutes.  For his part, the husband dryer soldiered on and tended to his duties, which included twisting towels and clothes into a Gordian knot of woven frustration. This, despite suffering a debilitating injury to his upper lint trap door, which required a prosthetic wood panel (see picture). He carried on nonetheless with the sort of quiet dignity you’d hope to see in today’s appliances, but which is hard to find.

As the years progressed, however, the Whirlpool family was unable to keep up with the times.  Digital controls, stainless steel tubs and colored finishes overtook them, and the Schiesskopfs were left with no alternative but to put them out to pasture.

The Whirlpool couple are survived by a large family of small appliances, including a Water-Pic, a Cuisinart ice cream maker, a humidifier and a bread machine (not pictured). One additional illegitimate child, a vibrator, has not been heard from for some years.  In lieu of flowers, the Scheisskopfs ask that well-wishers contribute to The Laundry Without Borders Fund, which provides modern laundry equipment to the poor from abroad.”


III.             The Upshot


I guess Caprietta is the editor for a reason.  After we published the obit, circulation skyrocketed, with over 230 copies flying off the local newspaper boxes.  I started getting recognized in cafeterias and general stores.  But perhaps the human element is the best.  Mrs. Scheisskopf sent me a picture of Walter and her, at Best Buy, proudly beaming in front of a maroon washer/dryer combo.  It didn’t look slutty at all.



Peter Rustin


Peter Rustin and his wife Leslie recently moved from Los Angeles to Peter’s native Connecticut, with their three rather intelligent cats. Peter is an attorney practicing remotely with his firm in Los Angeles. He plays guitar badly and drums decently. He has been published in the Arboreal Literary Journal.


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