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THE MiSERY OF AGE

©  WRiTER oN THe MoON

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7

The Jowls of the Laundromat

Unhappy with the lack of evidence in the cellar, they decided to go to the laundromat. They went outside intending to enter through the client's door. There was a subtle fragrance of freshly baked bread in the air mixed with another of crepes. A man who looked like he was over seventy was standing at the doorway of Park Street Launderette waiting for Jack to open the door. The sign hanging there that said "temporarily closed" blocked his vision and he couldn't see inside.

They approached him, very carefully stepping around him as though he was made of china.

"Sorry Sir, it's closed. My parents had to close the laundry, temporarily for the moment." said Alan.

"Can this be true boy?"

"Yes," said Javier, pushing the hair off his forehead and looking at the man out of the corner of his eye, "they've closed."

"But why?" asked the man, who had the bluest eyes the two boys had ever seen.

They both shrugged their shoulders.

"What a pity! your father...I mean, well what could I possibly say about your father that you don't already know? Don't you think?"

They smiled at him awkwardly. It seemed as though this man was a regular client and knew the Lamb family well, plus a few of their secrets.

"Is there any way for this old man to speak with your dad? Let's say it's a bit of an emergency, almost a life or death matter." said the client.

"Well, I don't know if he's in there or not. I'll just knock and see if he opens but I think he went over to Mr. Barkaat, the carpenters'.....Dad, Dad!" Alan shouted, banging on the glass.

No one answered. Javier turned toward the man, examining him from head to foot then asked, "Sir, have you seen the movie The Gremlins?"

"No, it doesn't sound familiar." he responded, shaking his head.

Javier continued, "It must be from your time, at least I think so. The movie just celebrated its' one hundredth anniversary. It's' about these little green animals that multiply when they get wet."

"Ah, yes. Vaguely. I vaguely remember it. But what kind of question is that? That movie is much older than I am."

"Sorry. I was just asking to make conversation. I don't like it when everyone is silent and doesn't know what to say. It's uncomfortable." said Javier.

Silence. Alan banged on the window again.

The old man said, "If you fellows like to watch movies from last century....I don't know, let me think. If I was born in January of 1998, I'd have it! I can recommend a few but the first one that comes to mind and I'm sure you would like is Beetlejuice."

Alan turned his head and replied, "I've seen it." banging on the window, "Dad!"

"Then there was Hitchcock but that's really old. You probably don't like black and white. I do, I find them most intriguing."

Imagining himself sitting and watching a movie in black and white, Javier made a gesture of anguish.

Jack popped his head around the door at the back part of the store, surprised at the racket, then smiled when he recognized the boys. He walked to the door and pointed at the sign "temporarily closed" , then he opened it making the bell above it ring. Although Park Street Launderette was closed, Jack attended the old man with the blue cashmere sweater with uncomparable courtesy.

"Watch where you step. I'm afraid the rain came in under the door and try as I may, I can't seem to get it all mopped up." said Jack.

The three of them entered the laundry. It smelled of dry lavender, mold and rot. Javier didn't hesitate and began snooping around in the corners, between the machines, looking for evidence. Jack watched him while attending the man, not letting him say a word.

"Very well, Mr. Benson. I suppose you have seen that we have had to close temporarily. Damned red tape.....The shadows."

"Yes, I found out thanks to your son. If he hadn't been there I would still be knocking who knows for how long. I am getting silly in my old age."

He smiled enthusiastically.

"Is there any possibility you could clean this old jacket?"

"Let me see, could I look at it for a second?"

"Of course!" he said as he handed it over to Jack who took it and gently shook it, looking it over. "It's been in the back of my wardrobe for years. My daughter stopped by this morning. She was having one of those cleaning attacks, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. She has to clean everything from head to toe. And that's what she did, an enormous job. I would almost say an extermination. I think she wants to kill things, she has it in her genes. Throwing things away so she can erase memories and start a new chapter. She can't wait til the day I die."

"Oh please, don't say that. But I do understand what you're talking about. Sometimes, more than I would like to admit, we younger people do not pay enough attention to the people above us in age." Jack said, referring to his mother Emma who lived in Parbrook Home for the Aged and who he visited once a week. Every Thursday morning.

"This jacket is at least thirty years old. It smells old, just like me! Nevertheless, it brings back so many memories. Look how wrinkled it is!"

While examining it closely he noticed that Mr. Bensons shoes were bright and shiny clean.

"Does it still fit you?"

"To tell you the truth Jack, I didn't even think about trying it on!"

"Would you like me to give you a hand and see?" asked Jack.

The man looked at Alan while pointing a finger at his father, "What did I tell you, eh? What a guy, helping me out even when the laundry is closed!"

"Let me see..." said Jack as he came closer, "Well, it's a bit tight and doesn't close properly but I'm sure if we change a few buttons it will work."

"Do you think so? Now understand this body is not the same as it used to be, and this pot belly....."

"Is that Yves Saint Laurent?" asked Jack as he noticed the penetrating fragrance of cologne.

"I know I put too much on this morning but I have to cover up my bodily smells, you know, urine and those kinds of things that come with old age. That's just the way it is. At my age I don't give a damn what people think."

Jack looked away. It was a grotesque association of ideas. His glance rested on a tray of Mrs. Barkaats cupcakes she had given him when he went to pay Adam.

"Take these, the boys will enjoy them," she told him.

Alan and Javier were sitting in the washing machine zone.

"Man," Alan reflected, "I think that the people who bring their trousers, socks, blouses, shirts, panties, boxer shorts," (Javier laughed and repeated the word panties) "bras and thongs to our laundry have no idea what my parents do in the backyard of Park Street Launderette."

"We need proof. Should we check out the drawers?" asked Javier.

"Ok, let's do it." Alan said, standing up and asked his father, "Dad, do you have a pair of scissors around here somewhere?"

"I think so. Check in the drawers in the back of the store."

"That was perfect Dude, you're a wizard. Now we have the perfect excuse to turn the place upside down." exclaimed Javier.

They began to snoop without making too much of a racket. Jack and Mr. Benson lowered their voices and were dodging the presence of the boys. Alan caught a fragment of their conversation.

"I was told, better put, the note told me to come here and here I would be advised."

"That's what I imagined. It's always the same. Are you ready?"

"Well, who is my friend? One thing I do want to say is that I am happy to have the opportunity to know what's going to happen. Lots of people just die and have no idea about this. Or does everyone receive a note?"

"No, I don't think so."

"That's just what I thought."

"I'll get straight to the point. In your case Mr. Benson, when you pass away, my wife Sara and I will personally weave and wash by hand your spirit. It will be perfect. Then we will hang it out in the sun and...and..." he lowered his voice as though he was telling a secret that had been very well kept.

He turned and saw Alan and Javier frozen in their tracks. They returned to their supposed search of the scissors and pretended they had not heard anything.

"It would be better if we continued our conversation in the back of the store. Follow me please."

Jack led the man to the back of the shop. Before leaving the laundry

he stopped. Jack turned around with the scissors in his hand, looking at Javier who shouted hysterically, " Don't kill me please, please! I promise I won't say a word about what you Lambs do! And my poor mother, who will take care of her if you kill me?"

"I don't know what you boys are really looking for but I have a pretty good idea. I think this might be interesting to both of you." Jack said as he opened a drawer in the shelves, looked around and pulled out a book, leaving it on the counter. "Read it, read it. Be sure to read it."

The art of washing spirits.

Essencial manual for

laundrymen.

"Do those two boys know about this? I mean, what we just talked about and I hadn't known about at eighty six years of age?"

"Until very recently they didn't have the slightest idea. But I suspect they are trying to find out about it, if not, why would they be acting so stupidly, Mr. Benson? I don't get it."

"Oh...and is it Ok that they know?"

"They need to know my friend, they need to know."