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The Spiral Wash
Mesmerized by the motions of the spiral wash, Laura slipped into a daze.
Her chair was filthy.
The fluorescent lights dyed the room a toilet bowl cleaner blue. Static-torn soft rock played through dirty speakers beside an old Greek lady who was loading a ball of tablecloths into a dryer.
Quarters were weighing down her pocket, stretching the lining of her coat. There was already a small rip in the seam; she’d probably need to sew it again. Her back was slumped against the chair and her eyes had glazed over, hypnotized by her own load of darks. Once a week she fed a machine quarters to stir her clothes into a chunky soap soup so she could face the world with some semblance of dignity. Sure, she was p***-poor and had holes in her shoes. But her Salvation Army jeans sure smelled nice.
The washer chugged and churned. It sounded as if someone, under the surface of abnormally thick gelatin, was attempting to sing like Pavarotti. Beside her, a tramp in two cent track pants and discount candy lip gloss was yelling at her boyfriend over the phone. How dare he make a McDonalds run without her while she slaved away, waiting for an appliance to clean his clothes?
A voice called her name: Laura, are you awake? Is the load done yet?
She didn’t bother looking up. The wash was oddly captivating; at the moment it seemed much more important.
Laura dreamed of snow. Piles and piles of white, sugary masses clogged her brain, blew over her eyes and all she thought about was that night when the snow was close and her coffee tasted like cinnamon.
She looked up.
“What do you mean what? Is it done yet?”
“How done does it look to you?”
“Chloe, sit down.”
Chloe sat down. She picked at a scab on her hand resembling a sun dried tomato. Laura knew they should have gotten rid of that dog sooner.
Leave it to Chloe to find a way to almost get herself eaten in Toronto, of all places.
The dog was at the pound now, two days away from the animal equivalent of a lethal injection. Good riddance.
The washer stopped. Laura was genuinely disappointed.
Chloe got up, opened a dryer and pulled the soggy clothes out of the wash. She slammed the door of the washer. She was still mad about the dog.
Leave it to Chloe to still love something that tried to eat her.
The snow was still piling up in Laura’s mind. She was in a cottage surrounded by birch trees. She was drinking cinnamon coffee. She was under a wool blanket knit in the 70’s by someone’s stoner grandmother. Kitschy wood paneled orange free-to-be-you-and-me surroundings, covered in macramé with a dart board on the far wall. There was an urn on the fireplace; she was never told whose it was. There was a family photo beside it. There was an arm around her and her stoner blanket. There were piles of snow outside…
“Will you get off your a** and help me?”
A wet t-shirt to the head. It clung to her face and she whipped it off just as fast as it had been thrown. It hit the floor with the sound of jam.
She stood up and tried to swallow her annoyance.
“It was a dog, Chloe. There are hundreds in this city alone. We can get you a new one that doesn’t s*** everywhere and try to eat people!”
“This isn’t about the dog. I’m tired and I had to work all day. Help me with this so we can go home”.
Laura bent down and grabbed the projectile t-shirt. It was dark blue with the face of the Mona Lisa over the chest. She had a curvy French mustache; the words “Much Better” were written across her forehead in electric green.
Laura put it in the dryer.
“I’m sorry about the dog”.
“This isn’t about the dog”.
She grabbed a load. More t-shirts, a sweater, some socks.
“Yeah, of course not. It’s the laundry making you angry. Because it’s not like we’re in here every f***ing week”.
Chloe scowled at the sarcasm. Living on the combined income of a minimum wage banquet server and a mail-room temp barely brought in enough cash to buy instant noodles and keep up with rent; let alone buy a washing machine or buy dog food.
Chloe had a hole in the side of her shirt. At least it smelled nice.
Chloe didn’t say anything for a minute; just shoved more clothes into the dryer, her back to Laura. There was a pair of jeans, more socks, a skirt that Laura barely wore and a vest with cream stains from Chloe’s work. She was the banquet server. She hated it.
“You didn’t even tell me you gave it away.”
“I wasn’t really sure how. I just didn’t want it attacking us anymore.”
She came up behind her and put her hands on Chloe’s hips. Chloe shifted away and kept loading.
“It never attacked you”.
“You know what I mean”.
Laura sat down again and began biting her nails.
She very badly wanted a mug of cinnamon coffee.
She very badly wanted it to snow.
Chloe kept loading.
“Well, it was your own damn fault.” She said. “You gave it a taste for people. It wasn’t the f***ing dog’s fault.” She trailed off.
This was somewhat true. Laura was terrible at opening cans. It was Chloe’s idea to buy the spoiled pug the fancy chicken-flavored canned dog food, and then ask Laura to open it. She knew Laura was bad with cans.
She knew that Laura was always cutting herself on the jagged rims of opened cans. She didn’t necessarily know that Laura wouldn’t notice the blood that had dripped into the food. Laura didn’t notice—that’s why she still served it to the dog.
Apparently the chicken flavor was pretty bland on its own because the spoiled pug never ate it again.
It stopped eating it after Chloe started opening the cans.
All it wanted to eat after that was Laura and Chloe.
Chloe would set the food down by the door and the dog would eagerly lunge for her hand instead; mouth watering, teeth out.
It was such a spoiled pug.
Laura bit her nails again. It was a nervous habit that cost the beauty of her cuticles. Chloe had beautiful cuticles. Laura thought Chloe had beautiful everything. She also made excellent coffee.
Dryer sheets. The lavender ones smelled the best. It was a cheap Laundromat, but the dryer sheets worked pretty well. Occasionally Chloe would be serving Beef Wellington and she’d get a whiff off the collar of her shirt.
Laura would be in the mail room and she’d smell it on her sleeve.
Chloe put in two so her Mona Lisa’s Much Better shirt would smell extra nice.
She closed the door, slid in a couple quarters and pressed the button. It started swirling like the world’s driest soup mixed by the world’s fastest chef.
Chloe sat down and smacked the hand of the finger in Laura’s mouth.
“Stop that. And look, I get it. It was a dumb f***ing dog. Spoiled as s***. Yes, I hated the thing once it started trying to eat us. I get it. But you didn’t even tell me that you gave the thing away”.
“Would you have tried to stop me?”
Chloe rubbed her forehead and looked at the floor.
“Yeah, Laura, I would definitely have wanted to stop you. God knows the only thing we need to make our lives better is a killer pug”.
It never actually tried to kill them. Strange as it sounded, the dog did love them. It just wanted to eat them as well. It wanted you to pet it—but it wanted to eat your hand after. It wanted to cuddle up on your lap while you read—it just couldn’t understand the problem with taking a chunk out of your thigh while it snuggled you.
It always went after Chloe because Chloe bought the dog. She gave it the most attention.
Stupid spoiled pug.
They were silent.
Laura sat, watching the dryer soup spin like an epileptic ballroom dancer and remembered the dog. She never much liked it; strutting around the apartment like a displaced member of the Royal Family. She wasn’t even at home when it got taken away; she called from work and told Animal Control to just take it. She told them to just take the damn thing and to be careful; it liked people a little too much.
The last time she actually saw it was the morning before she called, when it sunk its spoiled pug teeth into Chloe’s hand. She was only trying to pet it. Chloe screamed and Laura kicked it in the side of the head until it let go. Chloe, her hand gushing warm blood all over her work shirt and the cheap pine floor, only sat there and said don’t hurt it. Laura, don’t kick it too hard, it didn’t mean to; it doesn’t know any better.
Then she wrapped the torn remains of an old t-shirt around her hand and went to work serving coffee and hors d’oeuvres to rich country clubbers.
Stupid spoiled rich people.
They bought it 2 months, 2 weeks and 5 days after Laura drank cinnamon coffee and stared at sloping piles of soft, white snow at Chloe’s family cottage. Laura called animal control and got rid of the dog the same day that Chloe almost had her hand chewed off. That was 4 days ago. Chloe was still mad that the dog was gone; she still had some attachment to it, as if her love and devotion would make it stop trying to eat them and their cheap, poor clothes in their cheap, poor apartment.
Chloe had named the dog Cinnamon.
Leave it to Chloe to fall in love with something that only wanted to eat her in the end.
The tramp got up and left, still screaming into the phone, forgetting her laundry. She did that every week.
The load of tablecloths the Greek lady had put in jammed up the machine. She was now arguing with the manager in a coarse, olive-bitter accent.
“I’m sorry I gave the dog away”.
Laura bit her nails again.
“Stop that. The nails and the apology. Seriously, I don’t give a s*** about the dog. It tried to eat us. I don’t care. Just tell me s***. Talk to me, OK?”
Chloe wanted Laura to stop sulking.
Laura wanted to stop sulking.
“You’re such a woman”.
“F*** off.” Chloe smiled. “So are you.”
She took Chloe’s hand. Chloe kissed her on the cheek. They sat and watched the dryer cycle.
Outside, snow began to form in little, slushy piles on the street.