The Big Cheese

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The weathered sign of the Squeaky Clean Car Wash has seen better days. It still conveys its happy message of a smiling mouse ready to wash any car, but its lipstick red letters have become a muted pink under the layers of dried rainfall. The top-left corner is the home of bird’s nests remnants: crackled hay, mangled young twigs, plastic soda pack rings and pearl-colored balloon string. Below the sign looms the humming cave of foam, jets and machinery. A stainless steel panel guards its entrance with three tantalizing choices of “Cheese - $6, Extra Cheese - $7,” or “The Big Cheese - $9.” For the greatest of adventurers, The Big Cheese begins with an oversized red button that launches a voyage of sanitation. With a defiant push and a frantic gear switch to neutral, the car’s wheels are locked into place with the sharp cogs of the droning conveyor belt.
The vehicle becomes a mine cart, moving with a mind of its own on a slowly clicking track into the humming darkness of the cave. A preliminary rinse lightly flecks the windows with water to make the vehicle relax. The soft water beads and streams down the cool glass in a calming familiarity. Suddenly, a vibration surges the cab as the floor hoses blast the road muck from the undercarriage. The windows are blinded by an immediate snowfall of orange-white foam that oozes malevolently over the caked grime of pollen and dirt. Dripping suds carry away the brown flecks of earth to the wet cement floor while dangling blue tentacles spring to life on the car’s hood. The sharp cogs beneath the wheels jerk violently forward to allow the stringy whiskers to slap the soap from the car’s paint.
Thwap! Thwap!
For a moment the car is consumed by a barrage of beats falling in and out of sync with each other. Two giant spinning pipe cleaners whiz by the driver and passenger side windows in a hypnotic rhythm with the tentacles’ mighty swishes. Gradually, the beating subsides on the trunk’s lid.
A pause. A breath.
With vigor, the metal paneling of the car sounds like it’s being torn to pieces as a powerful vertical stream of water moves from the headlights to the driver’s door. The black rubber seals of the windows cling to one another for dear life. Outside the car, the scenery melts the view into an opaque shower door. Slowly, the stream moves to the rear windshield and dies defiantly as quickly as it came.
The jagged teeth in the floor lurch forward with great anxiety, triggering the blowers. The whine of the fan belts crescendos into a deafening roar of air designed to propel the moisture from the car’s glossy finish. Air bellows from bright yellow tubes on all sides of the car; the drops of water become thousands of diamond flecks that stream horizontally. Silver hairs of moisture split and fly in dozens of directions off of the passenger window. Shuddering, the car continues to leap forward while the gusts threaten the back door latches.
Then, silence. The teeth relinquish the wheels from their mighty jaws. The car, still in neutral, sits and drips in the looming exit sunlight. The driver’s ears ring in the void. After a deep breath, the gearshift is thrust into drive; the engine begins to purr excitedly. The cave spits out the sparkling car into the warm afternoon sun. And softly humming, it waits for another.





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