Another month, another 500 word (or fewer) story. This time it was a visual prompt, with an image of a laundromat.
To be honest, it isn’t my strongest writing and I nearly didn’t post it up. But accountability is important, and this is as much my record of accountability as it is a platform to get it visible to the outside world.
RUMBLE RUMBLE. THUNK THUNK.
The full line of six budget-bought washers seemed to amplify the silence between the child and the woman.
“You really shouldn’t stick around,” the child repeated.
“What makes you say that?”
He gulped, the woman’s tone surprisingly sharp.
“Not safe ‘round here at night. That’s what Mum says.”
“Huh. What are you doing out then?”
He shrugged. “Nothin’ else to do. We’re across the street, locals ya know? No-one would do nuffin to us. We’re known.”
No reply came. The woman just wrapped her arms around herself, gripping the sleeves of a too-big t-shirt as she peered out past the window’s security bars, a faint siren wailing in the distance.
“You alright, miss?”
“Alright? Hah! Yeah, I’m fine.”
He watched as she chewed a nail, still looking out the window.
“Miss. . .you prob’ly should get home. Can’t your washing wait til morning?”
She peered at him for a moment.
“Don’t really have a home to go to.”
“No home? How come?”
The woman sighed “Just. . .it’s complicated. It was a messy breakup. Got the clothes I was wearing, got the car, and got out.”
“And he wouldn’t let you back for a night?”
“Hah! Not even if he could. Jacob was a special kind of asshole.”
“Sorry.” He didn’t know what to say. This was a bit beyond him. He’d just seen a stranger in the laundromat from his room, and curiosity had gotten the better of him. Lit up in the fluorescent lighting, big white shirt and all – for a moment, he’d wondered if she was some kind of angel.
“Don’t stress kid, he’s not around anymore.”
“Then why can’t you go back?”
RUMBLE RUMBLE THUNK.
She sighed again, grabbing a jacket off a worn red couch near the exit.
“It’d be weird. Already cut away that part of my life, know what I mean?”
She cast a sideways look at him. “Nah, too young. Hopefully you don’t get it for a while.”
“Still, might want to get somewhere soon. Those sirens are getting louder.”
“You think they’re coming here?”
“Nah, they’re probably headin’ to Kess’s place on the corner. Runs somethin’ outta there, an’ the cops drop by every now and then to try and get him. Mum won’t tell me what for though.”
“Your mum sounds like a smart one,” the woman replied. He watched as she strode out the door before the roar of an engine signalled her departure.
RUMBLE THUNK RUMBLE THUNK.
The boy turned to the machines. Weird, she’d taken off without her washing!
RUMBLE RUMBLE THUNK THUNK.
How did she have so much anyway?
Curious, the child peered into one of the washers.
As the police entered, they found a boy focused on the contents of a machine, seemingly unresponsive to their commands. Pulling him away, he just continued to stare, the lifeless, spinning eyes of Jacob staring back at him.
RUMBLE RUMBLE. THUNK THUNK.