Archive for April 18th, 2007

shades of Hemingway / Part 6, midnight in the garden of a good upheaval

April 18, 2007

I lurched up in bed like I had been lying on a compressed spring that just went… THWONG!  Annette had hurled vomit next to me and she was sitting there crying.  I did my best girly scream and leaped up on a nearby chair expecting to see her head start spinning.  I was convinced the ghost of Enriquetta Marrero had taken possession of my sweetie.

But after a moment I realized it must of been the combination of food poisoning with a bad mix of alcohol because she bolted to the bathroom and rushed the door.  I was feeling a bit sleep deprived though I did my best to console her amidst sounds of retching and other unpleasantness. Through her sobs she fretted about the mess she had made which I assured her I would take care of. 

I looked at the clock, it was past midnight.  For a moment I was stuck on what to do.  I stripped the bed down to the bottom sheet and searched our closet for more linen.  Fortunately most of the rehashed bits of seafood and vodka had pooled on the blanket. But Annette would not be comforted with simply wadding it up and tossing it in a corner, she insisted we had to clean it and by saying “we” she meant me and she meant right away.  I tried to reason that we could set the offending blanket outside our door and the maid would get a little surprise in the morning but Annette wouldn’t hear of it.  I offered to leave the maid a big tip (a couple of bucks) for her trouble but Annette couldn’t handle the thought of being embarrassed having to face the maid sometime somewhere in this life knowing what she did.  My only choice was to agree to find a laundromat and wash it… tonight.  All this cheerful banter was carried on through the bathroom door…

Our bed and breakfast hosts have the foresight of permitting their guests access to the front door of our temporary home via a personal key which allows us to come and go at will.  After making a phone call to the local cab company I dressed and quietly slipped down the stairs to the veranda in order to sit outside and wait.  Before too long a late model pink cab pulled up and the driver said there was a laundromat a few blocks down Fleming St. that was open all night.

M&M Laundry is at 1026 White St. and is one of the most unique places I have ever seen.  Not only can you wash your clothes but there is Sandy’s, a Cuban restaurant, tucked inside as well.  By the time my colorful driver and our pink carriage arrived the restaurant was closed and the laundromat abandoned.  I gave the cabby a generous tip (a couple of bucks) and made the pilgrimage from the street to the open air facility with the blanket thrown over my shoulder like a knapsack. 

I found a machine that I hoped could keep a secret, placed the disheartening comforter in the black hole and set the water temperature.  The vending machine that sells detergent was a one armed bandit that stole two of my quarters but finally I inserted the soap and $2.00 (!) in the slot which jump started the white porcelain turbo washer.  Satisfied that the soap and water would mesh properly after staring at the rising level for what seemed an eternity I closed the lid.  I found a steel folding chair, picked up a magazine featuring Britney Spears and after a gigantic yawn sat down pretending to be interested.  

There is something about being seen at the laundromat that parallels the humiliation of being caught buying toilet paper at the supermarket.  Everybody needs tissue and clean clothes but the fact that you are publicly declaring your grime is disconcerting for most people.  I proudly sat in the back corner and listened to the gush… gush… gush agitation of my modern marvel.  It wasn’t long before I lulled myself into a silent sentry, guarding against the forces of dirt and evil with the scent of mountain freshness.

I don’t know why a wash machine has to bump and stomp like an angry schoolmarm when it is caught off balance but this one clamored for my attention as no disruptive middle school hooligan could.  I quickly moved to calm the savage beast by opening the lid then looked inside.  Instead of seeing my puke riddled bedding there were about a dozen severed heads looking up at me gurgling their protests with reflective soap bubbles.  

A loud series of thunks caused me to turn and face the clothes dryers as each door had flown open.  Out climbed bleach white skeletons with top hats and canes.  They linked their arms together in vaudeville style and began a chorus of “dem bones…  dem bones…  dem DRY bones”.  Laundry carts pulled back on their rear wheels and drag raced between the rows of washing machines as the one armed bandit soap vending machine paid off in boxes of detergent and fabric softener.  Just as I was thinking this was all quite extraordinary I heard the unmistakable whistle of a mortar round which prompted me to duck under a folding table for cover.   

The ensuing explosion flared out from the street and tore the flimsy metal roof off the laundromat.  Darkness was accompanied by the sound of machine gun fire.  A couple of infantrymen with fixed bayonets appeared on either side of me and we tipped the table over on its side to form a protective barrier.  More mortar rounds whistled down and exploded outside the M&M Laundry perimeter and I could hear other soldiers shouting orders and returning fire.  I started picking up the detergent and fabric softener boxes that were strewn across the floor then did my best John Wayne imitation by pitching them like hand grenades towards the street.  The men that were with me began firing with their long rifles.  The lights had gone out.  Grotesque shadows kaleidoscoped across the walls as more flashes from mortar rounds, gun muzzles and exploding soap boxes erupted during the fierce fighting. 

One of my companions was valiantly preparing to “charge” when a ricocheting bullet whined past my ear and caught him in the shoulder.  His buddy fired a flare gun, it’s miniature roman rocket streaked up and ignited the sky as he cried out for a medic.  Through the shadows of mangled, smoldering carnage contained within the laundromat walls I could see a man whose silhouette was outlined in neon making his way towards us.  Bullets whizzed passed as he dodged in and out carrying a satchel tied tightly with a woman’s brassiere.  He vaulted over the table and began administering to our comrade in arms.  I eyed the red cross arm band then scanned the young man’s face.  It was Ring Lardner, Jr.  He looked at me and grinned.

 “War is Hell.” he said, trying to sound cavalier.

I grabbed a pair of men’s jockey shorts and attempted to fix them on the wounded soldier’s bayonet in order to offer our surrender.

“We must give up!” I started waving my fruit o’ the loom flag of truce.  “There is nothing left to do but compromise!”

“Wait!  Don’t do it!” Ring pulled the bayoneted rifle out of my hands then socked me in the jaw, knocking me off of my feet.  He bent down, took hold of my shoulders and began to shake me.  “You can’t compromise now!  You’re a better man than that!  Wake up!  Wake up!”