The People Wash by D. K. Christi, Copyright 2010 - Submission for the scandalously short story contest
On a typical, hot, humid Florida day, I hurried home from work and changed into my two-piece, black swimsuit and red cover-up, filled my bike’s tires with air, and started a two-hour bike ride. The temperature was pushing toward 100 degrees, and I planned to stop at the neighborhood pool on my way home. Cumulus clouds rose higher and wilder, threatening rain at the least and thunderstorms at the worst; so I thought I was prepared.
Sections of the road were under repair where once a wonderful sidewalk existed. Orange cones were all that separated me from traffic as twilight approached. Horns beeped at me as I maneuvered around broken pieces of pavement, sand and gravel, wishing I had previewed the last few miles before my ride.
Two extra, dangerous hours on the broken pavement allowed darkness to fall before I rolled into my garage. My car needed fuel. Instead of riding to the pool, I grabbed my purse and slid into the driver’s seat, driving to the gas station/car wash. The evening wasn’t much cooler, just no sun. My lightweight biking shoes, the ones with little nubby things that grab the pedals to make riding easier, are not designed for walking.
I filled the gas tank, pulled the receipt with the car wash code and drove down the narrow paved strip toward the car wash. I entered the code for the super wash that included an underbody wash. Earlier that day I struck a dead animal, and the smell lingered. In fact, my garage was inundated with the awful smell. The wash should eliminate the cause. As I slowly drove toward the entrance, I saw plastic bags on the floor in the middle of the car wash. I didn’t want to drive my car over them. I was not particularly keen on picking them up either. I put my car in park, stepped out and walked through the car wash door toward the bags to remove them.
Whoosh! A strong blast of water forced my swimsuit cover-up over my head, soaking me thoroughly in spite of my attempted run backwards. I crossed through the eye that started the underbody wash! The roaring car wash whirred and spun. I stood there a few seconds in dripping shock and filth, knowing the water was recycled. The monster continued its incessant washing of empty space. Fortunately, I had spread a towel on the seat of my car, planning to swim after the car wash and gas. The plastic bags remained in the middle of the floor.
I no longer had a car wash available as it continued washing air. My next step was to gingerly back my car out of the narrow, curving pathway with a curb on both sides and see if the store clerk could assist me. After some tricky backing, I parked next to the store and went inside, clothes still dripping, feeling a chill in spite of the heat.
“I need a new car wash. I need that broom you are pushing to remove plastic bags from the middle of the car wash.” The clerk was pretending to sweep the floor.
“I’m the only one here, and I can’t let you have my broom,” the clerk argued at first.
One look at my angry face with wet hair plastered to my head and soaked clothing must have been sufficient for the clerk to change her mind. She gave me the broom without further questions and rang up a new car wash code that she handed gingerly toward me as though I was a wild animal.
This time, I planned the approach to collect the plastic bags with my new weapon by entering the exit to the wash, certainly no electric eye. I intended to complete my task. I charged into the car wash with my broom, a vision to behold as my feet took me on a ride to forget. The plastic bumps on my bike shoes hit the slick from all the soap and oil and gunk from the previous departing cars; my body slid like a batter sliding into home base toward the drain, wiping up the black and gooey slime with my floundering arms and legs and soaked swimsuit and cover-up. I slid to a stop at the grate. The shoes took me down so gracefully that I did not even crack my skull or have a moment to break anything attempting to stop my fall. I crawled across the floor on my scraped hands and knees and pulled myself up by the brushes. With slime from one end to the other, red blood droplets oozing from my knee and elbow, I used the brushes for support and continued toward the offending plastic bags. I scooped them up with the broom and hurled them into the trash barrel.
A few feathers stuck to the goo would finish the picture. I returned the broom to a file clerk whose facial expression was a mixture of terror and awe. She disappeared for a moment and returned with some paper towels for me to take a pass at the mess. I wiped some with little success. With what little dignity I could muster, I left the store, climbed into my car, drove to the car wash entrance, put in my new code and endured the never-ending super car wash, including blow dry. I heard the underbody wash roaring below as the dirt dried on my skin.
Home was fortunately quite close. I drove into my garage, closed the door, stripped off my clothing and shoes, dropped them at the laundry just inside the house door from the garage, and tiptoed directly to the shower. I made the mistake of catching a glimpse of my filthy, naked bruised and bleeding body as I passed by the mirror, tears of frustration making a path down my dirty cheeks framed in soaked tendrils of hair plastered to my head. At least I wore a swimsuit!
Causes DK Christi Supports