|This week in SHOWCASE|
|The Mission by Arthur Bangs|
|High Heat by A.Q. Wagner|
|The Cat's Tale by Simon Kewin|
|Columns, Cruft, and Filler|
|Badger & Vole Review:|
|Return to Front Page, Latest Issue|
|#2 - June 21, 2013|
|#1 - June 14, 2013|
|Like us on facebook:|
|Cure your agoraphobia:|
The Feedback Loop
|Email the editors:|
feedback@this site dot com
|How to submit a story:|
READ THIS OR DIE!
|Visit the mothership:|
|Browse the archives: Working link coming Real Soon Now|
|All contents ©2013 by their respective authors, unless otherwise noted.|
|STUPEFYING STORIES is a trademark and STUPEFYING STORIES SHOWCASE, STUPEFYING STORIES MAGAZINE, STUPEFYING STORIES PRESENTS, STUPEFYING STORIES: THE LUNCHBOX, STUPEFYING STORIES: THE FLAMETHROWER, etc., etc., etc., are productions of Rampant Loon Media LLC, P.O. Box 111, Lake Elmo, MN 55042.|
|By sending email to feedback[at]stupefyingstoriesshowcase.com, you implicitly consent to having the contents of your email made public at the sole discretion of the editors, with no compensation due you for this publication and no matter how much personal embarrassment or humiliation this may cause you. So be nice, and remember: submissions go to the submissions address, not the feedback address!|
by A.Q. Wagner
I knew that friggin’ guy was trouble when he walked in here.
I mean, sometimes you can see the wheels turn behind a guy’s eyes and know he’s up to no good. That’s why I left the “We Reserve The Right To Refuse Service” sign hanging on the wall when I bought this launderette 17 years ago, in case some of them gang-bangers came in here to settle their beefs. But I’ve never had any real trouble. You’d think I’d have plenty of problems in a neighborhood like this, but really, people just want a decent place to get their clothes clean.
Sorry for getting off track. I’m still kind of rattled, as you might imagine.
The first time the guy came in here I should have thrown him out, but if I’m being honest, he didn’t look too different from the regular clientele. We get all kinds: poor single mothers, lots of immigrants—legal and otherwise. Those who are gender non-specific, as they say. Hey, it’s none of my business.
None of it matters to me as long as everybody is respectful. You’d be surprised. Saturday nights are a regular United Nations lion-laying-down-with-the-lamb kind of thing around here. You’ll have your teeny Korean foreign exchange student in a Peter Pan collar and Hello Kitty skirt sitting next to a skinny Goth boy with black eyeliner and sleeve tattoos, sitting next to a retired waitress with a beehive hairdo scraping the ceiling. Maybe the Korean gal will run out of quarters and the waitress will slip her a buck or two. It’ll bring a tear to your eye sometimes, I swear.
Right. The guy.
Never saw him before last Tuesday night. He comes in here with a duffle bag of alleged laundry, only he doesn’t put it in a washer. He goes straight to a dryer. He dumps the contents into the dryer and cranks the heat up to super high. That son of a—he sits there all night, watchin’ his stuff go around and around.
Well, sure, people watch their clothes go around in the dryer sometimes, but they aren’t really, you know, watching. They’re thinking about what they’re going to have for dinner, or who they’re going to boink tonight, or some combination of the two thoughts. But this guy—it’s like he thinks something is going to happen.
So I’m thinkin’—he’s dropped acid or something, right? But he doesn’t hurt anybody, so I leave him be. Que será, será.
That night. But then he comes back the next night, tosses his bag of dry laundry in the same machine, and watches it go around and around. Only this time he’s put in something that makes a little noise, like slippers or something. So I think, okay, if he wants to shrink his stuff and waste his money, more power to him.
Thursday he’s back with the same routine, and what sounds like jogging shoes bumping around in the dryer. Well, we’re easy around here. As long as the items aren’t bulky enough to make the door pop open, we’re good. The guy doesn’t pester anybody. He doesn’t smell. But the way he sits and stares at that door like he’s waitin’ on the second coming, I gotta tell you, that was getting on my nerves.
So then Friday comes and I think, hell. I want to see what he’s putting in my equipment, you know? So I kind of sidle up to where he’s loading, pretend I’m wiping down the machines.
First, he pulls out some plain sheets. So far, so good. Then, some raggedy towels—you know, soft, from being old and worn out. Then out comes this huge—this—skin. Like off a lizard. I swear! A really big reptile.
Don’t look at me like that, you bastard. You wanted a statement, I’m giving you a statement.
So I’m whistling and shining the bejeezus out of anything I can find when this freak pulls out a pillow-looking thing, only the way he hefts it, it must have weighed a lot more than a pillow. He leans into the dryer and settles the pillow into the sheets and towels. Then he piles on fleece blankets until the dryer barrel is pretty full, cranks up the heat, and away we go.
That night we were clankin’. The guy stood— stood in front of the machine, watching his laundry, wringing his hands. I’d had enough. I was sure he’d put a pillow full of bricks in that dryer. And I don’t know, the guy had finally creeped me out. I decided to use my right to refuse service.
“Get your stuff and get out!” I said. I started to open the dryer door but that scrawny little pecker grabbed my arm. Dang, I thought he’d break it!
No, I don’t want to press charges. I mean, you think I want to mess with—
So anyway, the crazy look in his eyes makes me stop. “If you please,” he says. “My articles are nearly finished. Give me one more day. I have vast resources at my disposal and you will be well paid for your forbearance.”
Vast resources? Well, who could pass that up?
Yeah, and now we’re finally up to today. I thought you wanted the whole story.
Today’s Saturday, and we’re busy, right? Even so, I kept a dryer open for him. He comes in with fever-shiny eyes. Nodded to me like we were colleagues on a project or something. He packs his laundry in the dryer. I stood right here, behind the counter, watching. Even from here I could see his fingers shake as he dropped the quarters in.
The equipment starts up and the load bangs and thuds so loud everybody in the place looks up. First they’re checking out the weirdo watching his laundry go around and around like he was watching Coeds Gone Wild, then they look at me to see what I’m going to do about the guy beating the hell out of my machine. They look at me, then the little man, me, then the little man. Like I was letting him foul their nest.
I started to sweat.
The damn dryer kept booming and bonging. I couldn’t let it go on any more, no matter what kind of payoff the guy had promised me. I lifted the counter, began walking toward him. “You’re going to have to stop—”
BOOM! The dryer door blasts open with a fireball, man! Smoke—smelled like Yellowstone. You know, the mud pots? The sulfur? Yeah, it still smells like that in here.
We’re all coughing and hacking, and then I see the little guy through the haze, and he’s got a damn baby dragon sitting on his arm. And he’s, like, picking bits of eggshell off the thing.
Hell yeah, I expect you to believe that. You wanted to know what happened. I’m tellin’ you exactly. What. Happened.
Well you can’t practically call me a liar to my face and expect me to not get agitated.
I don’t care if nobody else saw anything. It was real smoky and I was standing pretty close to him when the thing blew up, or hatched, or whatever it did.
The big lizard skin? Burned up in the explosion, I guess. I’ve got a few bits of eggshell I picked up off the ground, if you want to take them to your crime lab—
No, I did not have a hardboiled egg for dinner, you smart—
Yeah, I understand. You’re getting another call.
Sure, I’ll still be here, airing out the place.
Better tell your guys to start polishing their lances, if you know what I mean.
A.Q. Wagner is the flash fiction
psuedonem psudenymalias of Lisha Cauthen, whose main passion is writing YA horror novels for guys that girls like to read, too. She likes stories that veer just south of normal, and then blow up in your face. Lisha also has an unnerving obsession with iPhone apps and how writers can use them to enhance their manuscripts. Her app reviews and articles appear on blogs and places like Writing World and The SCBWI Bulletin. Visit her at http://lishacauthen.wordpress.com/ and http://lishacauthen.com/, and to see what other pies she’s stuck her finger in, and Tweet her @lishacauthen.