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  • Writer's pictureBulb Culture Collective

Bounce by Kerry Langan

Well, what could I do? The guy's ears were so elegant, as small as a girl's and

close to his head. Plus, when he pulled his clothes out of the dryer, he just crammed them

into his plastic tub. A no fuss, no muss kind of guy. I looked at his laundry long enough

to learn he was a boxers man, no tighty whiteys in the tub. Worried he'd catch me

staring, I dropped quarters into the washer in front of me and listened to the hushed sound

of the hot water filling the machine. When the washer started to rumble, I leaned against

it and felt the warm, rolling vibrations against my body. The laundromat can be a sensual

experience if you let it.

Me and the ear guy were the only two people in the laundromat, but he was

getting ready to leave. He slipped on a short dark jacket and fished in his pockets for his

keys. He walked towards me and again I marveled at his elegant ears. His dark hair was

cut around them, kind of 50's style. Oh, man, when was the last time you saw a guy with

hair combed back from his forehead like that? With me, physical attraction usually comes

slowly, I have to get to know someone, but this guy was making me take nervous,

making me take shallow breaths. Coming toward me, quick, bold strides, he dropped his

plastic tub down with a thud on a folding table and announced, "You have the most

beautiful laundry in the world.."

I blurted, "Yeah?" My voice sounded hopeful, like it really mattered to me that

the wet soapy clothes slapping up against the window of the washer lived up to his

words.

"Sure! Look at those colors." One end of his lip went up higher than the other

when he spoke. "Kiwis and lemons flying around together." He angled his head to get a

better look at my t-shirts. I looked at his nose; it was shaped like a bird in flight, straight

and long with wings spreading back over the nostrils. Really nice. Spare me the men with

the little noses; a guy should have a schnoz.

Then he said, "And there's oranges and limes in there. Hell, now I'm craving a

fuckin' fruit salad!" He laughed and shook his head like he couldn’t help being impressed,

and said again, "The most beautiful laundry in the whole world."

"And you have very nice ears," I said before I could stop myself. You idiot! my

mind screamed. But that's when he straightened his body and his eyes, the chocolate

irises so round and deep, locked with mine. He leaned forward and kissed me hard,

chewing my lips as I let my hands run over his ear lobes, my fingers following the maze

of coiled skin inside his ears. A few minutes later, he ripped the "Out of order" sign off

one of the washers and put it on the industrial size dryer way in the back of the place.

We crawled in and curved ourselves into the ring of the dryer. It was more comfortable

than you might think. Before he slid his thick warm tongue into the crevices of my own

ear, he told me his name was Vince. "Kate," I think I whispered, but it's hard to hear

when you've got a tongue in your ear.

No, we didn't have sex in the machine but we made out until it was time to switch

my t-shirts from the washer to the dryer. When I threw a sheet of Bounce into the dryer,

Vince asked, "What's that?"

"Bounce."

"Bounce?"

He had to be kidding, but when I looked at him, his eyebrows were raised in

puzzled arches. "You know, to get rid of static cling," I said.

Taking the box of Bounce from me, he said, "You can do something about that?"

He squinted to read the small print on the back of the box. "Well, beat that."

I fought the mental image of his boxers clinging to his thighs with static cling.

Maybe I'd never use Bounce again.

He wrote down my phone number before he left, but he never called. I wondered

if it would be awkward if I ran into him again at the laundromat. Maybe I'd find him in

the dryer with another woman, someone whose laundry reminded him of a chef salad. I

need another guy to come along and distract me, but the only other men I've spotted in

the laundromat have ugly ears.

Funny. I can get my clothes clean with a little detergent and water, but I can't

scrub Vince from my soul. Yeah, I feel foolish, but all these months later, I still get a

sexy shiver when I enter the laundromat, a little stab of sorrow when I rip off a sheet of

Bounce and throw it into the dryer. I know so little about Vince, but he did like clean

clothes, and I've liked men for less.


Originally published by Lavanderia: A Mixed Load of Women, Wash and Word


Kerry Langan has published three collections of short stories, My Name Is Your Name & Other Stories, the most recent. Her fiction has appeared in more than 50 literary magazines published in the U.S., the U.K. and Asia, including The Saturday Evening Post, StoryQuarterly, West Branch, Cimarron Review, Other Voices, The Seattle Review, Literary Mama, Rosebud, Blue Mountain Review, JMWW, Reflex Fiction, Fictive Dream, The Fictional Café and others. Her stories have been anthologized in XX Eccentric: Stories About the Eccentricities of Women and in Solace in So Many Words. She was a recently featured author on the podcast, Short Story Today. Her nonfiction has appeared in Working Mother and Shifting Balance Sheets: Women’s Stories of Naturalized Citizenship & Cultural Attachment.

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