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The International Writers Magazine: How Writers Earn a Living

Lament (of the laundryman)
• Oswaldo Jimenez
Some writers are born with perfect pitch. Their words, sentences, paragraphs; like sea shells, follow a sustained symmetrical spiral, sprung from some deep and effervescent spring in whose eternal waters the universe ebbs and flows. They spin their wondrous web of words like spiders, naturally, seamlessly; inching along, bending at every curve, following an inner star-chart that guides them to the golden mean.

Not I.

My words grow, not unlike weeds, hungry to choke some impossible need to break through and sprout, regardless of tempered or untempered weather, to often blush unseen, perchance to be plucked by the weary hand of some meticulous gardener.

To sample my intonations, I give you this tiny tributary tale:

There is nothing like the Zen of doing laundry on Friday night at one o’clock in the morning. It’s half-past the hour, except for the hissing pipes and buzzing neon lights along the hallways, the building is quiet. The ding from the elevator’s bell proclaims my arrival, it punctures the silence, its echo follows me down the narrow corridor that leads to the laundry room in the basement where, bolted down to the ground like one-arm-bandits, the industrial-size washers and dryers await my arrival.

I love the peace and solitude of the cavernous laundry room. The place is deserted. Its lugubrious atmosphere penetrates the sense and is liable to make the most ebullient heart deflate and send it into desperate throes of madness. But, there is a method to MY madness. Yes sir. I enjoy having the place all to myself, but what’s most alluring about half-past midnight in the bowels of the basement laundromat, is the possibility of loot! Ooh yeah! I “clean up” on Friday nights!

People are careless when they do their laundry. There’s no telling what they’ll leave behind. Most tenants despise doing the laundry, particularly the young ones. They rush to get it over with so they can hit the town. In this mad-dash to rid themselves of this horrid chore; with its dreary sights, irritating sounds and raw smells, they get sloppy. They fail to remember what their mamas scolded them to do a long time ago: to check all pockets in their blouses, trousers, for any items left inside. Nope, these young ones rush around the place and get their undies done so they can go get lucky!

I’m the lucky one. Ooh yeah! That’s right!

There’s been sweet times when I have found (balled up inside the lint trap) tens and twenties, even Franklins! Ha! Take that young punks! You see, dollar bills are made with the finest cotton and linen, and “Uncle Sam” does not skimp when it comes to printing legal tender. No sir! A hundred dollar bill could go through the spin-cycle twice-over, yet Mr. Franklin would not loose a hair! Bills come out of the dryer nice, crisp, clean, ready for spending!

Cash money is not the only loot that’s left behind. No sir. Believe you me when I tell you what I’ve found: false teeth in the dryer (which I put in the lost-and-found after carefully removing a gold tooth) eye glasses, and honest to goodness, even a real glass eye! A beauty: amethyst green Iris on alabaster.

Of course one has to be careful when gathering the stray loot. I nearly lost a finger once trying to fish-out an engagement ring from the washer’s bleaching crevice. The ring was stuck there, glittering huge! After I fetched it, and etched the $$$$ signs on the murky mirror above the dingy sink, and it stuck, I knew the thing was real! Many, many, carats, many, many “Yankee dollars!”

The thing was real diamond! But, alas, I knew, it was no legitimate wedding promise!

No sir!

Truth is, I’d seen that ring before on a woman’s finger in our building as she pranced the hallways in her lucite mules. I could imagine, and even clearly see in my mind’s eye, the little tramp trashing about her apartment: pulling sheets and mattress off her bed, figuring that’s the place where it got lost or likely fell, during the endless pirouettes and clinches with the man who gifted it to her, before he left to meet his wife and kids at the church function. She was surely in a hurry to take them sheets to the laundry, quick; too eager to clean the sin to even think of checking for the errant ring entangled in the pillow cases!


That sure was one lucky laundry-night for me. Yes sir. I felt no pity for nobody. Twenty carat ring! Ha! Ginormous! Why would anyone wanna wear it? Pay my bills, it did!

One o’clock in the morning is my magic hour. People don’t like to do laundry at one o’clock in the morning on a Friday night. I do!


You’ve witnessed how I labor on the blank page: harder than a plowman ploughing soil baked hard as bricks by an endless July.

Some writers are born with perfect pitch.

Not I.
© Oswaldo Jimenz September 2013
Oswaldo Jimenez

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Whenever mother told the story of my father’s death, she reached into her bosom and pulled out a diminutive pewter crucifix which she wore hanging from a silver chain around her neck, and rubbed it between her thumb and index finger
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