Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dismembered fish…

Went to pick up a bag of laundry tonight after class. The "boss," whom I gather is the elder brother of the woman I took to be the boss when I dropped off my first bag of laundry there a few weeks ago, stood up from his white, plastic lawn chair when I pulled in on my scooter. He dragged from his cigarette and gazed at me with one eye, as I asked, "You remember me?" He nodded, dragged again, and ambled over to the shelves to retrieve my bag. It was only one bag, and smaller than I recalled. "Just one bag?" I asked. He gazed with one eye and nodded a few times. We shifted over to my scooter for the transaction, but when I asked if he could break a thousand, he dragged on his cigarette and said, "Just pay when you come next time." I paused, partially giving face, partially calculating the odds of me returning: they were good. I nodded and he said, "Just pay next time." I thanked him and asked, "You guys close about 9:30, right?" He glanced over at the bowl on the gas burner, in which a dismembered fish sat in shallow soup. Or maybe he was glancing over at the fifth of hard, clear liquor on the washing machine. "Depends if I'm drunk or not. If I'm drunk by 8:30, we'll close then!" He laughed and dragged on his cigarette. His skin was orange like a Halloween pumpkin in the fluorescent light. I chuckled and nodded, limply hoisting my curiously small bag of laundry. "If not," he went on, "about 9:30," which is the time his sister, more reasonable, as all women are compared to alcoholic brothers, had told me. "That speed?" I ventured. He broke into a fit of smoky cackles. "That standard?" I ventured again. He laughed and nodded at me with his stump of a cigarette. He sat down as I swung my leg over the seat of my scooter to be on my way. I waved at him from the throttle of my scooter, but he didn't notice me. He was glancing at the dismembered fish in the bowl. Or maybe at the unfinished bottle of clear, hard liquor on the washing machine beside him.

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