Dragon and Portal
Interview with Stephanie Pui-Mun Law
News for April
Art Supplies: Quality vs. Expense?
The Soap Dispenserby Karen S. Riggin
Nothing strange. Nothing bizarre. Soap is soap, right? Except it wasn't.
I'd stuck my quarters into the machine, turned the crank, and was engaged in a delightfully full yawn when the crank clicked, clacked, and groaned. The sound was so ear-bobbling, it broke my yawn. I coughed. I choked. I stepped backward.
Too late. What was supposed to have come out as a dog biscuit of soap, poured out almost like liquid, filling my hand instantly, then on down my arm. Of course I had the good sense to step back, but it was too late then.
I would have cried out, if there'd been anyone around to help me, but the Laundromat was empty. Oh, machines were gurgling away. Someone had been there -- not too much earlier, either. He or she had started several loads...
Slush, churtle. Slush, churtle. Bang, bang, bang.
"Should have balanced your load better," I might have said, if that person had been standing near me. "You've got a walking washer," I'd have teased if he had been someone I'd felt safe teasing, but, like I said, the place was empty. Only me with my hand swallowed in dry soap crystals and the four swishing, churgling washers, one of which was now shimmying about the floor like an old lady's weight belt.
Meanwhile, dry detergent was still poring out of the soap dispenser, piling up on the floor like it was one of those African ant hills or the newest version of a vacuum -- one shaped like an upside ice cream cone.
Of course I'd backed away and I'd dumped what was in my hand. But did that do me any good? Not a lick.
My poor hand, the one that had been outstretched and full of detergent had suddenly started turning blue and green -- electric blue and green -- neon, I think you'd call it -- like colored Christmas lights, blinking on and off. And the glow was spreading. I don't mean that detergent was spreading. It was still forming perfectly shaped cone heads on the floor. And my foot was no longer underneath it. But... Yes, my foot was blinking on and off, too, and shimmering like an alien space ship.
The radiance was spreading, up to my knees, up to my elbow. No, my thighs, my shoulders -- all over me. Was my nose blinking off and on? I wanted to ask someone. I wanted to ask a lot of things, but like I said, the place was deserted. A Laundromat deserted on a Saturday afternoon? That's when it hit me. Something was really, really wrong. It wasn't just that I was turning into a neon light fixture -- everyone was missing!
Now, up that moment, I'd been calm. I hadn't yelled out. I hadn't whimpered. I hadn't even wet my pants, although the urgency to do so was building up its own tension. But I was a resourceful kind of person -- cool and logical. Either I must be asleep or I was only imagining all this -- or so I kept saying until I stopped blinking.
I was still blue and green. My arms and the rest of me were all lit up and blue or green. Just not flashing on and on. I blinked a couple of times -- my eyes, not my skin. I twisted my legs a little tighter and wondered if I ought to forget about all the weirdness and just go find a bathroom. Like, I said. I was cool as Popsicle... at least, until I turned around and headed for the door.
At least, I thought I was heading for the door. Except there wasn't any door. Where the door had been there was only a window. As I gazed through its rather oblong and bulbed glass, I happened to notice there were fish swimming by. Now, not only is that unusual for a Laundromat, especially one not located on a ship, but this particular Laundromat, the one called Jerry's Soap and Suds, the one just around the corner from Ted's Tacos and Greenfield Apartments where I lived, had never had fish swimming anywhere near it.
Just then an octopus swam by, looked in at me, and knocked at the window. I'm not sure if it was waving or just letting its tentacle flow with the current. Except that there shouldn't have been a current. We hadn't had any rain for months, and it was a good forty miles to the ocean.
I was hopping up and down, needing a bathroom with an urgency that made the before seem no more than a faint query. I shot a look at the other walls of the room. To my left was another window, one facing out into the darkness of outer space. As I watched a small rock sped by with a cockroach sitting on top.
I shook my head, wondering if I were going mad. I turned to look behind me. A door! I rushed over, opened it, and went in. A sign on my right informed me that the way to Crescent Falls was a brisk 45 minute walk. I didn't mind. Redwood trees soared skyward. Pine scent pinged my nose. Squirrels chattered. It seemed the perfect place to take care of my problem.
Later, as the back of my legs started cramped from my climb, I began to wonder what would happen to my dirty clothes -- all those underwear and smelly socks!
But did I mention there weren't any doors on this side? But the air was fresh. The sun warm, and I no longer a glowed like a Christmas ornament.
I suppose, back at Jerry's Soap and Suds there's still detergent forming huge cone mountains. I wonder if someone else has started turning blue and green and blinking like a neon road sign. Maybe I'll soon have company.
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