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Here’s the flash from this week:

Cleaner

Anna arrived at the Laundromat with a basket of clothes already clean, pressed and folded. If anyone had been watching her, they might have noted that she was down to only one basket now, but she didn’t keep a regular schedule, so the same people were unlikely to be there twice.

They were men’s clothes, mostly shirts. A few socks remained, and one or two pairs of pants. There was no underwear. Anna loaded them into the washer and took off her jacket. She had a tank top on underneath, an old one, with a few stray beads dangling down her front. The Laundromat was kept quite cold, to combat the constant heat from the dryers cranking and the washers rolling gallons of hot water around and around. There was florescent light, and the orange glow from the neon outside falling on the orange chairs inside. Anna didn’t bring a book or magazine. She pulled up a chair in front of the washer with her elbows on her thighs, hands stretched out a little toward the plastic, as though she were looking into a fire.

When the washer stopped, she loaded it into the dryer and dragged the chair with one hand across the linoleum to wait.

When all the laundry was dry, Anna pulled it in great hot armfuls from the machine and piled it into her lap. The shirts crushed against her, still almost steaming. In order to fold them, she had to hold each shirt at arm’s length, shaking the wrinkles out and using just her fingers to pinch and flick the shirt into place. For the last fold, the folding of the top half down to rest on the bottom half, she had to bring it back to her lap. Then she stretched forward awkwardly and put the shirt in the empty basket. She did all the clothes this way, her movements growing less awkward as the pile on her lap grew smaller. Then she put the basket in the car.

After twenty minutes of driving, Anna pulled into the parking lot of the Goodwill and stopped the car. She looked at the carton boxes outside the door and for a moment her hands trembled.

“Hush,” she said then, aloud, and opened the door, and pulled out a carton box from the backseat, and left it on the trunk of the car while she got the laundry basket out of the passenger side. She stacked the folded clothes neatly into the box, shirts and pants first, and the socks last, tucked here and there into the crevices between piles. Anna carried the box to the closed doors, set it down with the others, and took a step back. Then she removed one of the shirts from the box. It was blue flannel, soft around the collar, with lint pills at the elbows and around the buttonholes. Anna shook it out and pulled it on. Though the drive had been long enough and the air outside was cool, she imagined she could still feel the last ghost of dryer heat in the cloth, warm like breath.

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