Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Writing Prompt: Hello There

Writing prompt for 9/13/14

It’s great you found that washer/drier set for so cheap on Craigslist. You felt like a hero when you spent only 50 bucks for the set that goes for almost 2K new. You didn’t mind picking them up in the middle of a field or that the seller seemed a bit twitchy. Hooked up, ready to go, you did your load of wash, then threw them in the drier. Then the chimer chimed and you opened the drier.

“Hello there,” says a voice inside the drier.

“Hello there.”

“Um.” Mark stared at the dryer. A tube sock lolled out of the opening like a tongue. A tongue with a dryer sheet stuck to the end of it.

“I did say hello,” the voice said.

“Huh-hello,” Mark said. “Um, I’ll be right back.”

“Take your time, take your time,” the voice said as Mark backed out of the laundry room. “I can see you’ve got your hands full.”

Mark backed into the kitchen, dropped the armload of laundry onto the table, then reached over and closed the laundry room door.

The dryer hummed, idly, stopping only for a moment when Mark opened the door a crack and peeked through.

“Would you prefer I didn’t talk?” the dryer said. “Or that I talked like this?” The voice switched from a rather neutral male voice to the sultry voice of a woman dripping molasses from her mouth.

“And if you want” – the dryer had gone back to its neutral voice – “I could sing a song. It’ll sound familiar:

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do.
I’m half-crazy, all for the love of you . . .

The dryer went on, with Mark staring through the cracked-open door. But midway through the second verse, it got a little tetchy.

“You know, it’s not easy to sing with you staring at me like that,” the dryer said. “Are you always this rude?”

“Um. Sorry,” Mark said. He closed the door.

The dryer went back to singing. Then shouted: “You do know you left some dry clothing here, right? Five socks and seven pairs of underwear, two hand towels, and a jock strap? Not that I mind – you shoved them all wet into me a little while ago. Just doing my job. But you know the old joke. I don’t want to be held responsible for losing any of your socks. Not like last time.”

Mark opened the door a crack again.

“Left me in a field, he did. And I did my work, just like the others! Never ate a single sock. And I’m the one who gets tossed out! Oh, that toaster, it never said a word but always – always – burned his toast. And I want to strike up a casual conversation after three months’ service, and he abandons me in a field and sells me to, well – pardon the expression – another thoughtless ape-man. Who is clearly NOT a conversationalist.”

“Now wait a minute,” Mark said, pushing the door open and stomping up to the garrulous appliance. But the sock looked so much like a tongue, Mark’s courage quailed.

“Oh, take the sock!” the dryer cried. “What am I going to do? Eat you? All I do is dry clothes. All I ask is that you clean the lint trap. And, well, listen to a little Shakespeare.”


“Or Poe. You could say I’m in a Poe phase right now. He’s such a delight:

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived who you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me . . .

He couldn’t be sure, but for a moment Mark thought the washing machine blushed.

“Yeah,” Mark said. “My fifth grade teacher read that one to us. Over and over.”

“You know, someone used to bring a single rose to his grave in Baltimore. Year after year. Up until a few  years ago. He or she must have died. And no one, as of yet, has taken up the tradition. Shame, really.”

“You’re a dryer,” Mark said.

“Smart appliance,” the dryer sniffed. “Nothing in my manual says I can’t enjoy a whim or fancy between loads. Or even during. You have good wi-fi here, by the way. Can you take the sock now, please?”

Mark reached out for the sock.

“It’s a little ticklish.”

Mark froze.

The dryer sighed. “No teeth. No digestive tract. Just a drum, some belts, and that natural gas heating element. Don’t let your pareidolia get the best of you. Just take the sock.”

Mark jerked the sock out of the dryer’s mouth.

“Ah. Much better. But you’d better get the rest of it. I neglected to mention you’ve got a white shirt here. Get it hung up quickly, and you won’t have to iron it.”

“I’ll be right back,” Mark said. He returned with a set of tongs from the fireplace.

“Really,” the dryer said.

Mark retrieved the rest of his clothing.

“You’ll have to wash it again. You didn’t clean the soot off your tongs.”

Mark grabbed his laundry and fled.

“Simple boy,” the dryer said. “Just like the other.”

“Will he be . . . will he be our friend?” the washer asked.

Lights on the dryer’s panel glowed amber. “Only if you don’t go off-balance. I just lose it when you’ve got an unbalanced load. And your Streisand? It still needs work.”

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