Wednesday, 18 February 2009

MULTIPLY Rita's "Riting" Challenge #9: The Laundromat


Today was Sunday, but this was no reason for not doing her washing. Pat Smith put her dirty washing together, bundled it into a large plastic bag and pushed it onto the side seat of her car. The car had also seen better days, but Pat was glad it still moved. She certainly did not have the money for a new car, especially with the baby on the way.
“So keep still” she said to her future daughter or son as it pushed against the walls of her womb with its tiny, but strong, feet. Her thoughts reflected to Joe, the father of her future offspring. She found she could scarcely remember what he looked like. When she told him he was going to be a father, he nodded and smiled and the next day when she came home from work, Joe was no longer in the three rooms they shared. Joe was gone with his complete belongings. She asked around amongst his friends down at the billiard hall. They told her that he was last seen hitching a ride from a trucker on the Northbound road.

So “Big Deal” she thought as she started he car and steered it towards the laundromat. There was a light rain falling as she pulled out her bag full of washing and made her way from the parking lot. Some of the Sunday crowd were already sitting and waiting for the revolutions of their machines to stop. She knew no-one, but the faces were just familiar. When you do the washing at the same time every week there is no reason that the others do not follow the same rhythm. There was a young lady who nearly always had a machine full of white wash, so it was on the hottest temperature to make sure it was clean. Then the young man was there. He just bundled everything in on one wash. “Obviously a bachelor” Pat thought. “No washing organisation whatever.”

Pat emptied the contents of her wash bag into the trolley and sorted it through. She decided to begin with the hottest wash. This consisted of sheets and bed covers and was the most bulky of all. As she took the sheets in her hands to push them into the machine it happened. She found herself standing in a pool of water and had a terrific stomach pain which bent her double. She could not suppress a cry. The young lady looked in her direction and brought out the comment “Oh my God your water has broken.” Then all eyes were turned towards Pat. An elderly man called in a loud voice “Is there a doctor in the place?” but there was no answer. Although Pat heard various calls and shouts, everything seemed to be so far away. She suddenly felt herself being lifted onto the seats in the Laundromat and the young lady was at her side.
“My name is Jean. Who are you?"
"I'm Pat"
"OK Pat, I am not a doctor, but a nurse in the local hospital. It looks like your baby is on its way. Just take it easy.”
Pat did not feel like taking it easy at all and had hardly any room on the Laundromat seats.
“Can someone turn on a machine and let it fill with water. Just let is heat up to make sure we have some hot water” and one of the elderly ladies in the Laundromat did the necessary. It was Mabel. She had many grandchildren and knew how important hot water was in such circumstances.
“Can I help, I am an installation worker and have my tools in my car outside” said one of the male customers. Before anything was said he was out to his car and brought he tools into the building. He started screwing on some of the other seats and loosened them from the floor. He then brought them to where Pat was laying and fitted them together with the seats she was occupying to make more room.
“So now start puffing” said the nurse and Pat did as she was told.
“Can we call your husband” asked the young man who seemed to be a bachelor.
“No” answered Pat between breathing “there is no man, just me.”
Jean the nurse tried to call the hospital for a doctor, but it was Sunday and the phones were busy; “emergencies always seem to happen on Sundays” she thought. In the meanwhile she concentrated on Pat as she could see that the baby could arrive any minute.
“Can I have some help from someone please” called Jean “perhaps someone who has experience with delivering babies?” although she was sure that this would not be the case. The elderly man was suddenly standing next to Jean. “I don’t know if I can help” he said, but my wife had six children and I am grandfather to many more, so I know how it works.” Jean was so glad to have someone with experience by her side.”
“Pat now you must push when you feel the urge – your baby is on its way.” And Pat pushed with all her strength.
“That’s fine girl” said the man, who was known as Al in the meanwhile. “Not long now, just take it as it comes.”
The young man now also came into action. He was busy on his cell phone calling his office.
“OK Jake, I have the story of the day, keep writing what I say. I am in the laundromat on King street and we have a story to bring in our paper.”
Jean heard part of this conversation and decided one thing they did not need was the newspapers at the moment, but she was too busy looking after Pat.
The newspaper man (who was known as Fred) continued his cell phone conversation. “Jake I think it would be a good idea to organise a photographer, we have a young lady who will give birth any minute now, so there is no time to lose. What do you say Jake, we have no-one available on Sunday. Then get a camera from somewhere and come down to the Laundromat yourself. This is a brand hot story and I am not letting it slip through my fingers. If I can leave my washing to itself in the machine, then you can desert our offices to join me. Do I make myself clear Jake? Ok, in five minutes. Excuse me Miss, I mean nurse, how long do we have until the birth. Do you think it will be quicker than five minutes.”
“Listen Mr. Reporter.”
“My name is Fred.”
“Fred or reporter or whatever; we are having a birth here and not a contest to see whose washing is finished first. Babies arrive when they want to and will definitely not comply with the arrival of a photographer” and Jean was getting a bit annoyed with the newspaper man called Fred.
“Nurse, I think its coming” said Al, I can see the head.
“OK Pat now press again with all your might, we are nearly there.”
By this time Pat was just glad that things were taking their course.
The door of the laundromat opened and a teenager, known as Jake, entered with the camera in his hands.
“Am I glad to see you” said Fred. “So bring over the camera and let’s get set up.”
“What’s going on?” said Jake “Is she having a baby, but I can’t stand the sight of blood”, and with that Jake fainted. Fred just managed to grab the camera before it crashed to the floor.
“Now” said Jean and Pat gave one almighty push and her baby arrived.

If someone had been looking they would have seen the tears that appeared in Al’s eyes. He had seen many babies arrive, but had never been so close to the birth.
“So, now I need the hot water from the washing machine”. The hot water was poured into the sink in the laundromat and towels were spread out on a table. The towels belonged to Mable. They had just finished drying in the tumbler. The baby was washed by Jean, wrapped in the warm towels and placed in Jeans arms.
It was then that Fred came over with the camera.
“Do you mind” he asked “Our readers would love to share the birth with you.”
Pat felt a bit overwhelmed, but knew it would be the only photo she would have of her new born baby, which was a boy, so she gladly agreed.

In the meanwhile Jean had been able to advise the hospital and an ambulance arrived to take Pat and the baby to hospital. A day later Pat and her son, Al (named after the grandfather than helped with the birth) were relaxing in the hospital, although Pat was a bit worried about paying for the medical care. She had no funds and there was no father to rely on. It was then that she got a visitor, Fred, from the newspaper. He brought her flowers and some chocolates and the newspaper with the photo of herself and baby Al on the front page. While he was visiting a nurse came into the room.
“Mrs. Smith we have a problem.”
“A problem?”
“Shall we bring the presents you have received into the room or send them to your home address.”
“Presents?” asked Pat
“I mean these” answered the nurse and outside her room the corridor was full of parcels containing baby clothes, diapers and all that a baby could need. Even a pram had been supplied from the local shop.
“Looks like our publicity worked” said Fred “Since we brought the story of your birth in the laundromat we have been overwhelmed with people wanting to help.”
And so life went on for Pat Smith in a small town somewhere in a big country. She had no financial problems any more, she was known as the lady who gave birth in a laundromat. Things were never the same on Sundays in the laundromat. The people knew each other by first name. If they met in town they would have a coffee together. Once a year on the nearest Sunday to little Al’s birthday, a visitor with a little boy would appear in the Laundromat. Pat had never forgotten the help she had been given on that day when the world seemed to be falling apart. After her visit she would invite everyone to her house for lunch. She could afford it now, especially with the money she earned from the film rights. The film was a big success for the Walt Disney studios.

Rita's "Riting" Challenge #9: The Laundromat

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