Chinese Laundry

“Do you have a price list” she asked

“No, no price list” she answered, the beautiful launderer’s eyes sparkled with curiosity and a snicker escaped her shy smile.

The environment was pleasant enough. Live plants in the window and comfy sofas made it feel like a corner of a neighbours living room for your laundering pleasure. Stacks of laundry piled high in plastic bags lined the back wall. By weight the laundry told the launderer how much it would cost. It was a secret in the end since 1 extra short-sleeved tee-shirt with a couple of pairs of socks and two long johns would break the bank for some in Nimato Village.

Nimato Chinese Laundry was an original from way back. It had been owned six times over by Japanese, Chinese and Philipino and Malay families for the last 25 years. A succession of immigrant families had exchanged and washed their hands of the establishment usually owning and running the joint for an average of 4 years.

Benji was watching the ceiling fan as Ricka wheeled the weeks laundry in. It was the first time they had tried this laundry mat and Ricka was grateful for the overhead fan that kept Benji transfixed and stuck to one spot while she separated the lights from the darks, Benji got down on his knees on the dirty tile floor directly below the fan. It had a hypnotic effect on him like the wipers on the bus and the large brushes at the local car wash, his focus was acute when it came to movement and spinning objects.

“Benji love, get up off the floor it’s dirty, go sit on the sofa” she told him.

He remained silent. His intensity caused Ricka to look up to the fan to see if there was something she could see that he was seeing she wanted to understand his fascination with movement. The fan spoke a low drown as it turned, until it came to a slowing pace and then to a full stop.

“Gone” uttered Benji. “Yes, all finished” replied Ricka.

Benji’s attention was caught again by the dryers with windows that swirled colours around. He pressed his face up to the glass and said:

“Ouch, oucchhh, ouwwwwy, look” he said. “Mummy, look”

Ricka was busy shoving in the darks and lights into the last available washers.

“Man it’s busy here, does everyone come to Nimato to do their laundry on Mother’s Day, holy cow” she felt tired….

The trek downtown to ‘Small Talk’ on east Cordova took it out of her most weeks. It was a 2 good connections and a skytrain away from Nimato Vil. She had gotten used to the sporadic service from Nimato to the DES.  Following through on what she knew was a good thing for Benji she packed a bag with everything each day and dropped him reluctantly. Every time she walked away from him she cried. He waved goodbye through a tiny window and she pretended to be happy and smiled at him until she couldn’t see him anymore.

Passing the usual characters on Cordova Street, Ricka walked to the bus and hopped on drying her tears. Today off to the workshop on ‘assertiveness training’, which she had little desire to learn about. It was easier being quiet as a mouse and lurking in the shadows than having to to deal with people and their demands. She thought that being assertive meant being someone who was mean and selfish. Ricka felt this one didn’t apply to her but she did it anyways reluctantly.

“Benji no love, shoes off sofa” Ricka chimed. “So-fa, sssooo-fa, sooooooo-faaaa” mimicked Benji

Benji would latch on to her s’s and would perseverate and echo back to his Mum the sounds over and over again. Ricka learned this was called echolalia, and it was one of his favorite pastimes, a constant repetition of everything spoken echoed back to his Mummy.

Ricka flopped on the comfy sofa and Benji ran towards her full tilt. They giggled together while giving each other a big hug. His cheerfulness and energy gave her a momentary lift. She stared at the TV and felt a little comatose, the weight of her tiredness was getting the better of her.

“6.00 dollar pease” said the beautiful launderer.

“I only have 4.50, can I come back with 1.50 tomorrow?” asked Ricka

“Ok, you leave 1 piece of laundry and then pay me back” she said

“Yes of course I will, I promise I will come back tomorrow before you close to pay the rest.” Ricka replied

“….and don’t forget money for soap, ok” she snapped. “Right” said Ricka

“So that is 3.50 you owe girl” she quipped

Ricka turned to go to find Benji who was glued to the dryer watching the colours swirl. He moved his hands around tracing the shape, cocking his head to one side.

“Mummy look, rainbow” he said excitedly

“Yes Benji a rainbow, how beautiful” said Ricka

“Bootifool…..” Benji copied her word.

Benji took his Mummy’s hand as they began to leave the chinese laundry, Ricka turned back to look at the beautiful launder and said:

“I will come back to pay you, I promise I won’t forget” yelled Ricka

“I know you will, you good girl” replied the beautiful launderer.


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