Centaurs in the Laundromat ~ fiction by Lynn Mundell

It’s midnight at the Double Bubble and I’ve finally made it to the spin cycle. Now that the eleven loads are clean, they are transformed from a monumental failure in hygiene to an accomplishment. In a corner the attendant is leaning against a counter reading a waterlogged copy of Dante’s Inferno while a fly bothers his chestnut rump and legs. I’d heard the centaur was close to retirement. Earlier he’d emptied his leather saddlebag of T-shirts and blankets into the three remaining washers, horseshoes clattering against the tile floor. I watch my clothes chase each other’s tails and think I’m probably too old to wear zebra print bras, while from a speaker The Shirelles sing about still loving me tomorrow. Hey, I say to the centaur. Without looking up, he says, Hay is for horses. I’d heard he was aloof. I try again. So, they’re putting you out to pasture soon. Now he does look at me, dark eyes sparkling in anger, mane of greying hair bristling, one earlobe heavy with a dull gold hoop, and I remember he’s also been described as aggressive. Sorry, poor choice of words, I say, and he returns to his reading. Just us, the machines, two slow clocks, and walls of glass. Outside the darkness stares in. I’ve never been good with men or horses. Too forward with one; too backward with the other. Is it too late? One by one, the washers all quit. Quiet like an audience before a performance begins. The centaur has become lost in the story. I lift armfuls of our damp laundry—my camisoles and leg warmers; his knit vests and bandanas—and amble to the dryers, stuffing them full and then feeding each from a bag of old silver coins. The buckles from the horse blankets ping musically. When “Unchained Melody” starts, I hum along, remembering, remembering. Now the centaur is beside me, humming too. He smells of Old Spice and barn. He lifts my arms up round his neck, where my batwing fat sways just a bit. And then his own weathered limbs tighten around my thickening middle. Slowly we manage an old school box step with our eight legs. Outside the night has lost interest in us and is moving on to the future, while within the bright laundromat our closest intimates dance and buck.

Lynn Mundell’s writing has been published most recently in
7×7 LA and South Florida Poetry Journal, with more forthcoming
in The Citron Review and X-R-A-Y. Lynn is co-editor of 100 Word
and its anthology. Her fiction chapbook Let Our Bodies Be
Returned to Us
was published by Yemassee at the University of
South Carolina this year.