JUNE 2015: At the same time each morning the former innkeeper drives past our kitchen window while Rich cooks up the apple smoked bacon or sausage.
“There goes Michael,” he says.
I feel like we are living in a sitcom, a sequel to the Bob Newhart show. What this really is though is the sequel to my first novel, The Reverse Commute. I am Sophie and Rich is Ray but we are not running a B&B in the Islands. The locals fondly refer to the town we live in as The Icebox of Connecticut.
The laundry room is filled with lots of things guests leave behind. One black stiletto shoe, a black bubble ski parka, two pairs of men’s suit pants, headphones for an IPod, a black lacy bra, a leopard print umbrella, and numerous orphaned socks. The suit pants are too large. The ski parka is too eighties. The lacy bra is too small. The headphones are just right so I keep them and the umbrella and chuck the rest.
I am skiing over moguls of white sheets and towels, swiveling from washer to dryer, aware of the possibility of rolling my ankles. The back door is open to a cool morning breeze which carries the hymns of baritones singing in the church across the street. As I fold towels and stack them in neat piles on top of the dryer the sound of voices raised in song is something like a meditation.
Rich tosses a soft red blanket onto the dirty pile of white sheets on the floor. It looks like a deer hunter’s fresh kill on newly fallen snow.
“Why are we washing that?”
“You know the couple in the Lincoln room? The wife was a babe? They didn’t sleep under the covers. They spread the throw over the comforter and slept on top of it.”
“How do you know that?”
“The bed was still made and there are some stains on the throw. I think they got some action last night.”
Eeeeww. I forgot about having to deal with that. Words that come to mind are fecal matter, shit stains, menstrual flow, pus, vaginal discharge, cum, jizz, urine.
I don’t look too close, just aim the Shout gun at the area, drenching it with stain remover. Almost everything comes out in the wash although the rag pile grows.
We provide two dark brown facecloths in each room along with packets of makeup remover and a note to our guests to please not use the white towels for removing makeup. Most people follow directions, some do not. Shout doesn’t always get the makeup off. There are a large amount of towels in the rag pile that are victims of foundation, bronzers, blush, and lipstick. If you have any cleaning tips, please send them my way.
We fold the laundry, still struggling with the sheet sizes because not all sheets are labeled. Former innkeepers have used an indelible marker to write a K or a Q on the washing instructions tag but the label is not always correct. We have learned to measure by wing span. Rich is a King. I am a Full. We have one full bed but we have several full sheets so we also use them on the two twins because the twins need College Xtra Long and we only have regular size twin sheets. Nothing is simple here at the Inn.
I am a Chinese washerwoman doing fourteen loads a day on a busy weekend. I find myself Googling Chinese laundries and come across a blog that tells the story of the history of laundry B.C., Before Chinese. When I tell the owner we do over thirty loads on a full house weekend, what with the cloth napkins and bathrobes along with the sheets and the towels, he replies, “That’s not true.” He says that a lot.
Despite Dr. Rich’s orders to rest my ankles, I help make beds. One of the rooms needs a new pillow.
“Check the matelasse closet,” I tell him.
“The matelasse closet. Those bedspreads I thought were mattress covers? It’s quilted bedding, all one color but the quilting gives the spread a raised design.”
An image pops into my head. I see Rich behind the podium on Jeopardy. I share out loud my wandering thoughts.
“You’re playing against two other guys, and you answer a question about bedspreads. ‘What is matelasse, Alex?’ The other two guys look over thinking, who the hell is this guy?”
Rich picks right up on my train of thought. “Yeah, then I say, I’ll take Victorian bedding for one thousand, Alex.”
“All across America guys are sitting in their recliners watching Jeopardy and saying who the fuck is this guy?”
“Alex says, ‘an embroidered round cloth found on bedside tables.’ I hit my buzzer first and answer, ‘What is a doily, Alex?’”
Days later if I think about this conversation, hysterical laughter is guaranteed to overcome me.
In the early afternoon, in the short amount of time between cleaning rooms and checking in guests, I retire to the screened-in porch to read a book. The back door to the laundry room is open and I can hear the sound of towels tumbling in the drier, the whirr of sheets spinning in the washing machine, the gush of the rinse cycle. Across the backyard the smell of clean laundry drifts my way.