Laundry

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There are too many choices, and he can’t decide, so in the end he stays home and does some laundry. He sits outside on the battered chair and watches the washing drying on the line. While he watches, he smokes cigarettes and drinks milky coffee. He’s forgotten the ashtray so he flicks the ash onto the ground. He remembers how he used to drink his coffee black and long because that’s how they drank it in the American police shows on TV. Sharp artificial scents from the laundry reach him. As the fabrics dry, the smell softens into flowers and sweet afternoons. A friend phones. Just for a chat, they say. He tells them he’s been busy today. Busy, busy. Another friend calls soon afterwards. He tells them the same thing. He wonders why they called. He remembers his first mobile phone, and plays with his toes. The washing moves lazily in the breeze. He thinks of a word: Waft. It’s a clumsy word. He’s not sure if a fabric can waft. It can be used for wafting, he’s fairly sure of that. But the more he considers it the less sure he gets. He’s been chain smoking, and there’s a nutty taste in his mouth. The coffee’s gone cold and thin, so he makes some more. And then he feels sleepy, despite the coffee. It’s probably the warm milk. He closes his eyes, and his head keeps flopping forwards. He sits up, and tries to recall what he’s been thinking about all the time he’s been out there. A chill starts to fall and the light shifts into a flinty grey. He shudders. He unpegs the washing from the line, takes it inside, and locks the door. He folds the washing and makes a tall neat pile on the table. He looks outside, at the chair and the empty line in the cooling garden. There’s a cat out there, staring back. He wonders what to have for dinner.

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