Sketchbook: Desert Botanical Garden


24 Hour Laundromat

[The laudromat is just named “24 Hour Laundromat.” On a darkened street it’s lit up dingily. It is 2 or 3 AM. There are a couple people waiting, reading, closed up in themselves. In the very back, a figure is slowly folding laundry.]

[Lee, in a stained wifebeater, gym shorts, and stained, over-stretched bedroom slippers, is leaning against a washer across from the pair of machines where his burden spins, bouncing his butt against the machine in a way that suggests he’s unaware he’s doing it. He is resting a large rectangular white laundry basket against his belly, and mumbling to himself. We can't hear what he's saying. A young woman approaches. She holds an empty laundry bag. Waits for a moment. When he doesn’t seem to notice her, she speaks up. ]

Young woman: Excuse me. I've got to get --

Lee: Oh, no, I’m sorry, I’m just... taking up space.

[Lee steps aside and stands uncomfortably. He tries to hold the white laundry basket, one arm casually over it. He almost drops it. The woman starts to unload her clothes from the machine into the bag.]

Lee: Have I seen you here before?

Young woman: I don’t think so. I’m new to the neighborhood, actually.

Lee: Man, I tell ya, you’re lucky to have found this place on your first go. Trust me, I’ve used a lot of other laundromats around here and this one’s the best. Open twenty four hours. A little vending machine. Plenty of bleach. Everybody keeps to themselves...

YW: Uh, yeah. It seems --

[He talks faster and faster.]

Lee: Nobody looking over at your basket, asking IGNORANT questions, making STUPID comments about haha “oh I guess you must really like ketchup," "i guess you -

[The woman is silently putting her clothes in the washer. Lee is turning red. He struggles to regain control, to seem casual. ]

Lee: Well, you know, there are those times when something, um, spills, though... And you just can’t wait until the morning. And besides, you couldn’t think of sleeping, your adrenaline is jacked up so high, and all you want to do is sit in a room and watch something spinning, spinning, spinning, spinning, spinning, what have i done, things will never be the same, what have i done, things will never be the same, what have i done...

[He trails off, and his mumbles meet the sound of the churning machines in the background.]

Lee: Maybe it’s just me but it's one of the best things about city living. Gotta love a good 24 hour laundromat.

[He waits a reply but she doesn’t look up.]

Lee: Then again, I can be a little obsessive about cleaning sometimes. Ha...ha...

[He looks down at this shoes. We see how filthy they are. And going up his body, back to his downcast eyes, we notice again at how entirely filthy Lee is, his stained shirt somehow seeming even more stained than before.]

[Sound of spinning machines.]


I Have Something To Tell You

I blew my nose on your cat.

You see, I thought it was MY cat.

Our cats are impossible to tell apart!

Or, they were.


The Life Of An Illiterati

When a friend loans me a book, I keep it for an amount of time I think it might take someone who knows how to read to read a book, and then I give it back.

When my friend asks me what I thought of the book, I say something like “beautiful” or  “…rectangular” which, I’ve learned, might sound vaguely literary while at the same time accurately referring to the physical object of the book itself.  Moby Dick, for example, I described as  “Very heavy. And hard to swallow.” My friend never said anything about them but I wonder if she noticed the teeth marks.

My friends are an intellectual bunch. When I visit my friend William’s house, for example, it’s expected that I will peruse his bookshelves with a furrowed brow and a scrutinizing look. William will rush over excitedly.

“I’ve got just the one for you!” he will say, “I’ve been dying to know what you’d think of it!” And he will extract a book from somewhere and hand it to me and I will look down at it and flip though a few cryptic pages and say something like “hmm.” Then I will take it home and add it to my collection.

It used to worry me, this whole routine, but now I’ve truly come to appreciate everything about books besides what they are about, of which I have no clue.

A book might be “benign” or “painful” depending on how it feels when I drop it on my bare foot.

I taste one page, and then the next. I pause for comparison. “Bitter at the beginning, sweet towards the end”; “pulpy”; “mild”.

-- And when I examined my inky tongue in the mirror: “dark.”

“Incisive,” I might say, or “dull” depending on how well the back cover slices into a semi-soft cheese.

“Inflammatory” if it makes my neck sore after I use it as a pillow.

“Deep” I'll say if my fish, Damien, likes it. But I don’t toss that word around. He’s very selective.

Unfortunately the amount of abuse and destruction applied to the books I borrow has only further convinced my friends of my absolute love of reading. They just keep giving me more.

I built myself a small side table out of their books, upon which I rest my coffee in the morning while I sit in bed and make origami from the newspaper, which still gets delivered. Because I don’t know how to make it stop, but also because of which I’ve become quite good at origami. 

The other day my neighbor and I passed in the front hall and he noticed me recycling a newspaper.

“What do you make of the election results?” he asked.

I held up the tattered paper. “Eleven swans and a tugboat.”


How I Chipped My Nail Polish

I was watching the dogs at the park from the top of a tree through my binoculars. My strategy was that if I watched them from up there I wouldn't get bit. Well, I wasn’t wrong. The minute I fell from the tree (20-30 feet), whacking through limbs on my way down and breaking my own on impact – I got bit by a dog. 

Anyway, that’s how I chipped my nail polish.


The Plan For The Robbery

You go in to get the money while me and Charlie wait in the car, engine running. When you come out a very short – too short of a time later, you tell us that you decided to not rob the store and instead purchased oreos. Charlie leans over the seat, tentativeness in his voice. Did you get Double Stuf? He asks. You reach into your coat and pull out the gun and place it on the seat between us. On top of the gun you place a package of (yes) (YES!) Double Stuf oreos. Score! Shouts Charlie, and we sit in the parked car and eat them, engine running.