First he needed to make change. He stepped into J.J.’s, the small convenience store on Holly, and feeling as though he could buy the whole shop picked out a wrapped sandwich and a soda, Sprite. He paid $6.99 before leaving. Then his eyes fell on the cigarettes behind the guy at the counter.

“Actually, I’ll take a American Spirit, also,” said Doug.

He paid a total of $10.26 for them and the guy handed Doug his change. It looked a lot smaller on this side of $40 dollars. Doug took a book of the complementary matches before leaving.

Outside the rain was still coming down, but with little conviction. As though it didn’t have the heart to touch the ground. The moisture swirled in the air, a misty that clung to anything it could other than the pavement. Doug unwrapped his cigarettes, fitted one between his lips, and struck a match. It had been a long time since he’d had a smoke. He didn’t have the money often, so when he inhaled his lungs tightened and constricted as though he’d not taken a breath at all. He coughed quietly, not wanting the man passing to see him coughing over a cigarette. The second drag was easier. And it was all better from there.

After he finished his smoke he walked down Holly and turned down cornwall, his garbage bag bumping him in the legs as he walked. The laundromat was empty. Nobody was there, which was strange for a Sunday, Doug supposed. But it worked well for him. He loaded his clothes into a washer, but pulled his shorts free of the pile. He stood at the back of the laundromat, in the corner, partially shielding himself from the window and door and stripped off the pants and tattered underwear he was wearing, then slipped the shorts on. He hadn’t worn the shorts for ages, he might washed them since he’d worn them last and he wanted to have everything he was wearing cleaned as well. The shirt and sweater he had on–exceptions–other things needed to be washed more.

He paid $2 for a box of detergent from the vending machine, tossed it in the washer unceremoniously. Then he put $3 dollars into the slot, which gobbled it up. He set it to hot/warm cycle, then sat down in one of the chairs near the front window, cracked his Sprite open and unwrapped his sandwich. It was dry, and so he had to take a sip of soda after each bite. The meat didn’t taste real, it was too light on the mayonnaise, and there was no mustard on it at all. The lettuce was wilted. Still, he ate the whole thing because he was hungry, and drank all the Sprite. He threw his garbage away.

The timer on his wash was–maybe–a quarter of the way done. Doug wadded up his plastic bag and stuck it in his pocket. It made an awkward bulge there. He left the laundromat and walked across the street. The rain had intensified now and in his shorts and wool sweater he felt ridiculous. On the other side of the street was the used bookstore, Craig’s. Doug had tried to go to Craig’s before, but they were inexplicable open on Sundays but not on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays. This did not strike Doug as a sustainable business model.


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