But some people were just rotten apples. Or that’s what his mother had told him the last time they’d spoken.

“I’m an alcoholic,” said Doug.

“Most people don’t admit they are alcoholics unless they’re at a meeting.”

“I don’t go to meetings, never have,” said Doug.

“How much do you drink every day?”

“I don’t drink every day,” said Doug. He sipped his coffee. It was smoother than any coffee he’d tasted before, yet still woke him up like adderall.

“Doesn’t sound like you’re much of an alcoholic,” said Mousy.

“Huh?” said Doug, only mildly interested.

“I know guys at school who just get drunk every night,” she said.

Doug’s laundry was done. He stood and walked away from the conversation and opened the washer. He set his coffee on the dryer behind him and took out his clothes and loaded them into that same dryer. He thought it was one of the good ones. He put three dollars in and set it and pressed the button. It trundled to life. The who was in there was sitting on one of the dryers on the opposite side of the rectangular configuration. She swung her legs and held a magazine close to her face. Doug grabbed his coffee and went back to sit with Mousy.

“These guys,” he said, “They’re college students?”

“Yeah–from my trig class.”

“They like the ideas of being alcoholics?”

“It seems that way sometimes.”

“Well, tell them I felt the same way back in the 80s. now. . .”

“You don’t seem that fucked up,” she said.

“Besides the fact I live down by the swamp?”

“Yeah, besides that.”

For the first time that day Doug smiled. That sentiment had more worth to him than that $50 Kid had given him while he was panning it.

“Well, my family won’t let me forget it. Once I start drinking I can’t stop. But I don’t have the money to drink every night.”

“Do you ever get work?”

“Sometimes down by the docks–but I don’t hold jobs, I told you, I just stop going.”

“That just sounds like you’re lazy,” she said.

“Maybe I am, I don’t know.”

“There seems to be a lot you don’t know,” said Mousy.

“I’m homeless,” said Doug.

“I’m Ames,” said Mousy.

“Aims?” asked Doug.

“I don’t like Amy, so Ames, E-S, no A-I. But, yeah, sounds the same.”

“Do you usually talk to homeless people?”

“Have you ever gotten in a fight?”

They both sipped their coffees.

No they both said.

“How do you live on the streets and never get in fights?” Ames asekd.

Doug shrugged. “You don’t make enemies.”

“What about the police?”

“You stay out of their way.”

“That’s smart,” she said.

Doug shrugged. He seemed to be doing a lot of that. But–this girl.

“I think you should call your parents or sister and ask for help,” she said.

“What am I going to ask for?”

“I don’t know–what do you need to get back on your feet?”

“A new personality,” said Doug.

“Your personality seemed fine to me–hang on.”

Ames got up and changed her laundry into a dryer. Doug sipped his coffee. The older woman left even though her laundry was still in the wash.



“Thanks,” said Doug again.

“It’s still hot though,” said Mousy.


Behind them, in the bowels of the laundromat the other patron was loading her clothes into a washer, and making a great amount of scoffing and show of whipping each piece of clothing out and looked at it before she tossed it in.

Mousy took a seat next to Doug.

“I don’t smell very good,” said Doug.

“I don’t smell you. Well, I mean I smell damp wool, but I like that smell.”

“I stole this sweater from Goodwill,” Doug said.

“That’s fucked up,” she said.

“Yeah,” said Doug. “But they wanted eleven dollars and I only had five.”

“Still, stealing from Goodwill.”

“Maybe if they had given me a job I wouldn’t have,” said Doug.

“Why can’t you get a job?” asked Mousy.

The woman put her last piece of laundry in the wash and then patted herself down. Hands in jeans pockets and then looked around. Her face darkened, then she walked toward Doug and Mousy and as she pushed open the door Doug thought he could hear her give a angry curse under her breath.


“I’m not good at anything,” said Doug.

“That’s not true,” said Mousy. “Everyone is good at something.”

“Ok. Well, I’m not good at keeping a job,” said Doug, then took a sip of his coffee. “Damn this is good coffee,” he said. “What is it?”

“Just an americano with some sugar and cream,” said Mousy.

“What’s an americano?”

“You’re kidding me, right?” she asked.

“No. It’s not like you know my sense of humor, why would I be kidding?”

“Sorry, it’s just, most people who live near Seattle know what coffee drinks they like.”

Doug shrugged.

“It’s just espresso shots with water.”

“It’s better than what I usually get,” Doug said.

Mousy nodded.

The shugshug of laundry filled the space between them nearly more than money or age or privilege. And for a moment Doug thought maybe he was a normal person. A person who hasn’t fucked up so badly. He felt like he was back in college and this girl was just a friend and her weird feminism that hadn’t even existed back in the 80s when he was in school, was just a clothing fad and not a whole new way of thinking–but then he didn’t know if she was a feminist.

“You have family,” Mousy asked.

“Of course–I mean I have a father and mother–a sister.”

“Where are they?”

Doug shrugged. “Not sure. Last time I heard they were around Tacoma. But that was years ago.”

“Why don’t they help you?”

Doug sipped his coffee. He’d wondered that before also. Why didn’t they help him? It seemed like it would have been the right thing to do. He remember when he had been young his mother had been so aware of the homeless problem and she would volunteer once a week at Operation Sack Lunch which was all about feeding the homeless. She had taken Doug once or twice. Doug had been surprised how well dressed and not homeless the homeless had looked as he’d handed out lunches.



Doug wasn’t interested. Not really. He’d seen way too many kids come and go, either through graduation or through graduation or because they were dropouts. Sometimes shit sucked that way and then you got use to it because it was the only way you were.

“Well,” said the girl, “Sorry you’re homeless.”

Doug chuckled at this. He’d never heard someone apologize for the fact it lived in a tent and tarp under the bridge under the apartment buildings, but still right on the edge of the swamp. It was a mudpit. Even if he had the money to do laundry every week it wouldn’t be enough. The mud simply smeared everywhere.

“Why’s that funny?” asked the girl.

“My sister wouldn’t ever give me an apology. Or my mother and father.”

“Do you I look like her or something?” asked the mousy haired girl.

“No,” said Doug. “You look nothing alike. My sister–well, last time I saw her was much more mainstream than you are.”


“Yes,” said Doug. “She’d never get her hair short or wear a scarf like that.”

“Just because I cut my hair short doesn’t mean I’m gay, and just because I wear a scarf like this doesn’t make me a hippy.”

“I know that,” said Doug. He closed the book, closed the pages of What We Talk About when We Talk About Art, resigned to the fact that the young woman wasn’t going to let him read.

“You want a coffee?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he said.

“What do you like?”

“Just coffee.”

“There’s a lot of different coffees you can get.”

“Just get me something black,” said Doug.

“I’ll be right back.”

Mousy left and Doug sat back in the chair. Outside the misting of the town had turned an onslaught of larger water bombs and Doug turned his head in order to watch each one fall and slap the pavements. He liked to think he saw each one exploding there in the road, on peoples shoulders as they walked by. It was nonsense though. He couldn’t see shit. He could only see a static in his vision which was the rain coming down and making people miserable and he knew his tent would be filling up with water as he sat there and hopefully it didn’t rise the swamp level too much or head be out of luck for anywhere to sleep.

He turned and picked up the book again. The door opened and he looked up. It wasn’t Mousy. It was an older woman. Doug opened the book and began to read. He’d just gotten to some dialogue. Something worth reading. The part when Mel, the cardiologist says, The kind of love I’m talking about you don’t try to kill people. And that was when the door opened and Mousy came in holding to paper cups.

“I didn’t know if you liked milk and sugar, but most people don’t really like black coffee so I put a little of both in.”

“Thanks,” said Doug taking the cup she held out.