The Small Man – Sara Kachelman

This woman was manning the laundromat. It was a popular place for fighting. She was the marshal of the laundromat, the laundry bailiff.

Little boys and little girls were fighting at the laundromat. They arranged themselves in rows and charged. Those tall enough to climb the machines took flying leaps off the washers. Their bones snapped like chewing gum. The little girls formed battering rams and cheerleading chairlifts and cannoned into the boys’ fort of laundry. The boys strangled the girls one by one with twisted trouser legs.

Afterwards the woman took a huge dust broom and swept up the detritus. Broken arms and legs and the damp sandbars of bath towels. This was her job.

While she sat at the counter the woman maintained a heap of newspapers advertising other jobs. The woman had an ambition of becoming a knife salesman. She would dress in a suit and tie and a mustache and she would pull knives out of soft leather holsters. She would present the knives by testing them against the skin of her forearm, which she would shave smooth as a baby’s.

A baby’s arm.

The fight was over, and the woman had not done a thing about it. The children had gone, hoisting a fallen soldier on a taut sheet. The mountains of laundry were pushed to one side of room with the woman peeking out of it. She had missed everything.

She began to excavate. All was quiet save an industrial dryer pounding against the wall. No one was tending it. The sound it made was not the sound of metal zippers, nor of golf shoes. She pressed her ear to the dryer door. It was the sound of fine dining. She could hear the low voices of couples, their teeth scraping the lips of wineglasses. Somewhere inside the dryer a string quartet was playing Mozart’s Lacrimosa.

The woman opened the dryer door. A newborn calf slid out. It slid across the floor and burst its amniotic sac against the corner of a washer.

The calf opened its mouth and stopped moving. The woman peered into the dryer. She gripped a wet pair of chinos and pulled. A pair of hairy hands was holding onto the cuffs of the chinos. The hands were connected to a small man. The woman pulled him out.

Welcome, the small man said.

He gripped the woman’s shoulders and dragged her into the dryer. Fluorescent light filtered in. The woman felt that they were seated on a watercraft but could not be sure. The small man was wearing a dinner jacket and tennis shoes. Soft dark shapes floated around them.

I roasted a beef, the small man said. Would you like to carve?

The woman consented.

The small man pulled a beef out of a clot of wet shirts.

I made it for you, he said.

The woman fingered her soft leather holster.

 

 

 

Sara Kachelman’s work has appeared in DIAGRAM, Fanzine, and Portland Review. She lives in a basement.

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