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Final Rinse
by Dave Powell

Freddy reached into the shopping bag and retrieved a can which he opened and savoured, as he sat on a bench opposite the tumble dryer.

The view through the glass door of the dryer seemed to mesmerise. One of his socks cascaded from the top of the drum and flirted with a tea towel, and a pair of underpants slid into the embrace of a shirt arm that tossed and folded in the warm air. It was something of a metaphor, a laundrette, he thought gazing into the dryer. Fast spin, mixed coloureds. He, approaching the final rinse cycle years of life.

The launderette was quiet, but a tall distinguished looking man, stuffing laundry through the open lid of a washing machine, and Mavis, the proprietor, who was heaping great piles of linen on to a weighing machine, kept Freddy company.

Looking through the window, the high street also seemed quiet. A man was chaining a bicycle to a lamppost. Another was leaning out of a car window, looking at two yellow lines that a youthful looking policeman was pointing at, informing the driver that parking was not allowed.

The tumble of washing seemed calming, but a flash of red weaving between a pair of trouser legs startled him. That’s odd, thought Freddy, he didn’t recall putting anything red in there. And there it was again, something red in his laundry, darting up and down.

Intrigued, he rose from the bench and opened the dryer door. The tumble stopped and the laundry clumped in a heap at the bottom of the drum.

Just as he thought, a piece of red material nestled in the washing, and reaching in, he withdrew it. It was a red scarf. “Not one of mine,” he mused, feeling the damp red fabric. But his attention fastened on something else in the drum, a piece of wood.

Awkwardly manipulating the object, he managed to pull out a wooden paddle.

Reaching In the drum again, he found the front end of a canoe, which he dragged out, the full length landing on the launderette floor.   A further inspection revealed the aft end of HMS Ark Royal. He could even see a sailor leaning on a rail, smoking a fag and waving to him.

Freddy waved back, but as he was looking at the Ark Royal, a hand lunged out and grabbed him by the throat. “Oh no you don’t,” called a refined voice from inside the dryer, and a smartly trousered left leg shot out. It was the Duke of Edinburgh!

“Oh no you don’t, you bastard,” the Duke continued. “Give me my scarf back.” But Freddy was in no mood to return the scarf, and with a heave, dragged the Duke of Edinburgh from the tumble dryer.

“Get your fucking hands off me you Greek turd”, he screamed, falling on the floor next to the canoe. But the Duke closed his grip on Freddy’s throat as they thrashed in a pile of washing, strewn over the floor.

“Is he all right,” asked Mavis, looking at the policeman who was pressing Freddy’s throat, feeling for a pulse.

“I think he’s dead,” the policeman answered, picking up the can from the bench were Freddy’s shopping bag lay.

“Solvent, nasty stuff.”

The ambulance pulled away from the launderette pavement and Mavis returned to weighing the linen.

“How does one work the machine?” asked the tall gent, scratching his forehead.

“You need one pound twenty,” Mavis answered. “Here, I’ll show you.”

“That’s kind of you,” the man said. “And trizers, will it do trizers?”