LAST DAY OF STORY A DAY IN MAY!!!
It’s been a blast, but I am plumb tuckered. For those who don’t speak Rube-onics, that means I’m tired. Or, as a kid I was in junior high band used to say, “Ah’m tard. Ah’m RILL tard.”
I’ve been wanting to touch on the friendship between “the wives,” Leona (married to Lonnie) and Mary Lee (married to Tiny). The story didn’t come out as funny as I’d hoped it would, but this is the story that came.
Leona, Me, and the Laundromat of the Holy Spirit
by Marian Allen
Leona and I didn’t grow up together, the way our husbands did, but we’ve been best friends since high school. We worked at the Dollar Or Two discount store together and cried when we graduated business school and got jobs in different offices.
There were only two bones of contention between us. We’ve learned how to negotiate around them over the years, but there was one time early in our marriages when one disagreement led straight into the other and nearly broke us up.
First: My high school sweetheart, now my husband, was a third-string football player, who was on the team because of his size (of course, everybody called him, and still calls him, Tiny) but didn’t play much because he wasn’t aggressive enough. His best friend, Lonnie, was, and still is, an idiot. Lonnie’s tall and skinny, with ropey muscles and the IQ of a fruit fly. Leona thinks he’s funny and sweet.
Second: I was raised in a church-going family, with strong moral values and deep faith, but Leona was raised in a branch of the Baptists that probably suspected breathing was sinful. Her church wasn’t mean; they were right there with whatever was needed any time anybody had a house fire or there was a tornado or whatever, but, as Tiny says, “They’ll about Jesus you to death along with it.”
So here’s what happened.
When we were still new brides, we lived in neighboring apartment buildings so cheap they didn’t have laundry facilities. The boys worked Saturday jobs so we could save up to buy houses, and on Saturdays Leona and I hauled dirty clothes down the street to the Bubble White laundromat.
One Saturday, we were passing the time by talking and laughing, as wives do, about the things our husbands did that made us crazy. After some particularly Lonnie story, I made the mistake of saying, “Well, you married the fool.”
She didn’t talk much for the rest of the day, and she avoided me all week. The next Saturday, she said she was going someplace else and all but shut the door in my face.
I cried so much and felt so bad, I’d have forged Lonnie’s name on a PhD if it could have made it up to Leona for what I’d said.
After another week of the cold shoulder, Tiny said, “I asked Lonnie what’s the matter with Leona, and he said she said Brother Pike said you’re a bad influence and a tool of the devil and you’re trying to break up her marriage. She’s going to some church laundromat.”
“Some church laundromat? What do they use for detergent, the blood of the Lamb?”
Tiny did that rumbly chuckle that’s something between a belly laugh and a cackle. I just love that man so much. “Be nice, Mary Lee” he said. “Why don’t you ask if you can go with her? It might make it up to her for you telling the truth about Lon.”
So I did.
Leona’s eyes lit up and she threw her arms around me and wept on my neck. “Oh, honey, I’ve missed you so much!”
We cried and said we were sorry, being careful not to specify what for in case it got us mad again.
The next Saturday, we were off to the Laundromat of the Holy Spirit.
All the way there, Leona burbled about it. “I asked Brother Pike if it was okay for me to go here, since it’s church but not our churchy, and he said he thought it would be all right, as long as they didn’t preach heresy and I didn’t take communion. So I said I’d watch out.”
I didn’t remind her of what Tiny always said: “If a business makes a big show of how Christian it is, put your hand on your wallet and back away real slow. It’s like calling yourself Honest John’s Used Cars.”
The place was pretty churchy, all right. There were crosses and pictures of blond Jesuses on all the walls and the overhead speakers played non-stop gospel music. I liked the music; it reminded me of my great-grandmother on my father’s side. I could see crosses glinting from around the other patrons’ necks as they looked up when we came in. I felt like a vampire at a stake-and-mallet convention.
When we came in, the lady behind the counter called out, “Welcome back, Sister Leona! And you brought a friend! Praise Jesus!”
Leona knows my church goes for good behavior and takes it easy on flat declarations. She cut her eyes at me, but I wasn’t about to say or do anything that would make her mad or hurt her feelings, so I just smiled and nodded.
The lady, whose name tag said she was Sister Angelica, came over to the machines with us. Her being there, and my being on my best behavior, meant I couldn’t cuss when I saw the machines cost twice the usual.
Sister Angelica said, “Did you explain to your friend why we cost more?”
Leona cut her eyes at me again and said, “No, I didn’t. I’m going to pay the extra for her, so it doesn’t matter.”
Sister Angelica looked me in the eye and said, “We have to pay our own way in this world, amen? The straight way isn’t easy, and it costs us all our worldly goods, amen?”
I thought, Mind your own business, amen? But I didn’t say it.
Out loud, I said, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive, so who am I to take a blessing away from my friend, amen?”
Leona coughed, but I was locking stares with Sister Angelica and I couldn’t tell if it was a laughing cough or warning cough.
Sister Angelica smiled and said, “We charge so much because the surplus goes into our mission fund, amen?”
“What’s your mission?” I was partly humoring Leona, but I was partly curious. A good idea is a good idea, even if the person executing it puts your back up.
Sister Angelica smiled. “We want to build more laundromats, expand into other cities, bringing the word of Jesus to the streets, where it belongs, amen?”
Leona paused in dropping her laundry into a washer. “That’s your mission?”
“Your mission is to build more laundromats?”
“God is good!”
“I thought you were sending missionaries to the godless or funding a soup kitchen or something.”
“Our hearts are aflame with the Holy Spirit, amen?”
“Amen,” I said. “Praise the Lord! Holy is his name! Amen, sister, amen!”
Sister Angelica looked at me like I was a lunatic and went back to her counter.
I wouldn’t let Leona pay for my wash.
“I’m sorry, Mary Lee,” she said. “I thought they had a real mission.”
“Maybe they do,” I said. She looked so let down, it hurt my heart. “They do have pictures of Jesus and gospel music. So it isn’t a bad place.”
“Being not a bad place isn’t the same as being a good place,” she said. “Not everyone who saith to me Lord, Lord, shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which art in Heaven. I don’t think building overpriced laundromats so you can build overpriced laundromats counts.” Being a fair woman, she said, “I could be wrong.”
We all had supper together that night, and Leona said, “I don’t want to go to that Laundromat of the Holy Spirit anymore. Let’s go back to our regular place, is that all right with you, Mary Lee?”
“Amen,” I said. “But I thought Brother Pike disapproved of me.”
I could have bitten my tongue, since I wasn’t supposed to know about that.
Lonnie said, “Now, who in the world ever said that?”
“I just thought it,” I said.
Leona glared at Lonnie, since there was only one way in the world I could have picked up that information. “I told you not to tell!”
“I didn’t tell! I never breathed a word!”
“Then how did she know?”
“Well, I told Tiny. Tiny, I told you that in confidence. Can’t you keep a secret?”
“My bad,” Tiny said, taking another spoonful of buttery mashed potatoes.
Leona was red in the face. She scooted her chair back like she couldn’t decide whether to get up and run out of the room or stay put.
Lonnie said, “If I didn’t of told Tiny, he wouldn’t of told Mary Lee, and she wouldn’t of gone to that new place with you, and you two still wouldn’t be talking to each other, and you’d still be crying. So it’s a good thing I told, isn’t it? Isn’t it? Honey bunch, isn’t it?”
Leona grumbled, “You didn’t think it through like that.” She wiped her eyes with her napkin and said, grudgingly, “But you’re right.”
Lonnie took her hand and squeezed it. “You’re my girl,” he said, and – just for an instant – I could almost understand what Leona saw in him.
MY PROMPT TODAY: Doing the laundry
I’m posting today at Fatal Foodies about some really good vegan burgers I made. I mean RILL good!