The telephone cried out like a starving dog with a deluge of shrill, desperate yelps. I did my best to ignore it, sitting in a smelly and uncomfortable chair while staring upwards at the wealth of interesting patterns on the stucco ceiling above. "If I squint to the point my eyes bleed, I can almost see a tree," I fathomed introspectively while clenching my eyeballs in a makeshift vice constructed out of facial muscles. The phone kept ringing and it seemed as though whoever was calling really wanted to talk to me. After about the twentieth ring I decided it was time to answer the phone.
"Hello?" I asked, answering the telephone in an experienced manner.
"Hello, Mr. Boruff?" asked the voice of a stranger.
"Yes, hello?" I deftly replied, asking all the right questions.
"Hello, Mr. Boruff!"
"Hi, I'm calling in regards to the application you filled out recently. We'd really like to interview you for the job. Are you still interested?"
Of course I was not interested in actually doing work of any sort, but felt it was important to pretend to be so as not to appear useless. There was no way I would allow society to look upon me as I truly am: a lazy and cretinous creature doomed to live in the shadows of productive people. Worst, I hated interviews more than anything. They always had a way of turning sour, no matter how much effort I put into ensuring otherwise.
"Oh, of course I'm interested. I enjoy a hard day's work!"
"Great, so when would be a good time for you to interview? We have an opening at 5:00 if that works for you."
"It sounds like the precursor to a hard day's work! I'm big on that in case you haven't heard."
"Excellent, we'll see you then!"
"Yes, you definitely will!"
In less than the time it took to hang up the phone, I realized I was in trouble. While I did not want the job, I knew I had to do the interview out of spite towards the productive society that tried to cage me with its ridiculous and non-lazy work ethic. Worse, because I did not want to appear useless, I would have to give a good interview, the kind that would land me a job. I had learned a thing or two about interviewing in my days, so I knew that it would be of dire importance to make a good impression. That meant not only would I have to look presentable, as opposed to looking like a slightly benign zombie, but I would also have to smell and act presentable. I would have to disguise myself thoroughly behind a mask of lies and scent myself in the intriguing aroma of deceit.
Deception would not be easy, not when my best and only suit was tarnished with the vulgar stains and smells of my own failure. I wore it during my last job interview, and when it did not go well, I broke down and sobbed from every part of my body, including my penis. The suit reeked of urine, an odor by and large considered unattractive to perspective employers. The memory of that failed interview haunted me, much like the soiled chair that they insisted I take with me right after they told me I did not hold up under pressure and would not be fit for duty as a 911 operator. I was so outraged that I called later that evening and told them that they were wrong about me and that they would definitely be sorry, but they suggested I had no respect for the 911 service if I was using it to complain about a job interview. These shameful memories triggered some sense of dignity inside me, and I vowed to remove the smell of urine from my life, and to also get this new job just so I could call 911 and tell them how little they meant to me.
Knowing full well that high hopes and the passage of time were not going to repudiate the unwanted elements of my suit, I would need to call upon the awesome power of a Laundromat. Only a washing machine, and later a dryer, would be able to properly cleanse my sacred garments, prying loose urine's tyrannical grip forever. Freedom was all I ever wanted, and here was a chance to experience even more of it. I could do no more for my cause hiding in my room. It was time to seek out destiny.
I arrived at the Laundromat clutching my wounded suit with stern but compassionate hands, as if to say, "I'm not letting you die! I can save you if you just hang on!" The only thing dying today would be urine's embrace, and no one would miss or mourn its passing. On this day I would stare into the stain and offer no mercy. The only companionship I had to give it was that of a pallbearer and chauffeur into whatever cruel netherworld smelly stains go to.
The Laundromat was a complicated place, filled with rows of shiny metal boxes and their human enslavers. I stood as one in front of a great multitude of machinery, of engines designed to circle endlessly in place, of revolving doors for clothes. It was almost intimidating being amongst such technology, such wonderment and spectacle. How many times the wheels of industry must have spun to create this amazing venue of utilitarian wonder, for man could not fathom such intricacies in mere happenstances. These were not monsters or machines of killing, but rather indentured servants that made our world cleaner and emancipated our clothes from the smell of urine. The spattering of people smeared throughout the Laundromat canvas paid little heed to the scientific marvels they enslaved with their coins and trusted to handle a great deal of their appearance. Such ignorant savages, such dark corners in the halls of humanity! In time they would pay for their neglect, I would swear in blood on it.
Looking around I was daunted by the uniformity of the machines. How could I pick a favorite if all were equal in this land? Just when I feared individuality was lost, I noted a machine tucked away in the back corner, hiding from the conformity. Was it the sole survivor of a bygone era or the taskmaster that kept the lesser machines all lined up in neat rows? As I approached this mystery machine, I saw that it had a name. But more than that, I saw that she, the Vanguard 300, would be the one to handle my unique situation. She was like a goddess wrapped in dead ducks and tar - covered with dead ducks and tar on the outside, but a goddess underneath and nonetheless. Her beauty took hold of me and nearly brought tears to my eyes. How this beautiful cleaning machine could sit unused in a world so dirty, I had no idea.
My lips and tongue staggered to make words come out, with only silence escaping the large hole in my face. The importance of the message persuaded my trepidation to give way, and so a small army of holy words finally crusaded out of my mouth.
"I want this, the Vanguard 300, to cleanse the urine from my suit!"
My proclamation caught the attention of the entire establishment. Foreign eyes turned towards me as I stood in front of the Vanguard 300 and all her rust-colored glory. It was as though I called upon powerful magic and arcane voodoo to commandeer their eyes. Silence consumed the whole of the Laundromat, and not even a whisper or hushed sigh dared to risk inciting an audience. The air become so thick with tension you could build a fort out of it, and then carve "No Girls Allowed!" into the sign decorating the front entrance. I had to do something. I had to say something.
"Yes, the Vanguard 300! She understands me! She understands my need to remove the smell of urine from my clothes! Not like you wretches, staring at me as though I am a stain in your perfectly clean world!"
The stunned population of the Laundromat formed a circle with sole intent to gaze on me and my love for the Vanguard 300. They were a motionless mob, frozen in time and space, projecting judgment outward like icicles that stabbed into my soul. Thankfully, the situation was eased when the crowd parted, allowing a dirty man to pass through. What little of his face that wasn't caked in grime revealed a reassuring smile that gave my nerves a much needed break. I lowered my guard and signaled for this dirty man to speak his peace in a scene that must have mirrored many historic first encounters.
"The Vanguard is old and broken," he said in sturdy voice of aged wisdom. "You'd best use another machine."
Even if I wanted to follow his words, I could not. I made up my mind and would no sooner use another machine as I would staple money to my ears and try to trick hobos into chasing me. I felt confident about my stance on this issue when I responded, "This machine is not in use, therefore I will put it to use. Good day to you!"
"Well, that's going to be a problem, because this machine is broken."
"I'm afraid that the problem is you. You're throwing a monkey wrench in the gears that turn my plans to wash my clothes."
I could tell there was a certain vexation that had overcome him, as though talking to me was some sort of obtuse chore and not a pleasant experience. This man was a shining example of why cleanliness was an important concern, and for that reason alone he should have seen me as a kindred spirit. He was caked from head to toe in strange and exotic stains and smears of every ugly color imaginable that turned his uniform into a vibrant living entity. The layers of grime made it difficult to ascertain just what sort of uniform he was wearing, though what little was visible looked strangely important. I wondered if it was a space suit, and that in turn made me wonder if he had been visiting a far off world where the surface was made entirely of sewage, with great mountains of garbage dotting the distance as though the horizon was a baseline for a sentence containing a lot of lowercase letters and upside-down punctuation marks. "Look, over there," he might once have said to his companion being swallowed whole by fecal quicksand. "That mountain is like an upside-down question mark!"
"I don't get what you mean about the upside-down question mark looking like a mountain," I stated, just as he was about to respond to my last statement, probably with more negativity.
"What?" he inquired with a look of beguiled astonishment.
"When you guys were on the shit planet, you know."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"It was more like a lower case 'j' if you ask me, but then you didn't. Also I wasn't there on the planet with you, so I might be wrong."
He looked confused, like I had just opened my mouth and a parade of great sea tortoises emerged and began doing a barber shop quartet number. Oh yes, that's right, I just jumped the canyon dividing imagination from reality and failed to consider that the fans waiting on the other side would have no knowledge of where I came from.
"That's right," I tactfully said. "You were not privy to the scene I just imagined where you were on an alien planet made out of sewage. There were mountains dotting the horizon there, much like an upside-down question mark would be dotted."
"I'm really going to go now," he said in strained words that were so terrified they resisted leaving the safety of his mouth. He finished with his familiar spiel about the Vanguard 300 being broken, but I could not listen to a man demonstrating such an obvious bias against an important and profound piece of machinery. As he talked I was transfixed with his eyebrows, big and meaty like giant bushes that rippled epically with each syllable he expelled. This brought to mind man's great history for some reason, and I started thinking about how Abraham Lincoln would handle this situation. I certainly don't think he would have settled on a lesser washing machine, nor would he have acquiesced to accepting urine as a tolerable odor to live with. Honest Abe would have loved the Vanguard, and she certainly would have loved him back. Not like this astronaut, who would have gladly shot Honest Abe just to watch him die.
True to his word, the astronaut cautiously backed away from me. I was fine with this, seeing as how the Vanguard 300 was all the company I needed. With no more distractions impeding my important business, I gently opened her lid and slid my suit into her most tender depths. Once my deposit was secure inside her, I closed the lid and waited for what imagination and unconventional Laundromat showdown hype had turned into a sort of grassroots mythology. The time had come to activate the Vanguard. I had no choice but to call upon her to let loose her cleaning suds of war. The astronaut would need to see a demonstration of her power, and more importantly, so too did the smell of urine.
The activation mechanism on the Vanguard was complicated and bewildering. I looked at it perplexedly, tilting my head and adjusting my positioning as if that would give me some greater insight. Finally, I realized that it, like all the other machines here, was activated by money. To think, after all I said about her she would have nerve to charge me money! She was like the dead prostitute of this proverbial brothel - no man dared spend time with her; no man dared even give her the time of day. But I took her away from that! My gentle words transformed her from a dead prostitute to enchanting lady-fox. Yet still, after I performed this miraculous resurrection, she had the audacity to ask me for three quarters, a virtual three-fourths of one dollar! My hands imploded, compressing into two fierce and brutal asteroids. Suddenly and through subconscious drives far below the radar of my comprehension, the asteroid attached to my right arm entered a frightful trajectory due for immediate impact with the Vanguard 300.
"Not today!" I shouted in a triumphant voice sautéed in a bed of rage. "Not ever!"
I punched the Vanguard 300 with all my might, letting all those tense moments of overpowering hate and anger imbue my asteroid-launching right arm with additional speed and intensity. Smashing through the rusty outer hull of the Vanguard was easy, though I scraped my hand and arm along the way. Flash went to war with rusted metal, and while triumphing in battle, did not win top honors in the unscathed category. I was bleeding!
"Ouch! Shit!" I exclaimed in the most exclamatory way possible!
My arm throbbed like a strobe light of pain while pulsating cuts drenched my pale skin in ample amounts of dark red. In spite of my harrowing injury, no one had any sympathy for me. They all looked at me as some sort of monster or territorial hoodlum that ventured in to abuse a poor innocent machine. The astronaut again filled the role of Laundromat immune system, and I was no more than an invading pathogen to him. He wanted me out of his body and he was prepared to use force. I could see it in his eyes, which flared like twin suns about to go supernova on an unsuspecting solar system filled with robots. What's more, in an amazing transformation, he grew a mile taller, though only in the measurement system of anger.
In spite of the pain siesta I was on, which was quite overwhelming, I managed to maintain a portion of my indispensable wit. Diplomacy was the oil that kept the cogs of humanity from grinding to dust, and I would need to utilize it here to prevent the astronaut from grinding me to dust. I knew that time was not on my side, nor was my brief but memorable history in this particular establishment. I was no longer the darling boy of the Laundromat, now I was a loathsome scourge unsuitable for framing in anyone's heart. Even the Vanguard 300 turned on me, choosing to open me up and expose me for the vulnerable fluid-based life form I secretly am.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" he yelled. "Are you insane? First you come in here and insist on using a broken machine, then you attack it when it doesn't work?"
"Doesn't work? I never even started the damn thing you insensitive jerk!"
"So you just abused the equipment for no goddamn reason? I ought to break your face, you lousy jerk!"
His eyebrows were like erupting volcanoes, and I was trapped in the lava's flow. I needed to defuse the situation soon, or else this lousy landronaut would most likely get violently tactile on me. With my arm bleeding and my heart broken, I felt my only option was to whine like a small, girlish child.
"There is no need for further violence," I whimpered. "I'm the victim and I've suffered enough."
Truth seemed to get the job done, as the astronaut relented. He was no less frustrated, but he abruptly walked away and left me to wallow in my injury. I realized this was no easy task for him, and felt grateful for a moment that he allowed me such a reprieve. Here was a man who clearly loved and nurtured the machines in this Laundromat, and I had rudely ventured into his nest, thereby triggering his maternal instincts. It wasn't a nice nest, but then he wasn't a nice looking man. I suppose this was all he really had, sad as it was.
The pain had given me new insight and a new worldview which seemed to cast the Laundromat in new light. I suddenly realized how chilling the place was, and it made me long to be home safe away from the constant rumbling and rusty exteriors. This was a place for lost souls to loiter, waiting for a judgment never to come. The atmosphere was ripe with cleaning solutions, bleach, detergents, and the pungent aroma of wet clothes. Above that layer was another where cigarette smoke swirled into the jet streams of stink and funneled into my nose. The place throbbed under the might of an army of machines spinning in a cosmic loop of disarray. The washers spun around horizontally, the dryers vertically. My head spun around every which way.
Before my injury, this place seemed to be a bustling world full of life and technological marvels. Now I was seeing it for what it was: a nauseating den of human filth. Those great machines were now the cruel enslavers proudly flaunting their disgusting collections of humans. The ugliness of society was present and accounted for, and they hobbled, waddled, and staggered around like mummies with arthritis. The clothes they wore were primitive and desperate, the last vestiges of battered wardrobes making a final stand against the world until reinforcements arrived. And this was the place where the reinforcements were deployed. These machines were hospitals for clothes. The washing machines would surgically remove dirt and stain shrapnel from wounded fabric, and the dryers would nurse them back to health and send them off to die again. A vicious wash cycle that would make any sane man dizzy, but the people here were insane and thusly immunized against the madness. They had no comprehension of the greater conflict that was going on right in front of their blind eyes. In their paralyzed hands and collection of quarters, the cycle of death and resurrection would never end.
And I, foolishly challenging the intricate order of the cycle, found myself out of the loop. My lack of quarters or the patience to even think of getting quarters kept me from being brainwashed by the rigid doctrine of the Laundromat. Urine had won this round, unfortunately. My efforts to rid myself of that bastard scent failed completely, all because of the terrifyingly complex nature of this soupy hell and my refusal to surrender my free will to it. The blood still dripping from the edge of the Vanguard 300 testified to this. Now all that was left was to take my soiled suit and wounded hand, leave this foul place, and hope that the smell of urine and fresh blood did not lesson my professional image or chances of giving a good interview. I don't see how either of those aspects would technically disqualify me from an unwanted job at a pet store, so I had some hope left.
But as it turns out, I would not be afforded such dignities. A police car pulled up outside, followed by an ambulance. Someone must have dialed 911! The very people I longed to destroy with jealousy and regret now knew of the horrific events that unfolded in this bitter place. Or worse, did they plan it? Was that them calling me earlier with a fake promise of a job interview? Either way, on this fateful day I was truly defeated. 911, possibly in league with a washing machine, got the best of me. They would not be sorry now. I had finally given them proof that I was exactly the man they once falsely claimed me to be. I wondered to myself what emergency number you're supposed to call when 911 is attacking you. I could almost forget about that job interview now, and any other for that matter. As long as 911 pursued me, I would never be at peace. At least not until I died, which was only a matter of time and possibly bullets.
This VR game has become sentient and is killing us one by one. But is it art?
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