My very first publication in 2005 was a chapbook Flashes of Fiction Poetry & Prose published by a small press. Flash and short fiction of the eclectic variety is a passion of mine even now as I’ve written a full novel. I’ll share old and new ‘flashes of fiction’ from time to time on this page.
Tommy looked at the large pile of clean laundry items ready to be fed through the large industrial mangle iron. The temperature in the laundry today was hotter than usual. The sweltering heat at his place of work was the one thing he’d never get used to. Summertime was the worst at Linden’s Laundry & Dry-Cleaning Service. Tommy worked at the company for over twenty-five years now. Sweat dripped from his head and down his face to the damp tee shirt now stuck to his body. His khaki pants were shielding the sweat that was forming on his body below his waist. It was close to lunch break time and Tommy noticed a few coworkers watching the huge clock on the far wall. He’d fallen behind and wanted to have cleared that pile of laundry by lunchtime.
“Tommy, you’re sweating like a champ!”, Donna, a coworker, said as she walked by the mangle iron.
Tommy looked at Donna and said: “Yeah, I’m getting old. I never used to sweat this much”, Tommy said as he watched Donna walk pass him.
“You look alright to me”, Donna said while turning and smiling at Tommy. Tommy grinned and watched Donna walk until she was out of the room.
Tommy grabbed a large tablecloth from the pile on the adjacent table. His company provided laundry services for smaller nursing homes. He needed to grab his small towel from under his worktable to wipe his brow as the heat and humidity in the room was staggering. The lunch bell rang in the shop. His coworkers darted for the door to the air-conditioned break room. Michelle, one of the newer workers, passed him on her way to the door.
“You coming to the lunchroom?”, she asked looking at Tommy in a way he’d never noticed her look at him in her short time at the company.
“Yes, I brought my lunch today.”
“Good”, Michelle said with a huge smile that surprised Tommy.
Tommy quickly dried off as much as he could in the men’s room. He hurried to the lunchroom and thought to himself that thirty minutes passed quicker at lunchtime than any time of the day.
As Tommy walked into the lunchroom, he immediately noticed the air conditioning was either not on or wasn’t working. He then noticed Michelle, Donna and two other female workers sitting together and eating their lunch. All four of the women looked up from their lunches almost in unison at Tommy. Michelle put up her arm and waved him over toward the table she shared with the other women. Tommy gave a wave and a slight grin. He retrieved his lunch from the refrigerator and walked in the opposite direction of Michelle and her group. He sat down at a table where a few of his longtime male coworkers where sitting.
“Hey”, Tommy said as he sat down. A few of the men grunted their salutations while continuing to chew their food. Sweat started to pour from Tommy’s brow again. Another hot room. There would be no relief from this heat today, Tommy thought to himself. He got up and took a few paper towels from a roll sitting near the microwave. He used one to wipe his brow and face.
“Hey, Tom, what’d you do to your female coworkers over there?”, Greg, his friend, and co-worker of many years said while chewing a mouthful of food.
“What are you talking about?” Tommy said as he raised an eyebrow.
“The women watched you from the moment you walked in and they’re staring at you right now.”
“I’d know if I did anything to any one of them”, Tommy said and laughed while a few of the men at the table chuckled.
Tommy, divorced for twenty years now, had a rule about dating coworkers. Rule number one: Don’t do it. He met his ex-wife Shirley at the laundry shortly after he started working there. That relationship ended badly after a short while.
Tommy thought for a moment about Michelle, the new worker. She was attractive and only slightly younger. He’d heard she was single but never had a long conversation with her. He avoided her mostly because he felt an attraction. Coworkers are off limits; he’d tell himself whenever he saw her.
“Uh-oh”, Greg said looking at Tommy.
Before Tommy could ask Greg what he was talking about, he felt a touch on his shoulder. He turned in his chair to see Michelle standing behind him with a hand on her hip.
“Are you trying to ignore me? It won’t work”, Michelle said with a playful grin on her face. She stood there smiling and waiting for a response.
Tommy thought to himself: “It’s getting hot in here!” Greg and the other guys at the table chuckled.
“Oh, I wouldn’t do that, just trying to finish my lunch and go grab a smoke” Tommy said looking at Michelle.
“Ok, well I’ll see you later then”, Michelle said while touching Tommy’s shoulder and then sauntering back to her table.
“I don’t know how you do it Tommy”, said Dave, one of his younger coworkers at the table while chewing a mouth full of food. “By the way, there’s a new hire today. I saw her getting the grand tour by the Super a little while ago.”
“What’d she look like?”, Greg asked.
“Not bad at all. Too old for me, but she didn’t have a ring on her finger”, said a smiling Dave.
“Not that it would make any difference to you Greg”, Tommy laughed. A few of the men joined in the laughter. His old friend Greg was married with four children and two were still at home.
“Yeah, whatever. I still got eyes,” Greg said with a hearty laugh.
“Well, I’ll see you guys in there”, Tommy said as he grabbed the remnants of his lunch and headed for the trash can.
As Tommy started out of the door, his Supervisor was coming into the room with two men that had ‘FBI’ on their jackets. Tommy moved aside and joined the other eyes in the room that watched the agents walk through the hot lunchroom. The agents walked over to the table where the women with Michelle were sitting. Now everyone in the lunchroom were either standing or sitting with their eyes fixated on the agents.
“Wow, what’s up with that I wonder?” Greg said as he walked behind Tommy.
“I don’t know”, said Tommy.
After a few brief moments one of the agents stood by Michelle’s side as she stood up. The agent placed her in hand cuffs. Michelle was laughing for some strange reason. One agent held each of Michelle’s arms. The agents walked her toward the door where Tommy and Greg were standing. Both workers moved aside to clear the door for the agents. Michelle had a grin on her face as she approached closer to the door.
“I’ll see you later Tommy”, Michelle laughed as she passed him.
Both agents looked over at Tommy who now had a dumbfounded look on his face. The agents continued to walk out of the door. The room started buzzing with chatter from all the coworkers.
“Ok, break’s over for most of you. Please return to your stations”, the Supervisor repeated a few times loudly as he walked through the lunchroom.
“Wow, Tommy. You’re the luckiest bastard I know. You just dodged a hell of a bullet.”
“Yeah!” Tommy said in agreement.
Tommy and Greg headed for the shop with sweat pouring down their faces. The hallways were just as hot as the lunchroom.
“I take back what I said”, Greg said placing his hand on Tommy’s shoulder.
Tommy looked at his old friend Greg with a puzzled look and stopped in his tracks. Tommy now understood Greg’s statement. His ex-wife Shirley was walking down the hall toward them with a uniform and company badge.
“She’s back”, Greg whispered to Tommy in a sing-song tone.
(Flash Fiction by R.H.W. Dorsey)
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