Hannah at the Launderette by Laura Scoble

Hannah came from a nice part of Surrey where people gave their dirty clothes to a young man at the back door who brought them back a few days later, clean and ironed.

Once married to handsome Jerry, however, Hannah forfeited back doors and all that came through them. But her sweet-talking husband did buy her a washing machine and steam iron with some of their wedding money. He even taught her how to use them.

Jerry, meanwhile, got on with betting on dead certs at various horse races around the country.

Sympathy for Jerry’s rotten luck survived intact through three wedding anniversaries, the loss of Hannah’s heated rollers, camera, the best of their furniture and even some of her jewellery. Only when her washing machine was sold to pay the bookie who’d popped round for a chat late one night, did she begin to suspect that gorgeous Jerry was completely useless at backing the winning horse.

Hannah had never used a launderette before.

She arrived with her dirty clothes neatly folded in a suitcase and had been studying the half-rubbed off operating instructions on the launderette’s washing machine for some minutes when a young woman appeared at her side offering help. The Good Samaritan poured the soap powder into one of three dispensers, turned the dial this way, then that way, took the coins from Hannah’s now slowly unclenching fist and very efficiently pushed them into the correct slot. A memory of birthday party magicians popped into Hannah’s head.

After giving the dial one more spin the helpful young woman explained that the wash wouldn’t begin for thirty seconds. She theatrically pushed a button and headed for the door waving away Hannah’s thanks and invitation to come for a cup of tea.

Thirty seconds stretched into five minutes before Hannah saw the trick. She avoided eye contact with the young couple sitting nearby and headed home for more coins. Hannah took their total silence as disinterest. 

Fifteen minutes later she rushed back into the launderette clutching the new coins so tightly the next person who wanted them would have had to chop off her hand. The couple had gone. A quick scan of the place informed her that her suitcase too was gone, as was her dirty laundry.

New customers drifted in and out over the next few hours. Only a few paid attention to the woman sitting on a bench smiling and crying, and occasionally talking to herself.

The suitcase wouldn’t be needed for holidays now that she and her lovely husband were down on their uppers, Hannah reasoned, so that wouldn’t be missed. The lost laundry, well, most of it was Jerry’s best shirts that he wore to the races, so perhaps its disappearance wasn’t such a terrible thing, really.

By Laura Scoble


  1. That was fabulous. A whole story signings three years in such a shirs piece. So evocative.

  2. I love this. Succint, strong, sparse. What's Hannah going to do now? What's the scammer's plan? Keen to know more about these fharcharac and the world they inhabit :)

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