life gets messy

“What do you mean you’ve never done laundry?”

“Dave does it.”

“What about before Dave?”

“Mom did it.”

“What about upstate? Chowchilla?”

“My bunkies took care of it.”

“You’re a spoiled princess, aren’t you?”

“No. I hand wash my own silks at home.   I hand wash my own intimates here.”

He laughed, the booming laughter that shook all the badges on his body and made his aviator glasses tip on his face.  I interrupted his laughter to continue my thought, “Besides, if I were a 30-year-old man who married young,  you wouldn’t be surprised at all.”

“I always said you were a feminist.”

“You being a chauvinist does not make me a feminist.  Holding myself to the same standards I hold everyone to, male or female, does not make me a feminist.   Being a feminist is an actual real definable thing.  It’s a word. In the dictionary and everything.  You know?”  I leaned in close and pronounced the word slowly, pantomiming with my hands. “The diiiictionaaaary?”

He swats at my hands.  “I know what a dictionary is,  Ra.”  Then, pausing to look directly at me, “Just like I know what an asshole is.”

I smile, as purposely-unaffected-looking as I could manage.  “Aw sucks,  Mr. Irube, just ‘cos you don’t know some words doesn’t mean you’re an asshole.”

His laugh barks through the room.   Point, me.

Hours later, I’m reading in my cell and he bangs the door as he walks by.  He’s going home for the next two days.  I stick my head into the hallway, “Big plans for your weekend?”

“Yeah,” he says, pirouetting around mid-stride to look at me straight faced.  “I gotta handwash my silks.”

He spins forward and strides on, his laughter almost as loud as the door that crashes close.
Point, him.

A couple days later, I hear him walk in with the sunrise, filling the sleepy, empty hallways with his trademark whistle.  It’s always the same tune– The good,  the bad,  the ugly.

I never know if he’s wielding the three, or warning them.
Something Irube this way comes.

He pops my door open from the cop shop,  his signal for me to come out of my room, usually to do some voluntary care of the unit.

I shut the door with a lady-like slam.
Point, me.

Irube pops it open again. Then after a minute pause, he rests his finger on the button,  letting the door make a shotgun-like crack over and over again.   My bunky groans, my hallway starts to wake up, and though I can’t see him, I know he’s smiling at the upheaval he’s causing.

I give in, walking down the hall, and without knocking– I open the cop shop door and bark “what!”.

Instead of his regular partners, it’s one of our third watch regulars, and I blush.

“Sorry, Mr. Patia,” I chirp.

He’s my age or younger, rounder, and terminally-afflicted by uncaring.  Irube cares too much.  Side by side, in temperament and looks, they are different.

Mr. Patia plops down on a chair and looks at me curiously. “You’re always asking to volunteer on my shift.  He pops you out for volunteering, why’d you give him a hard time?”

Mr. Irube is enjoying my need to be unerringly polite with those I don’t know well.  He leans forward, mock concern filling his face, “Yes, Ra.  Tell us why.”

I’ve never flipped anyone off in my life, but I’m tempted.   It’s too early for this, but Patia’s obliviousness is tickling my funny bone, and Irube’s humor is contagious.  I start to laugh and explain the previous conversation to Patia in a series of soundbites.

“This last time Irube was here, he called me a princess.  I just wanted to point out that princesses don’t wake up at 5am to mop floors, clean public bathrooms, empty trashcans, and then prep a kitchen– without pay or credit or reason.”

Patia looked at Irube. “She has a point.”

Irube choked on his water, barking at Patia.  “Don’t let her get in your head. She talks people into thinking in circles.”

“Don’t tell Mr. Patia how to think.” I argue.

Irube groans.  “Everyone does not need you to protect them, Ra.”

“I know, but just because someone can defend themselves, doesn’t mean they should have to.  Plus, you can’t use your bully-voice on someone just because they are being reasonable.”

Irube starts to bang his head against the table.  A slow, deliberate thunk of his oversized bald head against the fake wood.

Patia watches our stalemate for a full minute before finally interrupting. “You can go back to your room if you want.”

Mr. Irube and I look at him blankly.

“He needs me for something.” I explain slowly.  I don’t know what it is, but it is necessary and it is for the betterment of the girls or the unit.   Nothing I say to him, or the other way around, affects our shared belief that our unit deserves the best.  We both know that, but rather than explaining– Irube waves his hand and marches out of the room,  and I follow.

“Today, Ra.” he booms to the empty unit. “It’s laundry day.”

The point is his, and we laugh.  Hours later at breakfast, the girls want to know what we found so funny so early in the morning, but I couldn’t really explain.  I was in the middle of laundry.

I washed sixty blankets that day.  Patia showed me how to run the machine, and Irube taught me how to distinguish between all the different parameters of laundry.  The girls asked if they could help, but Irube shooed them away.

I shook my head at the pointlessness.  “You know, when I come home, Dave is just going to go right back to doing the laundry.”

“Probably,” he agreed, “But life gets messy.  One of the most important things to learn, no matter what all your schooling and diiiiicctionaaaarrrriies might say, is how to clean up after it.”


That was about 16 months ago, according to my journal.  Dave hadn’t died yet, I hadn’t come home.

I wash my own blankets now, blankets that the state doesn’t own.  Blankets that no one else has slept on, bled on, leaked on.

Life got messy, after all– but I’m learning how to clean up after it.



This post is for the weekly Daily Post Discover prompt, “learning”.  It’s also a throwaway note section from the book because I’m so bad with the dialogue and I’ve decided I have no interest in learning how to do that better– I’ll just tell a story a different way.

Is there any type of writing that you don’t even want to bother seeing if you can master?  How are you with laundry?  When did you do your first load of laundry?


  1. First load of laundry was probably in high school, but maybe before that.
    I don’t mind it as a chore. It’s time consuming but only in spurts, and the moments in between can be spent in other pursuits.
    Writing that I don’t want to bothering attempting? I’m not sure. I’ve never really thought about it. The words come and I right them down as they do…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Laundry is one of those regular chores I don’t mind. I’ll do laundry, dishes, cooking, even dusting if I have to. But I hate, hate, hate scrubbing bathrooms or floors and vacuuming. Life is messy, and while it’s nice to have help, we ultimately have to clean up after ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I smiled all the way through this – all the way.

    I did my first load of laundry in middle school when I yelled at my mom for accidentally turning a black and white shirt of mine pink and white. That was a bad move on my part, but I knew how to do laundry when I left home, that’s for sure.

    I don’t like trying to write haiku. It’s a major struggle for me to figure it out and it’s too poetry-ey for me on top of that to want to master it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. RaRa,

    I grew up helping my parents run motels. We had industrial washers and dryers…commercial kitchen sinks. In reading this I realized I wait for heaping piles of laundry. I can’t be bothered to wash a few dishes – I need a stack. Not quite a prison story, but kinda institutional. 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

  5. I did the laundry, pretty much every day, from age 7 to 18 for the house. As a result, my brother never had to learn, so you know I made sure M knew and does his own 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I can’t handle scenery description. When someone does it great, I love it, but I can’t handle it in my own writing. I always have to jump to the point. By the way, I started laundry when I was 6. I wanted to make money for buying an atari 2600 so my mom would take people’s laundry from her work and bring it home for me to wash. My first business.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I brought laundry home from work?????? I don’t remember that. But it sounds like something you would do. The business I remember is you making brownies and selling them door to door!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Also, like Sreejit, I struggle to paint a picture with words, as such, I’ve always found dialogue to be the easier part of writing.

      When it comes to doing the laundry – I when solo in my early twenties. After observing and helping Mum over the years, I just did what she did – separate colours and when doubt read the label!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I liked the dialogue in you story.
    I don’t know when I washed my first laundry by using the washer. I think I was 21. Nobody ever let me try to use the damn thing or show me what to press, so I waited until I had my own.


  8. My first load of laundry was when I went away to college at the age of 20. I took all my clothes and dumped them in the machine. I still do laundry the same way to this day. Sorting is for wimps. 😉

    Writing dialogue is tough in my opinion. But I didn’t know you hated doing it until you mentioned so at the end.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Just because someone can defend themselves doesn’t mean they should have to…(sorry if I worded it differently I’m having memory issues)….so so true Ra. True and loving. I’m not quite sure why that has such meaning, but also very aware it does. Perhaps because I find it hard to do for myself or maybe that my timing is always off.
    Specific poetry types are my stay-away-from writing. I love poetry but the rebel in me refrains from specific styles.
    I did my first load of laundry as teenager when I was pregnant. My mother never allowed me to do laundry, though I begged to learn. I wore the same pair of Levi’s for a week or more, and would put them in the dryer when she was at work to fluff them. I shrunk 7 outfits for the baby that day…but I remember the pride I felt doing it on my own. I was g scolded for caring for myself, child…I just did it. It was wonderful. Now 18 years later and six more kids I can say I still shrink stuff…but it’s OUR stuff, our washing machine, and I love it.


  10. I do the laundry around here. I FORBID my hubby to wash and dry, as he doesn’t pay attention to the labels on what is washable, and if washable, if it should be hang-dried. He once shrunk my one and only cashmere sweater I ever owned into a size that would fit a toddler. Then, my DAD of all people, when I came home for spring break in college, washed my new red canvas tennis shoes in hot water with my whites. He thought he was helping. OMG, I wore pink t-shirts and underwear for YEARS after that. I probably did my first load in high school, though. But my mom taught me how to separate whites from darks, wash whites in hot water and darks in cold, and to read the labels if you should flat/hang dry or if they can be be tumbled. xoxoxo Great piece here.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. After my divorce, I bought a very used Maytag washer and dryer in a bad neighborhood and paid the guy extra to bring them on his truck. Nine years later, these 20-year-old machines just keep working.

    They were one part of cleaning up my messy life.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. The people you met in prison will never forget you.

    I don’t remember when I started doing my own laundry. What I remember is the endless ironing. In high school, I came home from a 6 week summer trip throughout the U.S. studying Beliefs Men Live By with my church youth group. The first thing my mother said to me was “you have ironing to do.”

    I don’t see myself ever writing poetry. I try it ever now again, but my mind doesn’t work that way.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ra, wish I could do your laundry. But then I’d never get it done for being distracted by working through the depth of meaning behind your words. The writing I cannot seem to master is description – like how reading your words feels to me. Maybe one day I can put that to words, I would like that. Until then… well, I have a couple of loads of laundry waiting.


    Liked by 1 person

  14. I think this needs a thud in passing.

    Laundry… I’ve always had a minor knack for accidentally dyeing things. I used to own some underthings that ended up that blue/lilac/grey shade known as “accidentally ended up going through with the colours”. Then I wised up, and bought all black, so the only white things I now own are hankies and a couple of other things which hardly get worn.

    I too dislike the ironing that washing produces. It’s OK if you can do it while watching the telly or something, but I have the problem that there’s no ironing board tall enough for me to use without ending up with a sore back!!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. So. When the book gets published and you are on tour, this is one part that MUST be read aloud to the waiting audience. At least for those of us in the SoCal area who will be there to cheer (and most likely get kicked out of the bookstore for such rabble rousing). I can’t wait. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I don’t remember when I first did laundry, but I remember sitting as a toddler, with my head poked into the glass dip of the door of the washing machine, chin resting on the rumbling buzziness, as the laundry span around and around and around. I DO remember that when I finished my school exams, mum told me I could do all my own ironing thenceforth, and I think I’ve ironed about three garments ever since.

    Mr Irube did you a good favour, and I’m glad you had fun together, of a sort.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. By the time I was 12, I was doing my family’s laundry. Five brothers and one girl.
    Although by then, only 4 brothers lived at home.

    Keeping straight who’s stuff was who’s was a nightmare. Endless socks and underwear.

    Keep writing these stories. I love them.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. You’re doing great with the dialogue, Ra. It’s okay to write out the bits and pieces. Then you can arrange them by some means. Then you can arrange them into bigger works. Sometimes you just have to sit in front of the keyboard and bleed.

    Metaphorically speaking, of course. And don’t ask the state of my hands while I’m typing this. That’s besides the point.

    My point, of course, is that when you’re in doubt, throw some confetti.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I don’t remember “first laundry” but I do remember early laundry such as hanging it out in the winter when I was 8 and it would freeze-dry stiff. I also remember helping my grandmother with a wringer washer. One started with the whites, then the coloureds, then the darks, since the same water was used and one needed it hot for the whites and not so hot for the rest and that was also a progression in dirtiness since the work clothes were darkest.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. You hate writing dialogue? I’dve never known it as your dialogue is concise, witty and very follow-able. Freshly laundered bedding is good for the psyche. Have a happy week, Rar!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. sometimes throw-away notes harbor keeper stuff, you know. I’ve done my own laundry since I moved out of my parents house when I was 17. When I travel, I wash my clothes in the sink, and I travel a lot…

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I love that someone mentioned book tour. I helped with laundry.. getting my Dad’s shirts out on time – folding towels. My dear Ma still did it from me when I came home from school – but I did it there too. Now – I’ve got more laundry then I know what to do with.. but it’s my family’s – so there’s the positive. Ohio isn’t typically on book tour lists – but I’ll be there in spirit – cheering you on.
    Keep plodding along.. you’re doing awesome. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I don’t do my laundry. GG is in charge of the laundry, as he decided that he hates hanging it up and putting the clothes away more than he hates turning on the machine.
    I like the way you wrote the dialogue. It gave a different flow to your writing, which was interesting. The nature of the exchange was keenly felt, and it was very clear what was going on, throughout.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I should be going to sleep, I have work tomorrow… Having found your blog though, I’m finding I cannot stop reading (albeit backwards!). I’m so sorry for the loss of your husband. From your writing it’s evident you’re an incredible person with an infectiously brilliant character! Looking forward to reading more…xxx

    Liked by 1 person


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