Welcome to JP Melville's review, experience, and statement on foreign aid and the international development industry. A conservative faith in family. A love affair riding the riotous tensions between money, personal freedom, the majestic travesty of our specie's ecological footprint, and economic politics. Selected writing of both prose and poetry, anecdotal travel log to rhetorical essay, dating back from the 1980's to the present. Enjoy!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

From Sombong's Laundery

A crowd of shopkeepers gathers at the little tables under the awning in front of Sombong’s laundery.  They babble, point, and guffaw at the shenanigans the rain brings to their street.  Motorcycles brought under cover.  Shoes left on doorsteps soaked already, unceremonious sacrifices.  Who cares!  Oh ho!  Your shoes are wet!  Ha ha!
The rain spatters furiousl.  Wet darkness swamping down in sheets.  People.  Absolutely soaked!  Rickshaw drivers continue peddling, changing only the bend of their heads to allow water to run off their brows.  Lights of cars and trucks dancing in the murk, swushing wheels beeping sopping engines roar by dull come again gone.  Two young men hop under an awning, to another awning, store front to store front, their white shirts pasted to their backs and their black dress pants hanging heavily.  They hop one last time to the awning at the nightclub - ah, ushers.  The girls who work there, too, laugh when they open the door to let them in.
Now black as pitch, streetlight piercing, taillights red streaming past, pounding water from the sky, swashing sounds.  Damp drafts nudge the heavy air hanging in the laundery.  Little tables littered with glasses of thick coffee and cigarettes.  Bodies sitting, some clothes wet and dank, others dry.  All eyes turned to the yawning black square, the storefront looking out at rainfall in Ubon.

The Laundromat

The shop is deep by eight metres and wide by three.  Racks of clothes, baskets of clothes, two ironing boards, three dryers and a washing machine clutter the space.  A ceiling fan swirls above, obliviously swirling, swirling, while people cloth baskets food smiles anger come and go.  There are two patterns of linoleum on the floor, one marked with orange squares and the other spattered with blue blots.  This is Sombong's shop.  She is twenty-eight.  At the moment she is out.  She zipped away on her motorscooter to tend to last moment business before the rain fell again.
Thud-crunch tinkle.  Silence.  An accident on the street.  Excited chatter and bodies rush past the opening of the shop.  Chatter turns to laughter, so the accident not serious.  A child stands still at the entrance to the coffee shop.  Eyes staring wide after where all the people went.  Her hair and little dress buffetted, flickering in the wind.  Her face and shoulders relax.  It is not Sombong.
A fellow who had got knocked off his motorcycle by a truck is now sitting on a chair just inside the shop.  Some ointment is applied to his foot and then a bandage by the woman who was driving the truck, a friend of Sombong.  He is sent on his way smiling with ten dollars in his pocket.  Sombong arrives, grabs a bag of clean laundry, and leaves again.  Two other friends arrive, wearing tight jeans and flowers stitched into their jackets.  They ask for Sombong and decide to sit and wait.  An empty tv squats on a nearby table and watches the women listlessly, waiting for the rain.
Outside, grey evening darkness.  A swushing wind threatens rain.  In the shop, we are glamourless, two fluorescent bulbs casting grainy light, the in-here distinguished from the out-there.
The rain falls.
Rainy season laundromat.

The Amway Gal

She slides in out of the rain, sits down, and says she that she is Sombong's friend.  She's got a sparkling, delicate watch, bands of silver on her other wrist, a ring of gold on each hand, whopping huge earrings, hair curled in a permanent, a pretty face.  She, she believes, has got Sombong sold.
She has handed Sombong a pamphlet with lots of sharp pictures of pots and pans and cosmetics and household cleansers and other assorted etceteras.  Each page is colourful and the items are neatly arranged.  Some pages have a blue scheme, some have a pink scheme, and some a vibrant yellow.  The pamphlet has just so many pages, not too few.  Short written descriptions tucked neatly in columns to the side.
Without a breath in between she slips Sombong a card.  Explaining this and that.  You use this for that and that for this.  Use some here, or there, oh everywhere!  That is for some of the time, this is for all of the time.  So many places, uses, applications.  Hardly costs a penny.  Oh!  And this is for that and so and so used that once for this, over there, over here.  The air around her filled up with pots and pans and visions of non-detergent hands.  Out comes a sharp, leather notebook.  And this is how much I am making!
Sombong places the open pamphlet to the side of the ironing board and, keeping her eyes on the pictures and her ears on the Amway gal, she reaches to the left for another basket of her many customers' clothes and pulls out a shirt for pressing.

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