Black Friday

Monday 7/15/XX

We’re gonna have a new manager? Did either of you know that this was happening? Because I just found out today and he’s apparently starting tomorrow? I’m not scheduled for tomorrow, am I going to get in trouble for not showing up on his first day? 

Tommy, you don’t need to worry about coming in tomorrow. Your schedule is already set for the summer, You’re not going to get in trouble for following it. The new manager is Robert Phillips. The change is rather sudden, but it’s not surprising.

Thanks Wendy. Where did Johnny go? He started Black Friday, not that long ago, I thought he was more committed than this.

Oh, no. He’s committed, You might have noticed the laundry may across the street from us? The one called Something Less Suspicious; he decided that he needs to know what they do besides laundry, because he’s noticed that quite a few of our customers go there before coming to us. I believe that they were looking for a new manager, so he put in an application.

My question is does this new manager, this “Philips” guy, does he have any experience with laundry-ing money? Because I don’t want another person on the team that can’t properly iron dollar bills.

I don’t know what his experience is.

On a different note, this book is almost full and I thought that getting a new book at the same time a new manager starts would be nice. It would be a fresh start, and wouldn’t be a reminder that he’s new.

Tuesday 7/16/XX

Robert straightened his tie and checked his teeth before getting out of his car. The laundromat was small and very unassuming, but its name, Black Friday, was as suspicious as any front could be. There may not be any proof that it was a front for laundering money, but that was what he was there for.

He entered his new workplace, head held high, and ready to find proof.

                              How do you properly starch dollar bills?

Joshua wasn’t thrilled to have a new manager, especially this one. Phillips looked stuck up, and he gave off an air that suggested that he would never stoop to stay late, helping his employees catch up on work.

Phillips put out his hand and Joshua hesitated before taking it. If the big man wanted to get laundry detergent on his hand, who was Joshua to judge.

Phillips winced a bit at the handshake and Joshua grinned. If this manager wanted to fit in, he needed to start by getting his hands dirty.

Am I supposed to use bleach on coins? I have a customer who wants them very shiny, and I am afraid.

Wendy gave the tour, short as it was, to Robert.

“Josh has worked here the longest, so if you have any questions, he will have the answers. He is a bit of a grump sometimes, but you don’t need to worry about that, it’s just his personality shining through.”

Robert gave a tight smile. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“We have third employee, Tommy, but Tuesdays are his day off, so you won’t see him until tomorrow.” Wendy smiled brightly. It would be nice if they all started off on the same page about Tommy’s days off.

“The sign says that you’re open seven days a week,” Robert said slowly. “But with the name, Black Friday, I assumed that you would be closed Fridays.”

“Nah,” Wendy waved her hand, “We don’t get NEARLY as much business on Fridays, but we’re still open. It ends up being a good day to catch up on anything that we’re behind on.”

Robert nodded like that made sense, which was ridiculous because it didn’t make sense. Wendy knew that there were some people who would love to come in on Fridays, but they never did because they assumed that Black Friday was closed on Fridays, no matter how many times Wendy tried to convince them otherwise.

“Well, Wendy, Joshua, I look forward to working with you.”

What is the best way to dry the older duffle bags? They always seem to generate a lot of lint.

Wednesday 7/18/XX

Robert glanced at the clock again; it was almost seven A.M., there were only two minutes to spare, and Thomas, the youngest employee had not arrived yet. If he didn’t arrive in the next minute, he would have to be counted as late. Robert shook his head, and on the first day with his new boss, too.

7:00 A.M. Robert snapped his book shut and rose—the boy was late –

The front door slammed open! – the small bell jingling violently.

“I need this suit dry-cleaned right now!!! It’s an emergency!!” A young man slip into the laundromat and skidded across the floor until he hit the front counter. “Please! I need it done before noon! I’ll pay the extra!”

Robert opened his mouth. He didn’t actually know how to do that. At his other job, at Something Less Suspicious, he had only ever laundered money. He didn’t think that he would have to learn how to DO laundry.

The boy shook the suit in Robert’s face. “BY noon, if you can’t get it done sooner, please!”

Robert reached for the suit; he hadn’t quite figured out how to ring up the tickets yet, how was he supposed to dry-clean a suit in four hours?

The suit was snatched away from in front of him.

“Jasper, you know that you’re supposed to give up at LEAST twenty-four hours for dry-cleaning. A rush job is going to cost quite a bit more.”

Robert did not recognize the boy who was talking, but he seemed to know what he was doing as he rung Jasper up and promised that the suit would be ready by 11:45.

The bell on the door jingled as Jasper quickly left, and Robert turned to the young man beside him.

“Thomas, I presume?”

But Thomas was no longer there.

                           Which tape am I supposed to use to repair the bills?

Joshua was cleaning a lint trap when Phillips swept into the back room.

“Where is Thomas?”

Joshua looked at him for a moment, then went back to cleaning the lint trap. If the boss was looking for a customer, then maybe he should try looking in the FRONT room, where they were allowed to be.

“Joshua. Have you seen Thomas?”

Joshua shook his head. He hadn’t seen anyone in the back room besides Tommy.

I found 6 quarters in dryer #7, and I don’t think they were supposed to be washed. Do they count as lost change?

Thursday 7/19/XX

Robert looked annoyed.

“Is there anything I can do to help, Robert?”

He gave a tight smile. “Yes, there may be, Wendy. Have you seen Thomas? He was supposed to come to work yesterday, but I never saw him arrive and I only saw him at a glance; even Joshua didn’t see him yesterday. I cannot in good conscious allow him a job if he never comes to work.”

“Uh,” Wendy blinked. Tommy had been at work all day yesterday – she couldn’t imagine how Robert has missed him. “He was at work yesterday; he was the one that handled Jasper’s dry-cleaning, …and quite a few other things.” Robert still seemed annoyed, maybe even more frustrated than before. “He was also here before seven, maybe that’s why you never saw him arrive.”

“Hh.” Robert grunted, unbelieving. Wendy understood that, considering Tommy didn’t arrive before seven so much as he had slept in the back room overnight.

I have a customer that says she is allergic to the soap we use on the money. How am I supposed to respond to this?

Friday 7/20/XX

Joshua took pride in his ironing. He may have been the most experienced of the four workers, but even Tommy picked up on things fast. But nobody could iron as well as Joshua could. Which the question of WHY Phillips was digging through all of his ironed items, looking for the imaginary employee, Thomas.

Joshua bit his tongue as another stack of tablecloths was toppled over. He wished he could give Phillips a piece of his mind. He had spent a better part of Thursday ironing those tablecloths

Joshua snatched the next stack out of Phillips’ way before he could send it to the ground. He sent Phillips the most poisonous glare he could muster as he gently picked up the spilled linens and then marched over to the washing machines with them. He would let Wendy deal with Phillips and IF there was time after he re-did yesterday’s work, then he would finish ironing the load of dollar bills.

                      I GOT BLEACH ON A BLACK DUFFLE BAG! WENDY! PLEASE HELP ME!

Saturday 7/21/XX

Wendy felt frazzled in a way that she hadn’t felt since her first semester of taking 26 credit hours.

Josh was convinced that Robert was crazy – he had apparently spent all of yesterday undoing Josh’s work – and Tommy said that Robert had never talked to him, despite the fact that they had seen each other multiple times in the past few days.

Wendy gave a weary smile as she handed a dark grey duffle bag, full of stacks of freshly washed bills to the customer. “Thank you for your service, come again.”

“Wendy.”

Wendy jumped at the closeness of the voice, then slowly turned to look at Robert. “Yes, Robert?”

“Has Thomas clocked in yet?”

“Tommy… Tommy clocked in hours ago, Robert.” To be more accurate, Tommy hadn’t clocked out since Thursday and he had spent all night helping catch up on Josh’s work because of the mess Robert had made looking for him… Wendy didn’t feel like telling Robert that, at the moment.

“Did he? I haven’t seen him yet.”

Wendy turned back to the register, a little annoyed. After all the extra work Robert had made for them, she wouldn’t be seen by Robert either, if she could help it.

“That’s probably because he’s working.”

Robert made a noise in the back of his throat. “Yes. I’m sure that’s why I haven’t seen him.”

Washer #4 is leaking and I tried what you told me to do last time Josh and it’s still leaking and I don’t know what to do and I’m panicking and there’s water everywhere and I’m panicking Josh please help!

Sunday 7/22/XX

Joshua could admit that he was ironing passively aggressively. He also felt that he had a good reason to be doing so.

Phillips moved the iron back and forth, over the same spot that he had been ‘ironing’ for the last five minutes. Joshua didn’t think that Phillips had ever picked up an iron before today.

Phillips glanced up at Joshua again. “Uh. I think I’m done now.” He put the iron down and slowly folded the arms of the shirt, glancing up at Joshua again.

Joshua put down his own iron, and, without taking his eyes off Phillips, took his freshly iron shirt, put it on a hangar, and tagged it.

Phillips looked down at his awkwardly folded dress shirt.

Mr. Anderson has been displeased with how I’ve ironed his bills. Josh, can you help me do it again this Friday?

Robert fumed. He was positive that Joshua was giving him the most difficult items to work on. He was positive that Joshua had kept all of the top sheets for himself and was secretly laughing at Roberts attempts at folding the fitted sheets.

Robert glared at Joshua, who hadn’t even looked at his own work the whole day. Fold, fold, fold, fold, fold. The sheet looked perfect as Joshua placed it in his tall stack.

Wendy stuck her head into the room. “Joshua! Your lunch is in the –” She caught sight of Robert. “…Uh. Break room. Hi Robert.” She quickly retreated.

Joshua smiled as he pompously folded another sheet. He cheekily saluted and followed after Wendy.

Robert threw his sheet down, and it floated, mockingly slowly, to the ground. ‘Break room’ indeed. This was his chance to catch them at their illegal activities and find proof that they were stealing his customers.

                            The lint trap on dryer #1 is…not working.

The sandwich was very difficult to eat. Wendy could feel Robert’s gaze, even though he clearly thought he was hiding.

Josh slurped at his soup, apparently taking the intrusion as an excuse to eat as loudly as he could.

Wendy put down her sandwich. “Tommy says he’s having trouble with Mr. Anderson’s ironing, do you think you’ll be able to help him with –” Wendy felt like Robert was lurking, just over her shoulder, judging what she was saying.

Josh took a particularly loud slurp of his soup, prompting her to continue.

“Um. With the work we already have? I can put in some extra hours if I need to.”

Josh pointedly looked over her shoulder, then gave her an exasperated shake of the head. Extra hours weren’t going to help as long as Robert was around.

I think we’re missing a screwdriver from the toolbox. I dumped everything out, but I still can’t find it.

Monday 7/23/XX

It was Robert’s day off.

Wendy spent her first fifteen minutes rearranging the front counter, back to how she liked it, letting Tommy handle all of the customers.

“There. That’s better.”

Tommy looked around. “I don’t think I could find anything either way. Why is this way better?”

Wendy patted him on the shoulder. “Because it’s my counter, Tommy. My counter; my arrangement.”

He shrugged. “Whatever makes you happy.”

We are getting low on Mrs. Alton’s special fabric softener, it needs to be ordered sometime in the next week.

Tuesday 7/24/XX

“Tuesday is Tommy’s day off, Robert. The schedule is in the back room, and every Tuesday for the whole summer is marked off for Tommy. This isn’t new.”

Robert grunted. “As opposed to all the other days, when he’s not here?”

Wendy carefully put down the detergent. “Tommy regularly works six days a week, sir. I do not understand how you haven’t seen him, unless you are ignoring him out of spite. He has told me that he has tried to talk to you multiple times –”

“Wendy. That is no way to speak to your manager.” Wendy gritted her teeth. “If you are covering for Thomas, you just need to admit it. I understand that he’s young, but…” Robert shrugged. “If he can’t handle the job, that’s on him, not you.”

“Not handle…!” Wendy gaped at him. “You’re the one who can’t even use a washing machine!”

          One of the irons leaks. I swear, it was like that when I picked it up; I didn’t break it.

Wednesday 7/25/XX

Joshua stood statue still, pretending that he couldn’t see Phillips.

“Joshua Edmunds. Move out of the way.”

He was also pretending that he couldn’t hear what Phillips was saying. He liked to think about it as his first act of rebellion against Phillips. Tommy would disagree. He said that being passive aggressive counted.

“I need to talk to Wendy. She is on the clock, so she is answerable to me – Joshua. Move.”

Joshua disagreed. Both with Tommy and Phillips. Being passive aggressive wasn’t rebellion and if you made Wendy cry, on the clock or not, you didn’t have the right to talk to her.

Wendy, you can do my job as long as you need. Robert never notices what I do, so it could be a good way to stay away from him.

Thursday 7/26/XX

Robert hadn’t had a chance to talk to Wendy. She had spent all of yesterday locked in a closet, with Joshua standing silent guard and today he hadn’t been able find her.

“Maybe she didn’t come in today.” He looked around at the customers. He thought that she was more responsible, they had a lot of customers today, many more than Joshua and the imaginary Thomas could handle.

Robert looked down at the record book. He thumbed through it again. He hadn’t expected it to yield anything, but the list of customers…was intriguing. He recognized every one of the Friday regulars and most of the Thursday evening customers. They were some of HIS customers, from Something Less Suspicious. He laundered money for them regularly. So, why were they coming to Black Friday?

He glanced at his watch. He had three hours before those clients started arriving. It should be enough time to make and put on a disguise. It wouldn’t do for his clients to know that he was spying on them.

I’ve got a surprise quiz tomorrow; I’m really sorry, but it’s a big part of my grade and I don’t think I’ll be able to make it into work.

Friday 7/27/XX

Wendy was more than a little surprised that Robert hadn’t noticed her yet. She had thought that he was more set on not noticing Tommy, than the person doing his job, but he had either given up on confronting her, or was really unobservant.

Robert slunk past her, fake moustache sagging.

Or maybe he was an idiot.

              What is the rule about rocks left in pockets? I found a really cool one. Can I keep it?

Joshua was thrilled that Phillips was leaving them alone, even if it meant he was suspiciously lurking.

Joshua was less thrilled that he had to cover the register for Wendy all day.

He stared at the clock, willing it to move faster, so that he could LEAVE.

The door bell dinged, as the last real customer left.

Only two more minutes. …Joshua stared at the clock, like it was the only important thing in the room.

“AHhhHm.”

Joshua put up the Register Closed sign that he had made earlier in the day and started tapping his fingers along with the ticking of the clock. One minute and forty-five seconds.

Phillips took off his fake moustache. “A-HEM. Joshua!” He hit the counter, making a very loud smack in the quiet room. “WHAT is THIS?”

Joshua turned to look at him. He was holding a black duffle bag – it looked like it belonged to Quill – that was full of bills.

Joshua didn’t even know what reaction Philips wanted; it was just money. They washed it all the time. He didn’t know why Phillips was shaking the bag at him like it was a crime.

“Admit it! You’re laundering money!”

Oh well, it was six o’clock. The work day was over. Joshua gave a wide gesture that made it pretty clear that he wasn’t getting involved in this right now and headed to lock up the door.

“You have no idea how dangerous it can be, laundering money.”

Joshua gave an exasperated look. The money didn’t dissolve that easily.

“I will report you an –”

“What are you doing, Robert?”

Joshua flipped the sign to closed.

“You’re in on it too. You won’t get away with it. I know everything.”

“Know every – Robert, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Report us for washing? For defending co-workers? What?”

“You’re laundering money.”

Wendy looked at him blankly. “So?” Joshua shrugged. He was glad that he wasn’t the only one confused by Phillips. “It’s not illegal to wash money.”

“Yes! Yes it is! Laundering money is illegal! And you will go to jail for it!”

Joshua walked to the back room. This was just ridiculous.

“It… You’re an idiot, Robert.” Wendy turned to follow Joshua. “If you’re willing to be silent for a few minutes, I can show you exactly why.”

Joshua walked faster. He didn’t want to be part of this, he wanted to go home!

“Josh.”

He froze.

“Please don’t leave yet.”

Okay. Fine. He wouldn’t leave yet.

Wendy opened washing machine #1, snatched the duffle bag from Phillips, who looked a little red with anger, and dumped the bills into the washer. She sprinkled on some soap, slammed the top down, and turned it on.

“There. I’m laundering money. Are you happy Robert?”

Phillips paled significantly. “What…”

“We haven’t been subtle about it. I really don’t know how you’ve missed it, though I shouldn’t be surprised; you think Tommy doesn’t work here.”

Joshua raised both eyebrows. That was news, he had only heard about Phillips looking for a Thomas.

“I have never seen Thomas,” Phillips hissed. “You two made him up, so you could get another paycheck and split the money!”

It wasn’t like Joshua had never thought about the idea, but it’s not like he would ever actually do it.

“Tommy works here six days a week! I don’t know how you’ve missed him! He’s talked to you many times!”

Huh. Tommy’s actual name was Thomas? That cleared some things up.
“I’ve never seen him!”

“Uhh. What’s going on?”

Joshua waved at the very confused looking Tommy. It was good to see that he had survived class.

“SEE? Tommy DOES exist!”

Phillips’ jaw dropped. “YOU!” He pointed an excusing finger at Tommy. “You’re that noisy customer! I thought I banned you!”

Tommy hunched his shoulders. “I told you before, I’m not a customer; I work here.”

“I have never seen you clock in, or do work! You’re lying.”

Tommy hunched his shoulders more. “I make sure that the machines are working, do ironing, clean, wash…” He trailed off under Phillips’ glare. “I do work here,” he whispered.

“You.” Wendy poked Phillips in the chest. “You can leave. And never come back. We don’t need you here.”

Phillips blinked, looking a little stunned.

“If you ever step foot into this laundromat, ever again,” Wendy took a deep breath, and clenched her teeth, “for any pretense, I will make sure you regret it. Now. Leave.”

Phillips took a step back. Then, he raised his chin, turned on his heel and swept out, quite dramatically.

Wendy took a shaky breath.

“Wendy…” Tommy held out his arms in an invitation. Wendy gave a watery smile and accepted the hug.

Joshua turned to go.

“Josh. Get over here.”

Joshua looked over his shoulder. It was already past six…

“Josh.”

Joshua reluctantly joined the hug.

“Um.” Tommy said in a small voice. “I passed my quiz.”

“Good job, Tommy.” Wendy said, voice muffled. “I think we should all take tomorrow off and celebrate.”

Joshua tried to step back.

After the hug, Josh. We can celebrate after the hug.”

The End

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More Stories by Natasha Blade

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