Dirty Laundry & Ice Cream

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December 23, 2011 by Tiffany A. Robbins

I almost feel sorry for the rich lady as she runs around the Laundromat searching for her purse.

Mom says the lady was practically asking to get robbed for coming into a place like this with her rich lady purse. Mom tells me the lady can afford to replace the cell phone, designer purse, camera, and wad of cash.

“After all,” Mom says, “look at how nice her car is. Don’t you wish you had a car like that?”

I look through the dirty pane of glass that’s ringed in stained, tattered flyers at the shiny red Volvo’s leather seats and sunroof. Next to the emblem on the fender is the word turbo. I bet that car’s fast. Mom is right; I want it. I bet that lady could outrun a cop with a car like that.

If the lady calls the cops, I won’t be able to get away. We don’t even have a car. We live in the apartments across the street and have to haul our dirty clothes over here in sheets slung over our shoulders.

My sister keeps giggling and looking at the pile of clothes where Mom stashed the purse after I snagged it. Doesn’t my stupid sister realize that I’m the one who’ll go to jail if the lady finds it? If the cops get me, I can’t have the ice cream that Mom promised to give me if I took the purse while the rich lady was turned away. Now, we’ll be able to afford the good stuff with candy in it, not just the gallon of store brand vanilla we usually get. Mom says I may be able to get a video game too.

Why won’t the rich lady just give up and leave? She’s been working her way around the room asking all the moms for help. Most of the moms pretend not to understand her. They just shake their heads and say they don’t speak English. Some really don’t, but they all know what she’s asking and exactly where the purse is hiding.

The lady looks like she’s going to cry as mom after mom says they can’t help her.

My breath hitches in my throat as she asks Miguel’s mom. I hit Miguel in the face earlier today and his mom was really pissed off at me. Will she use the opportunity to get her revenge on me?

No. She won’t.

She shrugs and shakes her head. Everyone here is loyal. None of us would ever tell. We all know too much dirt about each other. If Miguel’s mom told on me, then I’d tell the cops where Miguel’s dad keeps his marijuana. Then, he’d tell the cops that my family doesn’t have papers and they would send us back across the border.

Mom says it’s a vicious cycle that keeps us all safe. We all see each other’s dirty laundry.

No one tells, no one helps the lady look around, no one lets her use their cell phone to call the cops; and finally, she gives up.

She’s been more persistent than most. With a grimace, she gathers up her laundry into her fancy baskets and puts them in her pretty red Volvo. She locks her car but looks at it sadly. Maybe she has realized that she must leave her car behind while one of us has the keys to it. She trudges away to the nearest pay phone so that she can call the police on us.

Good luck, rich lady. We’ll be gone before they get here. The dryer just dinged, and the ice cream waits.

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