Envious of his brothers’ good fortune in finding love, Michael embarks on a search for the right woman to share his life with. Taking advice from a women’s journal, however, lands him in hot water. Frustrated, he fires off a seething letter to the editor, with unexpected results.
(Yeah, yeah, I know, it needs a better synopsis... working on it!)
Michael's Quest by Allie McCormack
©2019 by Allie McCormack
Michael turned over to gaze blearily at the alarm clock. Seven o’clock on a Saturday morning was downright indecent. Did real people actually get up at this time? He groaned and buried his head under his pillow, but his conscience nagged at him, not letting him sleep. Did he, or did he not, want to meet “normal” women? If he did, sacrifices would have to be made. Like sleeping in on Saturday mornings, the best time, according to “Independent Ladies” magazine, to meet singles over the wash at a laundromat.
Dragging himself up finally, the covers pooling around his waist, he yawned. Mom would be proud of him, he decided, for the discipline he was showing. After all, he could put it off... just lay back down and let sleep reclaim him. He wavered for a moment as the pillow beckoned seductively, then cast away the weakness. He was an Al Mansour... if he chose to get up at an ungodly hour of the morning for any reason, he could do it.
With a sigh he rose and went to the dresser, pulling out jeans and a polo shirt. Okay, he could do this. It was the last resort. A laundromat! But everything else had been a total loss. The discos and bars, of course, were what had driven him to consulting a magazine in the first place. He’d walked into a bowling alley, took one good look around, and walked right out again.
The next suggestion, according to the article, had been over the fruits and vegetables aisle in the supermarket. He’d tried that for the last two weeks, and in about a dozen supermarkets. The only women he’d found there, besides octogenarians and housewives, seemed to be single mothers. Not that he had anything against a women with children, but most of the children were so ill-behaved, screaming or whining or squabbling with their siblings, that for a moment he’d almost decided he’d rather remain a bachelor. Only the reminder of his own childhood, and the family dynamics of his Arabic culture, kept him from giving up his quest.
Giving up on produce, he’d moved into other parts of the supermarket, only to discover that barracudas also existed in the fresh fish section... and not necessarily behind the counter. And church was out.... although he wasn’t religious, still, he had been raised a Muslim, and he wasn’t setting foot in a church. A mosque either, but that was beside the point. It was the principle. Religion was out.
So he was trying the laundromat. Carrying a box filled with dirty clothes (the hotel didn’t leave such things as laundry baskets about his suite), he went downstairs and out to his car, ignoring the astonished stare of the porter. A minute later he looked down at the closed door of his glossy black Corvette in rueful amusement. His passenger seat had never held anything as mundane as a box of dirty laundry. Michael thought it looked vaguely obscene.
The nearest supermarket was only two blocks away, and included a strip mall with a laundromat. Michael stopped in the store first, needing to buy laundry soap... detergent, the magazine had called it. Whatever. Unfortunately, early Saturday morning also seemed to be a prime time for meeting anyone at all in supermarkets, because the place was packed with people. Directed to the aisle with the laundry soap (detergent) by a helpful clerk, Michael frowned at the mass of shopping carts jamming the aisle. A few feet from him, a small older lady in a motorized cart was attempting to reach a box on a shelf just above her head. He watched for a few minutes as she repeatedly asked, “excuse me?” of the shoppers guiding their carts around her, intent on their own tasks. People should have rushed to help her.
He threaded his way, not without difficulty, through the tangle of carts and shoppers. “Can I help you?” he asked her.
She may have been old, and tiny, and frail, but her eyes were bright as stars, and her smile as warm as the desert sun at noon.
“Thank you, young man. Could you reach that box for me, there?”
He handed it to her. “Is there anything else I can get you?”
“Well, I need some of the bottled water a couple of aisles over. I can reach it, but they’re rather heavy. If you wouldn’t mind?”
“No, of course not,” he responded instantly. He moved forward, leading the way for her to move her cart in his wake.
“Wouldn’t it be better to shop at a less crowded time of day?” he asked as they turned the corner.
“Yes,” she admitted, smiling up at him. “But I like to come at this time and watch the young people. I’m in assisted living, you know, and there’s only old folk around.”
At her direction, Michael lifted two gallon jugs of water into the basket of her cart. “Will you be able to get these into your apartment when you get home?”
She patted his hand.
“Of course. There’s a bus from the complex that takes us around and picks us up, and the driver will bring all my groceries in for me. But thank you for caring. What’s your name, young man?”
“Well, Michael, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Esther Willis. Thank you so much for your help.”
He took the hand she held out to him, bowing over it in his best diplomatic fashion, appropriate for her queenly gesture. His eyes gleamed with mischief as he brought her hand to his lips.
"Enchanté, madame,” he intoned, enjoying her appreciative laugh.
“What a dear boy.” She beamed at him. “Go on with you now!”
He laughed, leaving her with a light heart. Returning to the laundry aisle, he got his soap and paid for it, leaving the store with a light heart. What a gallant old lady!
Humming to himself, he retrieved the laundry from his car, and headed for the laundromat. His cheerful mood diminished considerably the moment he opened the door to be hit with a blast of sensory onslaught: Oppressive heat and foreign odors overwhelmed him, as did the incredible cacophony of sound, both machine and human. For a moment he almost turned tail, before bracing himself to step forward into the din. People did this regularly, he reminded himself. Women did this. Single women. Normal ones. Okay. He took a deep breath. If they could do this, he could too.
Choosing an empty washer at random from the two long rows of machines, Michael began pulling clothes out of his box and dumping them in.
Startled, he looked up. In the next row a young woman, a baby strapped in a carrier on her chest and a toddler beside her, stared at him across the washers between them.
“What in the world are you doing?” she asked.
“Um... laundry.” Wasn’t it obvious?
“Are you particularly fond of pink underwear?”
Pink underwear? Oh god, he groaned inwardly. Not another one! And a kinky one at that.
The young woman, a pretty redhead, lifted her toddler, a girl with her mother’s auburn curls, onto the washer she’d just started.
“You stay there,” she told the child firmly, and walked around the row of washers to where Michael stood.
“If you wash this red shirt with your whites,” she explained patiently, lifting the shirt from the machine, “you’re going to have pink underwear.”
She peered into the washer, and pulled out his jeans. “Or purple, if these are as new as they look. And that’s if you’re lucky. Otherwise the entire load will come out a lovely shade of battleship grey, what with all these colors in here.”
“Oh.” Michael wasn’t sure what she was talking about, but felt mostly relieved that she wasn’t apparently hitting on him.
She surveyed him for a long moment with big brown eyes, then suddenly smiled in understanding.
“You’ve never done laundry before? You have to sort the colors,” and she demonstrated, pulling out the clothes and explaining as she quickly sorted them. “Also, you don’t put the clothes in first. Get the washer started, and when you have a few inches of water, then add the detergent, then the clothes. Otherwise you’ll have the soap crusting in the folds of the material.”
“Okay.” Michael hadn’t realized there was so much to doing laundry. No wonder the hotels, and his cleaning service back home, charged so much! She finished sorting his clothes, and helped him load the five washing machines it took to do the various colors and what she called the delicates. He thanked her for her help, and with a friendly smile she went back to her own laundry, which was just finishing.
This page was created on 5/14/2019