Lost & Found – Flash Fiction

‘Look she’s doing it again.’ It was psychology major uni-girl. 

She doesn’t think I can hear her. I fold and re-fold my T-shirt for the fifth time until just the right amount of Ravenclaw crest is visible.   

‘Definitely on the spectrum,’ nervous-laugh-wants-to-impress-her-friend, other uni-girl, declares. They stuff their collection of still damp skinny jeans into a $9 Kmart overnight bag and leave.  

The laundromat is filled with the regular mix of middle-aged single men, pensioners and me. I’m here every Saturday. I arrive precisely at 8.47am so I have the exact length of time needed to wash, dry and fold my laundry before going to my shift at what was possibly the last physical video store in existence.  

I move on to my final items. No. I rummage through the basket. No! It’s not there. I hold up the lonesome sock emblazoned with Cheshire Cats. They smile maniacally, mocking me for losing their friends. 

The dryer. I peer into the open door seeing nothing but darkness. I reach in as far as I can, my fingers finding nothing but clumps of lint. Socks can’t just disappear, like magic. I lean further in with my knees resting on the edge, but there is nothing. I hesitate for a moment before crawling in as if following a white rabbit.   

‘Are you okay in there?’  

I sit up with a start, banging my head against the metal drum. My cheeks are burning as I reverse out of the dryer, preparing myself for the humiliating interaction to come. 

Instead, a gangly-looking man with floppy hair and twinkly eyes greets me. ‘Just wanted to make sure you’re okay,’ he shouts. 

I point to my over-ear headphones. ‘They’re not on.’ I immediately regret saying it. ‘Too much noise…loud music…I like quiet,’ the words tumble incoherently out of my mouth.  

He gives a small nod. He’s wearing a shirt with an obscure but funny periodic table reference – he understands.  

‘I was looking for the other one.’ I hold up the remaining half of my favourite pair of socks. 

He rubs his chin and looks serious all of a sudden. ‘Curiouser and curiouser.’ 

I clasp my hand over my mouth too late to smother a snort-like laugh. I grab my basket and run, admonishing myself for being so uncool, and the fact that I would have to find another laundromat.  

I am halfway down the street when I feel a hand on my arm. He is there, holding my other sock.  

‘You wouldn’t believe it,’ he puffs, trying to catch his breath, ‘but I found this in my basket.’ 

‘Thanks,’ I mumble, taking the sock and turning to leave. 

‘You can’t go.’  

I raise a quizzical brow.  

‘Don’t you see. Your Cheshire Cat friends wanted to bring us together for a reason.’ 

I glance down at the sock and swear one of those cats winks back at me. 

‘I’m Lewis,’ he extends his hand. 

I take it with a tentative smile. ‘I’m Alice, nice to meet you.’

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