Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: In the Car Wash

Little Sal clutched his action figure as his mother drove them into the car wash. It was dank and blue rubber strips hung down like giant teeth. They slapped wetly against the windshield and clung on, making him sink into his cushioned seat. White foam sprayed over all the windows. His mother put it in Park and the car jerked as the conveyor treads began pulling them in.

Little Sal pulled his Green Lantern to his chest, as though to protect the superhero from this onslaught. His mother patted his shoulder.

“Do they scare you? It’ll just be a minute. It’s been forever since we got a wash on this rust bucket.”

“It’s not them, Mom.”

The conveyer drew them further down the mechanical gullet. What had once been a whirring was now like sitting inside a jet engine. They couldn’t hear outside the car, and the windows were all covered in foam and spinning rubber strips. What little light made it through the foam looked yellow. Little Sal squeezed his eyelids closed.

“What is it, honey? The noise?”

“We can’t hear outside. If there was a monster, you couldn’t hear it.”

“No, honey. But the noise will be over in a minute.”

“And if a bomb dropped, you couldn’t see it.”

The jet engine sound punched through Mach-1 as they passed what was presumably the central power source of the car wash. Thicker foam was squirted over the windshield and was swirled about by mechanical mops.

“We wouldn’t know if the whole world ended, Mom.”

“Don’t be silly.”

The mops retracted and went lifeless. The conveyor pulled them through curtains of water, like so many thin rainstorms, rinsing away the last of the foam.

Then the car lurched to a stop. The conveyor ride was over. The machinery clunked, hummed, and went dormant. His mother popped the car back into Drive and they rolled forward. Bright sun spilled through the freshly cleaned windshield. Mother and son squinted together into daylight.

As vision came back, they saw the rubble that had once been the parking lot. Asphalt had crumbled like so many Oreo cookies. No cars rested here, and there were none on the road. There were no buildings, and only a curlicue of black smoke on the horizon.

“See honey? No monsters. No more bombs. There was nothing to worry about. Nothing changed.”

She squeezed his shoulder, and drove them onto the scorched remains of the highway.


  1. I liked the tone of this one, John. Comforting, somehow. Maybe it's being in the car with Mom. And a cool twist at the end.

  2. Whoa! This is too cool for school! Very warped - in a good way.

  3. I am often reminded of a jet engine when in one of those things. My kids love 'em. Great twist ending.

  4. cool! Your comment over at io9 had me thinking of the episode of CSI (Vegas) this season with the car wash. Glad it did not turn out like that!

  5. Nice twist! I love that his ridiculous sounding fears have complete real world grounding.

    I always liked car washes as a kid. I liked looking at the soap on the windows. Glad I didn't read the story then... this kind of thing could start a few phobias.

  6. Isn't it great the way moms can make any situation feel like everything will be all right? So irrational. Great story.


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