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Sunshine Dry Cleaners

by Victor Rojas about a year ago in science fiction
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Holly Kowalski, a little black notebook and 3D glasses

Illustration done by Victor Rojas, writer of " Sunshine Dry Cleaners ".

Tears running down my cheeks. Can’t stop the flow. Every two minutes I have to wipe the corners of my eyes and cheeks. I’m face down now. Going in and out of consciousness. Can’t keep my eyes open. Am I drooling?

“ Ring-a-ding!” Holy hell. I raise my head off the counter with a web line of saliva connected to my lip connected to the counter connected to the here and to the there and seemingly everywhere. Not a good look for a 16 year girl. Especially a cool one like me. Yes I am way cool. I just got my nose pierced at the mall two weeks ago. My favorite song at the moment is “ Lovefool” by the Cardigans. It’s on constant repeat on my discman. Technology has come a long way. All my cds go in their own carrying case adorned with my favorite bands ...a list too long to tell right now. Oh yea and I finally was able to get myself a cell phone, my Nokia 1610.

So now that you understand who you’re dealing with here, you can understand my panic on someone seeing me in this state. I work at Mr. Rhee’s “ Sunshine Dry Cleaners “. It’s my after school part-time job. I’m there from 4-8pm. The thing is Wednesdays in particular are a drag. It’s our slowest day of the week. Mr. Rhee is off that day normally at some middle aged mens bowling league. It's just me flying solo. Handling business, more like catching up on sleep. I was on the phone with Kelly last night till 2am. Giving her valuable insight on how she shouldn’t take this and that from her lame boyfriend and that she shouldn’t wear flannel with overalls anymore. That’s so 1994, it’s 1996 now let “ grunge “ go - We all loved Kurt but let it go girl.

I swat the saliva webs off and wipe the tears from my face from the non stop yawning all in one swipe. The ring-a-ding from the bell over the door as customers walk in has awakened me! Some old guy comes in probably about 32-33 years old. Dressed like a banker or one of those Wall Street douche bags. “ Hi there, I need this blazer dry cleaned please. Can you have this done by tonight? “ he asks. “Umm that’s a no go. Mr. Rhee does all the dry cleaning off site, it’s about a day or two turnaround time.” I respond. He doesn’t say anything for a bit,“ how about if I pay you 20,000 dollars? “ he says with a fake Wall Street smile. I sternly tell him “ Listen Mister, I already told you how long it takes. And I am a very busy person. I don’t have time to entertain your BS. Don’t make me call the cops on you.” I say while I take out my Nokia 1610.

He places the blazer on the counter. “ I’ll leave it to you then. I’ll be back at 8pm. With the $20,000 dollars. Check the inside left pocket for more incentive. “ he says as he walks out.

The nerve of that old geezer. I hope when I approach my 30’s I am not so pushy. He probably needs more fiber in his diet. I saw a commercial about that. Old men need to stay regular. He is full of poop big time! Anyway, I will continue my nap. I’m closing up at 7:50pm. So I don’t run into gramps with the blazer. I’ll let Mr. Rhee deal with him tomorrow. My head is back on the counter, face down. Eyes feeling heavy, already dozing off. Visions of cry babies candy ( a sour gum ball candy, only for the truly tough. Especially the green ones! ) dancing in my head. How many cry baby gum ball candies can I buy with 20,000 dollars? The whole factory! Ok I’m up. Can’t sleep now.

I take the blazer, examine it. It’s some Italian brand, made of Peruvian vicuña fabric. Expensive no doubt. No stains or anything on it. I check the inside left pocket for the bit of incentive. There’s a small black notebook. Leather bound. You know the type creative geniuses write their short stories or existential poems in. Only thing was that the Wall Street guy didn’t strike me as the reading and writing type. I open the little black notebook. A pair of 3D glasses fall out. The 60’s “creature double feature” ones. One lense blue, the other red. Made of the finest paper and plastic. I skim through the book and the pages are blank. That old man was trying to pull some scam. I’ll leave a note for Mr. Rhee and explain the situation. Just in case Wall Street comes looking for his blazer in the morning.

These 3D glasses would look pretty cool on me though. Don’t mind if I put them on. I get my hand mirror. Oh yea, I look even cooler, if that’s even possible. They go with my plaid skirt and chunky boots. I look over at the book. It looks like it’s covered in tv static. I open it. First page reads “ Holly Kowalski you have been quested to dry clean this blazer.” I quickly take the glasses off. I must be hallucinating from the lack of sleep.This can’t be real. I put the glasses back on to make sure. I open the little black notebook back up. First page fades into new text. “ Take this book and these glasses. Walk through the front door. Bring back the ticket as proof from Sunshine Dry Cleaners.” Say what? This book is as stubborn as it’s owner. This has to be an Ebenezer Scrooge type of thing. An undigested piece of beef? I had pizza for lunch though.

New text fades in. “ When you walk through the door it will be 2019. Bring back the ticket as proof of dry cleaning and you will get your 20,000 dollars. Don’t lose the little black notebook or glasses or you won’t be able to return. “ Oh boy. Whatever this is. Hallucination , dream or A Christmas Carol, I am going to see where this goes. I take my Manhattan Portage mini messenger bag and put the little black book in there. Ok here goes nothing. I walk through the door.

As I walk through the door I am enveloped in tv static. I emerge on the other side. I’m on the Sunshine Dry Cleaners block! Things look different but similar. I turn around to look at the store front. It’s an apartment building. The dry cleaner is gone! Across the street most of the stores are different, even my pizza joint. The corner deli is still there. I’ll ask Joey what is up. He makes the best meatball heroes.

I enter the deli. It looks different. They are selling organic shakes and kale salads.

“ Hi, is Joey still working here? ” I ask the new deli guy behind the new counter full of seaweed snacks and other gross things. “ No. Joey retired about 10 years ago. Deli has been under new management since then.” You a friend of his granddaughter or something?” “ Yea, something like that, by the way do you know where Sunshine Dry Cleaners is located? I ask nonchalantly. “ Umm it’s on Van Buren and 10th. You can google it you know.” He says, sounding dismissive. “ Ha, yea that’s right I try the google all the time.” As I rush out of the store.

I turn the corner at top speed to get on to 10th. I run into a group of kids my age. Tackling a few in the process. As they help me up one of them asks me “ Are you ok? Going kinda fast there.” Getting my senses back I look at the group of 3 boys and 2 girls. All dressed in spandex looking jeans and Jordan’s from the 80’s. Sweatshirts too tight. Maybe there’s a clothing shrinkage problem in the future and they can only buy old sneakers? I’ll have to use the google. “ Yea I’m ok, sorry I was on my way to 10th and Van Buren.” One of the girls with these white earbuds with no cords asks “ is there a Comic Con there? I really dig the retro outfit. It’s fire. But I’m gonna keep it 100. I would lose the vintage 3D glasses. You’re mixing decades. Keep it all in the 90's.” Keep it 100? Man I don’t know what the hell she just said but I’ll just smile. “ Nice to meet you all. I am running late.” I say while I bolt down the street. As I’m running I see people talking to themselves and others talking on these screens. The future is a weird place.

I get to the new Sunshine Dry Cleaners. It’s bigger. And there’s a sign that says “ same day one hour cleaning. There’s a lady at the counter. Everything looks so angular and clean. “ Is Mr. Rhee here?” I ask her gasping to catch my breath. “ Mr. Rhee the original owner?” He sold us his business in the late 90’s. The firm that owns the apartment building that is there now, bought out the block. He couldn’t pay the new lease or upgrade to the newer faster dry cleaning on site machines. I hear he also helped one of his employees with their college tuition. He considered her a daughter, so selling us his business made sense to him. Are you a friend of the family?” As my eyes begin to fill up with tears I say “ Something like that. Can you please dry clean this blazer for me?” “Sure thing hun. Come back in an hour and it’ll be ready.” She tells me. I ask her a question that I am afraid to ask. “ Where is Mr. Rhee?” She looks at me perplexed and says “ Well sweetie he’s at Snowhill cemetery.”

I ran to the cemetery as fast as I could and I found his grave. “ Mr. Rhee, I know you can hear me. You are like a father to me. I now know that you ended up selling your business in part to help me with school. Well, I'll come back and help you. Holly Kowalski will become an investor in Sunshine Dry Cleaners! I’m getting the 20,000 dollars and we’re upgrading our machines. See you soon pops.”

Back at the dry cleaners the front desk lady hands me the blazer wrapped in plastic. And the ticket. I realize I don’t have any money with me! She says “ Sweetie this is on the house. Any friend of Mr. Rhee is a friend of ours.” “ Thank you so much. You're a lifesaver!” I give her a hug and race out to the old Sunshine Dry Cleaners.

I’m in front of the apartment complex. Blazer in hand. I look in my bag, the book is beginning to get staticy again. “ Here goes nothing.” I walk through the door. Enveloped in static. I open my eyes. I'm back at the old Sunshine Dry Cleaners! Guess who is standing there. Wall Street. “ I see you got my blazer dry cleaned.” He looks at the ticket and says “ Good work on completing the quest. I have something for you.” He hands me a suitcase with 20,000 dollars! He says “ I trust you will do something productive with this money. I have a feeling you will. See you in a few years. Twenty to be exact. For your next quest. Hold on to the little black notebook and the glasses. You’ll need them soon enough. Time flies!” Before I can say anything he disappears in a static cloud.

The next few years at Sunshine Dry Cleaners were great ones. The money helped us upgrade our on site machines. I went to school for business and now manage our other locations. It’s my 36th birthday and my little black notebook is beginning to static. Getting my 3D glasses ready.

science fiction

About the author

Victor Rojas

Victor rojas is a Graphic novelist, professional illustrator and fiction writer from NYC.

See https://www.vrvendetta.com/

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