The Washing Machine

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“Supposed to snow this weekend. I guess I’ll have to get the washing machine out of the front yard.” To most of you, I’m guessing this doesn’t make much sense. A couple of weeks ago, I wouldn’t have understood it either, but then I talked to my brother and he said, “Supposed to snow this weekend. I guess I’ll have to get the washing machine out of the front yard.” I always bite. It keeps the stories coming.

“So, what’s the washing machine doing in the yard?” I asked.

“Well. My old machine that I got for free fifteen years ago finally quit on me. (There was a bit of a story that went with that washing machine too, but that’s for another time.) So after a few days of tinkering with it, I broke down and got out the Uncle Henry’s Swap It or Sell It Guide and started looking.” My brother is not a wasteful man and there’s no way on God’s green Earth he was going to Sears or Lowes or wherever and pay top dollar for a new machine. He wouldn’t even go to those places and pay bottom dollar for a new machine. Not when there are so many old ones that work just fine and fit the décor of his home so much better than the sleek, new, neon light, computerized control, button-less machines. He doesn’t even have a TV or a computer, so I guess a high tech washer would be a bit out of place in his house. Actually he does have a TV, just no stations, but he has a VCR and some old movies that he watches. Notice I said VCR, not DVD. Oh, and he’s got a radio that he listens to football and baseball games on.

Anyway, he found an ad where the guy said he had a used washer and dryer for $60. My brother drove a couple of towns over and took a look at the set. It was one of the old Whirlpool sets, probably from 1975 or maybe earlier.

“I’ll give you $20 for the washer and $10 for the dryer. It doesn’t look like it’s got much life left in it,” he said. “And I’ll haul them off myself,” he added.

“Sold!” was the immediate response.

The guy from Uncle Henry’s probably couldn’t believe someone was buying the things. Thirty bucks was the best, and likely the only offer he was going to get. He was ecstatic that he got someone to pay good money for them and then even haul them away themselves. It was like winning the daily double. They loaded the washer and dryer onto my brother’s pickup truck that is probably nearly as old as the forty-year-old laundry equipment he was buying and not likely in any better shape. But just like the new washer, the truck worked perfectly fine. Or at least it served its purpose. He and the washer and dryer chugged down the road until the truck got them back to Winterport where they pulled into his driveway at a house that did not currently have any laundry equipment sitting in the front yard. It’s worth mentioning that he lives on the Main Road and his home is not hidden away in the backwoods. His house and yard are both proudly displayed for all those who want to take a look. When he got home he decided he should probably try the washer out before lugging it into the house, only to find out it leaked all over the floor. That’s how it ended up in the yard in the first place.

So out came the extension cord and garden hose and lickety-split, the old thing ran like a charm. Then since it was all hooked up, he thought, what the heck, I may as well run a couple of loads through and hang em on the line. After that, being that it was summer and all, there didn’t really seem like much of a reason to be in a hurry in dragging the things into the house after only one day of doing laundry in he yard. Besides, the washer was practically sitting under the clothesline. How sweet is that? How many people can reach in and pull their underwear out of the washer and hang them on the clothesline without taking much more than a step or two.

So getting back to the original story, I was talking to my brother on the phone a couple weeks ago and he said, “Supposed to snow this weekend. I guess I’ll have to get the washing machine out of the front yard.” If anyone else had said this to me I would have presumed there was either a punch line to go with that lead-in, or that it must be some kind of metaphor. But being that it was my brother saying it, I just presumed he had a washing machine in his yard and I believed him when he said it was suppose to snow.

Just a couple of days ago I called my brother back and asked, “Is the washing machine in the house? And, did it snow?” And then I asked him whatever became of the dryer?

He said, “Oh yeah. Washers in the house and all hooked up. Works like a champ. Snowed just a little and dropped below freezing. Good thing we got her in the house. But the dryer is still in the yard. Probably gonna get to it soon.”

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I like that phrase. When I lived in the islands, “Gonna get to it soon” meant the exact same thing it means at my brother’s house. It means it hasn’t been done yet and it may or may not be taken care of at some point in the future. “Gonna get to it soon.”

So let me do a little recap for you.

For twenty bucks my brother got a washer. For ten more he got a dryer that at the very least is making nice yard art out in front of the giant lumber pile beside the barn. For over two months he got to wash his clothes outside in the fresh air just a couple of steps from the clothesline. And best of all, I got to hear and then share the story of two generations of cheap, dependable washing machines and how the new one came to be sitting in his front yard.

I didn’t even think to ask what happened to the old set. If you’re driving past a house on Main Street in Winterport, Maine and look in the front yard and see a washer and dryer… that’s my brother’s house. There may be more stuff in the yard too. You’ll just have to take a look to see what there is to see.

And always remember, if you need something like a washing machine and don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend on a new one, there’s always Uncle Henry’s. I just checked and there’s a Maytag washing machine being advertised in there for $40 or best offer. I don’t know whether or not it works, but you can always try it out in your front yard for a while.

B.M. Simpson

About B.M. Simpson

B.M. Simpson was born and raised in rural Maine. He joined the Air Force at the age of 18 and lived and moved across the U.S. and Europe. After leaving the military, he spent years living and working in the Caribbean. On the islands of Anguilla, St. Kitts and Grand Cayman, he discovered a passion for island life and formed friendships second to none. After more than 20 years of writing songs, poems and short stories, he wrote his first full-length novel, Island Dogs, A Caribbean Tale of Friendship.