The summer air was hot and sticky, even at three AM. Dad and I were sitting outside the Laundromat, waiting for the clothes in the drier to stop so we could see if we needed to throw another couple bucks in quarters into the machines, or if we could just fold the damn things and go home. I was finally starting to feel a little beat; I wanted to get at least some sleep before our hectic Sunday started.
I sat outside the Laundromat on one of the dilapidated benches, looking blankly out into the street. Even in this town, which is usually brimming with activity, there was nothing going on. Usually, there’d be at least a few passing cars or semi-trailers. But tonight, the streets were silent.
Dad came out of the Laundromat holding two ice-cold sodas. “It’s hotter than Hell in there,” he said, handing one of them to me. “I can’t believe it.” He sat down on the bench next to me, and we both stared out into the empty street.
The area around us was relatively quiet, save for the sound of the driers in the Coin-Op, the sounds of crickets, the river up the street a bit…
…And the alarm of the package store in the next unit.
I looked at my dad before getting up to check out what was going on. Keeping my soda in my hand, I walked over to look in the store’s window. There were a multitude of alarm lights flashing all sorts of different colors – there was a green one, a blue one, and three red ones – but beyond that, nothing in the storefront seemed out of place or out of the ordinary. It didn’t even look like there was a bottle knocked down.
Without saying a word, I sat down on the bench next to my dad.
“So?” he asked, sipping his soda.
“Nothing strange,” I replied.
Dad nodded. “Well, they didn’t go in through the front.”
I shook my head. “Nope.”
We sat quietly again, listening to the alarm ring out into the night. And us, sitting there suspiciously out in front of the Laundromat, just sipped our sodas and chuckled to ourselves a little.
“Hey, Dad,” I asked finally, “Do you think that alarm turns itself off after awhile? It feels like it’s been going off for a long time.”
Dad shrugged. “It’s only been about seven minutes,” he replied. “It’ll turn off eventually, I’m sure.” He sat there quietly for a few more seconds before adding, “Besides, you have to admit, all those flashing lights are pretty cool looking.”
I looked to my left at the storefront again. He was right; those flashing lights did look pretty cool. They cast long, alternating shadows into the parking lot from reflecting off of bottles and different signs in the store.
A few more minutes passed before a town cop pulled into the parking lot. Lights flashing on the car, he came racing up to where Dad and I sat at our bench. He let the car idle as he got out and looked at us. “See anything strange here?” he asked us.
I hid my smirk from him. His tone of voice seemed to add “I sure do,” to his sentence. “Can’t say I have, Officer,” I replied at last. “I’ve been sitting out here for a few hours while I waited for my laundry to finish, and I can’t say I’ve seen anyone come by here.”
The cop ran a hand through his dark hair and sighed. “Really? You haven’t seen anything? I find that kind of hard to believe.”
I shrugged. “Believe what you want; I’ve got no reason to lie to you. I’m here doing my laundry. Wanna go check it?”
The cop shuffled from foot to foot. “No, that’s quite all right.” He turned away from me momentarily to look into the storefront. I’m sure he saw the same thing that I did – flashing lights and not much else. He came back and sighed again. “Well, it doesn’t look like there was any forced entry from the front, and the alarm that showed at the station was the front alarm, so I’m afraid that there’s nothing else I can do until the morning. Thanks, folks.”
The cop took my father’s and my information as he got ready to take off. Still standing outside of his car, he looked over at my dad and I. “That sheet of paper has the station number and my name on it. If you see anything suspicious around here, you give us a call, okay?”
Dad nodded and slipped the report paperwork into his pocket. “Sure, no problem.”
Just as the cop went to get back into his car and drive off, we started to hear music coming in from the distance. The music was nothing familiar, or even recognizable. It just sounded like a bunch of disjointed music notes strung together into some kind of discordant melody. The cop got out of his car again and looked up the road.
As the disjointed music grew louder, the vehicle it was coming from came into view: it was some sort of long, flatbed truck hauling a gigantic sheep head on the back of it. Coming from the inside of the cab, the three of us could hear maniacal laughter until finally, the truck crossed the bridge and vanished from sight, taking its laughter, music, and sheep head with it.
The three of us were stupefied for a few seconds at what we’d just seen.
“…What the hell was that?” I asked finally.
The cop jumped into his car. “I have no idea, but it was suspicious.” Pulling his hat onto his head, he added a quick, “I’m going to pull it over,” as he sped away, lights flashing and sirens blaring into the still, damp night.
My dad and I just looked out over the bridge where all the commotion had gone for a while. Inside the Coin-Op, we heard the driers start to end their cycles. Next door to the Laundromat, the package store’s alarm was still ringing, its alarm lights still flashing into the open night.
“Dad, what the hell just went on here?”
“I have no idea,” he replied. “Let’s fold our stuff and go home.”
(Note: the image by Lori Nix is from http://mocoloco.com/art/archives/020020.php)