In today's story, The Wash 'N Dryer, Katie's taunting sends Billy on an adventure
Since this is the 100th episode of Freely Written, today's story is not written from a random prompt. Instead, it is a story that Susan wrote way back in high school when she was about 16 years old. Enjoy this bit of fiction from the early '90s and our next episode will be back to the usual format... a story written from a prompt, with no planning and very little editing.
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More about Susan Quilty
Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society. Susan's short stories for Freely Written are created during quick writing breaks and shared as a way to practice her narration skills before she dives into recording audio versions of her novels.
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Below is the transcript for Season 1, Episode 100 of Freely Written, a podcast by author Susan Quilty:
Welcome to Freely Written where a simple prompt leads to a little unplanned fiction.
[Light piano music]
Hi, friends! I’m Susan Quilty and today’s story is The Wash n’ Dryer.
If you pay attention to episode numbers, you may notice that this is the 100th episode of Freely Written. That feels like a bit of a milestone, so I wanted to do something different to mark the occasion.
My friend, Jen Pool, suggested skipping my usual free writing process to share one of my old school stories. As in something I wrote back when I was a school kid. That reminded me that I once—many years ago—I copied some old floppy disks to my computer. These were very old disks, including writing from the early 1990s, when I was in high school.
It took a little work to open those files, since they were created in a very old word processing program called Ami Pro, but I eventually figured it out. Here’s a pro-tip for anyone else who has old Ami Pro files gathering digital dust: the format is text based, so if you change the extension to .txt, you can get to the text, even if it is surrounded by a bunch of messy formatting tags.
Most of the writing I found wasn’t going to work for this podcast. Too short, too long, or—more often—unfinished. But I did find a short story that I wrote in high school, probably when I was 15 or 16, that I think will fit in my typical 10-minute-ish episode length.
Now, this story wasn’t free-written, like the stories I usually share here, but it was written by a teenage me, who was a work-in-progress, so I’ll allow it.
Next episode, I’ll get back to my usual process where I sit down with a prompt, write whatever might come to mind, with no planning and very little editing, then record and share the finished story with you.
For now, we’ll check out a story by a very young me. Here we go:
The Wash 'N Dryer
"The enemy planes flew toward the base. There were millions of 'em. But the great leader, Billy Marshall, was on the job. He flew into the sky and shot down all the bad guys. The captain would give him a medal after he won the war all by himself. There was only one enemy plane left. He flew toward it and fired. But he was too late! He was hit! His plane was going down, down, down!"
The white wicker clothes hamper that was Billy's airplane fell to the hard wood floor with a loud bang. Laying his head on the edge of one of the light blue woven throw rugs, Billy shut his eyes and waited for the first aid to come.
But as he peeked out of one eye to see what was taking them so long, he heard the dreaded footsteps. Billy squeezed his eyes shut and tried not to hear the tap, tap, tap of his sister Katie's new patent leather shoes. The tapping stopped and Billy peeked up. There she was, standing in front of him with her hands on her hips.
"You were playing in the clothes hamper again," Katie pointed out, looking way down at Billy.
"No, I wasn't," Billy replied bravely. He wasn't about to admit anything to Katie, it was none of her business.
"She's such a jerk." Billy thought to himself. "Look at her walkin' around with that new green notebook. Just 'cuz she's in the second grade. Who cares if she goes to school a whole day and I only go half?"
"You were too playing in the clothes hamper, dummy. Why else would you be in there?" She picked some lint off her favorite pink sweater and smiled smugly at Billy.
“I wasn't playing. I was looking for something and fell in."
"Uh oh, now you're lying too! Do you know what would happen if Mommy came upstairs and found you in the clothes hamper?"
"Mommy would help me out and tell me to go play somewhere else."
"Oh no. You've seen the way Mommy does the washing while she listens to headphones. She'll just dump the whole hamper in without looking and you'll go through the wash'n dryer." Katie saw Billy's wide eyes and went on. "I heard a story in school about a little boy who went through the wash'n dryer and shrunk! He was no bigger than a mouse. A baby mouse!"
"What happened to him?" Billy whispered.
"Well, in the story, his mommy found a way to make him grow up again. But that's just a story . . . In real life, Daddy wouldn't see you and he'd squish you on the bottom of his shoe!"
"I don't believe you!" Billy cried. "Mommy wouldn't throw me in the wash'ndryer." By this time, Billy had the hamper standing back up against the wall. He looked toward the steps nervously. What if Katie was right?
"You don't believe me? You just started kindygarten. Kindygarteners don't know nothing. Remember that toy airplane you lost at Grandma's?"
"Well, you didn't really. Mommy just said that you lost it. She really put it in the wash'n dryer. It came out in a million pieces. She didn't want anyone to know, so she told everyone you lost it at Grandma's. She'd do the same thing if she put you in the wash. She'd feel bad and wouldn't want anyone to know. She'd just tell Daddy that she lost you somewhere and that would be it."
Katie turned and walked away, satisfied by the fear in Billy's eyes. She thought he deserved it just for being born. She never asked for a little brother to come along and steal all the attention.
"Oh yeah," Katie stopped to add. "I'd be really careful too, for another reason. I'm not supposed to tell you this, so I'll just give you a clue. How do you know that you're the only little brother that I ever had? Maybe I used to have a little brother, but he liked to play in the hamper too. Maybe that's how I know so much about the wash'n dryer. But I'm not allowed to say for sure."
Billy gulped and Katie walked down the hall to her room.
Billy waited until she had her door shut. Then, he started out on the greatest adventure of his life. He was going to the laundry room, down in . . . the basement.
The basement dissolved into a dark mysterious jungle. The wires hanging from the support beams turned into the dripping vines of the Amazon Jungle. Billy's daddy had told him all about the Amazon Jungle.
One of the basement windows was slightly open causing the clothes drying on the line to rustle like leaves in the distance. They threw waving shadows on the wall.
Billy walked on, cloaked in the image of a fearless hunter. As he walked, the animals studied him. He walked tall and proud, the way he always saw his daddy walk when his mommy took him to visit his daddy's office.
Peering through the dense foliage, that some people would see as curtains, Billy saw the washer and dryer. The washer spun and whirred and churned like the wild beast Billy saw.
Billy neared it with caution. It stopped chugging and sat silently. Billy tip-toed closer to the monster. It was hard for him to remember to walk impressively like his daddy. "Is it sleepin'?" He wondered.
"Hello?" He whispered timidly.
A huge burst of water rushed through the machine forcefully. Billy jumped, It was awake!
"What do you want from me?" Billy imagined the machine asking in a booming voice.
"I am here to examine you."
"To examine me?" The beast laughed rudely. "Oh, I'm not surprised. I knew you weren't the fearless hunter that I've heard would be in the jungle."
"I am the fearless hunter! I'm here to kill you!" Billy exclaimed bravely. The machine let out a sudden roar of anger and Billy ran to hide behind the heater.
"Billy? Billy? What's wrong? Honey, are you down here?"
"Mommy?" Billy asked quietly. It sounded like his mommy, but Billy didn't know why she was in the jungle. Yet, as he looked around, the jungle slowly disappeared. His mommy came over and gently lifted him out from behind the heater.
"Billy, what are you doing down here all by yourself?"
"Mommy! It tried to eat me! It tried to eat me!"
"What honey, what tried to eat you?"
"The wash'n dryer. It's after me! It tried to eat me."
"Oh sweetheart, the washing machine can't eat you."
"Yes, it can! Katie said it ate my airplane. She said if I played in the hamper, you would throw me in the wash'n dryer, and I would shrink! I'd be so little Daddy would smush me with his shoe! Mommy, I don't want to shrink!"
Billy's mommy picked him up and carried him to the washing machine.
"No, Mommy, no! Not the wash'n dryer! It'll eat me."
"No, it won't. I'll show you."
Billy's mommy opened the lid of the washer and showed him inside. Billy peeked in. It didn't look too scary.
"See honey, you put the clothes in here. You put in some soap, then the machine fills with water and spins your clothes around until they are clean. The washing machine wouldn't eat you or shrink you. But it isn't a toy, so you shouldn't play with it."
Billy smiled and gave her a big hug.
"And now, our hero, Billy Marshall, is back! He flies into the sky straight toward the enemy. He's about to shoot when suddenly, a giant, ugly monster comes into view!"
"Get out of the clothes hamper quick, before Mommy gets up here!" Katie looked to the stairs as if she already heard footsteps.
"Mommy's not home, she went to the store." Billy told Katie. "Daddy's downstairs in his office."
"Well, you can't say I didn't warn you."
"Why don't you just shut up!" Billy told her. "Mommy told me the truth. I can't shrink in the wash'n dryer."
"And you believed her? Gosh, you are dumb. Even after I told you what she did to your plane?" Katie asked.
"Well . . ."
"Oh, well If you want to believe someone who lied about your plane . . . My old little brother believed her too." She sighed.
"You never had another little brother!" Billy exclaimed.
"Maybe I did, maybe I didn't. Maybe Mommy's right, maybe she isn't. But you better not ever listen to Daddy!"
Billy’s eyes widened, and Katie smiled.
Thanks for listening to this story and to past episodes. I hope you enjoyed hearing a little writing from my teen years. Check back for new Freely Written stories and if you think of a good prompt, please send it my way! Remember, you can connect with me on social media or through my website: SusanQuilty.com Links are in the show notes.
Until next time, try a little free writing of your own. Let go of any planning and see where your imagination takes you.
[Light piano music]