Raven slogs down the steps from the apartment above her family’s commercial linen press. She’s worked there since graduating high school last year because she couldn’t come up with a better idea. Midway down the staircase, she rests at the window. The beach, seagulls and ocean, subdued by the early morning light, look gray-blue. A calming palette Raven prefers to fiery daytime hues. Half a set of stairs left to descend. Her thighs rub and sweat stings where incessant friction has worn out the skin. She opens the laundry’s metal door, a flimsy work-life partition. The ironer grumbles. Chlorine bites her eyes and nostrils, glides down her throat and drives breakfast back up to her mouth. Raven doesn’t mind. She likes tasting its new state: the soggy poppy seeds and garlic of the everything bagel, the marsh of gummy bear-sprinkled cream cheese—the bears’ limbs now a decadent gooey plasma—and Gatorade, a belched echo of Yellow 5.
She swallows and walks through the whine of the presses and rollers, their screech rippling over her face and gut. The swelter of the unventilated facility settles in her hair, the strands stick whichever way like thin copper wires from her ragged phone charger cord. Dewdrops stud her boob crease, merge into rivulets, settle in her belly folds. She turns her back to a massive washer and presses her wrists and the back of her knees against its cool aluminum.
“Hey, Puffer.” Cousin Ricky’s cratered face peeks across the room behind a rainbow of drapes hanging over densely spaced crossbars. He points to his watch. She nods. Ricky gave her this job, but other than that, Raven doesn’t care for him, nor for the names he calls her. Although, Puffer is better than Hog, a moniker she mer