The Laundromat at the Edge of the Universe

The Laundromat at the Edge of the Universe

Status: Finished

Genre: Fantasy

Houses:

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Fantasy

Houses:

Summary

When a meteorite blasts thirteen-year-old Jasper Snert's house into a million smithereens, his parents tell him it's time to get a job. They didn't have meteorite insurance. They need money for a new house. But new houses aren't cheap, and the only job Jasper can find is cleaning up around the old laundromat out on Highway 51. The pay is low, but Jasper is determined to help anyway he can.

The laundromat is a strange, lonely place. When the weird old washing machine repairman explains that he's actually the immortal sorcerer Ozmodis, who helped the Pharaohs build the Pyramids, it gets even stranger—especially when it turns out to be true.

Ozmo has another secret. A secret he wants to keep from Jasper Snert. The SuperWash 2000, the biggest machine in the place, is really a portal to other worlds. Worlds where even the dirt roads are paved with gold. Enough gold to buy Jasper and his parents a whole city of new houses. Unfortunately, these other worlds are full of something else, too.

Monsters.

Monsters who want to tap Jasper's brain—literally.

Monsters who believe Jasper knows something. Something he doesn't even know that he knows: The key to unlock the greatest mystery in the Multiverse. A mystery that will give the monsters the power to take over our world, and every other world the Multiverse holds. Only Jasper can stop them. The only problem is—Jasper doesn't even know what “the Multiverse” is.

He's about to find out. . . .
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Summary

When a meteorite blasts thirteen-year-old Jasper Snert's house into a million smithereens, his parents tell him it's time to get a job. They didn't have meteorite insurance. They need money for a new house. But new houses aren't cheap, and the only job Jasper can find is cleaning up around the old laundromat out on Highway 51. The pay is low, but Jasper is determined to help anyway he can.

The laundromat is a strange, lonely place. When the weird old washing machine repairman explains that he's actually the immortal sorcerer Ozmodis, who helped the Pharaohs build the Pyramids, it gets even stranger—especially when it turns out to be true.

Ozmo has another secret. A secret he wants to keep from Jasper Snert. The SuperWash 2000, the biggest machine in the place, is really a portal to other worlds. Worlds where even the dirt roads are paved with gold. Enough gold to buy Jasper and his parents a whole city of new houses. Unfortunately, these other worlds are full of something else, too.

Monsters.

Monsters who want to tap Jasper's brain—literally.

Monsters who believe Jasper knows something. Something he doesn't even know that he knows: The key to unlock the greatest mystery in the Multiverse. A mystery that will give the monsters the power to take over our world, and every other world the Multiverse holds. Only Jasper can stop them. The only problem is—Jasper doesn't even know what “the Multiverse” is.

He's about to find out. . . .

Chapter1 (v.1) - The Meteorite

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: April 26, 2017

Reads: 59

Comments: 1

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: April 26, 2017

A A A

A A A

—I—

The meteorite that destroyed Jasper Snert’s house struck at exactly 8:32 p.m. on Saturday, June 18—the night of the infamous, once-a-year Wing Ding at the Gut Bucket Grill, and two weeks to the day after Jasper’s parents completely forgot his thirteenth birthday.

Jasper knew the exact time of the meteorite because just before it struck, the man on the car radio said, “At the tone, the time will be exactly 8:32 p.m.”

There was a tone.

There was a flash.

There was a boom, and the whole sky lit up.

Jasper’s mother slammed on the brakes and the Snert family’s huge old sedan screeched to a stop right in the middle of the deserted highway.

Crickets chirped. A country-western tune drifted out of the dusty speakers. On the horizon, flames licked at the night and settled down to a dull glow.

“What in the name of all that is good and holy was that?” Jasper’s mother asked.

“I do not know,” his father replied. “I surely do not know.”

Jasper did not say a thing. But Jasper knew exactly what that boom had been. He didn’t know why. He didn’t know how. But somehow, he knew what it had been. What he didn’t know was that that boom was about to change his life.

Forever.

“All right, woman,” his father said, “ain’t no reason to sit in the middle of the danged highway all night gawking at a little fire. Step on the gas and let’s go.”

“I’ll go when I’m danged good and ready,” Jasper’s mother replied.

“You’ll go now!” Jasper’s father said.

From behind the car, the mournful drone of an approaching eighteen-wheeler blared into the night. “I’m ready,” Jasper’s mother said. She stepped on the gas. Gravel crunched, and the giant car started to move. It was now 8:39 p.m.

Approximately two hours earlier, at 6:27 p.m., the Snert family had left their house to go to dinner at the Gut Bucket Grill for the occasion of Jasper’s two-week-late, completely forgotten thirteenth birthday. Jasper did not much care for the Gut Bucket Grill. The patrons were loud. The food was greasy. The air stank of cigarettes and vomit and beer. Jasper had once found a cockroach asleep under his napkin.

Jasper thought it might have been nice to go somewhere he wanted to go for his forgotten thirteenth birthday. There was a French restaurant downtown, or so his French teacher, Ms. Le Fort, had told him. And a genuine replica of the Arc de Triomphe stood in the outdoor food court of a giant shopping mall, or so Jasper had seen on TV.

Jasper liked studying French. He was the best student in his class. He thought he might like French food, too. But when he suggested this to his parents, his father had just cackled and said Jasper could get French food at the Gut Bucket Grill—French fries, to be exact—because that’s where they were going for his birthday dinner. The GBG Wing Ding came round but once a year, and Mr. Snert would burn in Hades if he was gonna miss it.

Approximately fifteen minutes after leaving the restaurant, however, Jasper’s father was burning in the bathroom of the only gas station on Highway 51 instead.

“I told you not to eat them accursed chicken wings,” Jasper’s mother said. “Should’ve stuck to the French fries like me and the boy.”

From inside the battered toilet stall, Jasper’s father groaned in reply, followed by some other, more awful sounds.

Jasper cringed. Why had his mother come into the men’s room? Why had she insisted Jasper come in with her? Only his mother would do such a thing.

He tried to move, just to shift on his feet, but the floor was so dirty his sneakers stuck to the tile.

“Lord,” his mother said, “I am about to succumb to the odor in here.”

“Aww!” his father said. “I can’t take it no more, Mary. Them chicken wings was contamirated!”

“Contaminated,” Jasper whispered.

“Contaminated!” his mother bellowed. “The word is contaminated!”

Jasper managed to extract one shoe from the floor and take a step back toward the exit. “Can I go back to the car, ma’am?”

“Hades, no! We’re a family, and we stick together through thick and thick.” His mother slammed a fist against the stall door. “When the Hades you gonna be done? Smells like King Kong’s diapers in here.”

“I’ll be done when I’m danged good and finished, woman! You don’t like it, get out. What the Hades you doing in the men’s room anyhow?”

“Making sure you don’t flush your skinny butt down the toilet!”

Jasper’s mother turned her huge body toward the entrance. A small man in a tattered hat had just come in and was staring at her, a perplexed look on his face.

“What?” Jasper’s mother said.

“Um,” the man replied.

“Well, either you do your business, or get out. Can’t you see we got a situation here?”

The man bit his lip and then turned around and left.

Jasper wanted to die. He wanted to melt into liquid soap and seep between the tiles, or rush into one of the stalls and flush himself into the sewer. No doubt the rats and the water bugs, or whatever creatures lived down there, would be better company than these people who called themselves his parents.

Were they really his parents?

Sometimes Jasper was not so sure.

He didn’t look like them. He was tall while his father was short. (Freakishly short, some might say.) Mr. Snert’s eyes were small and brown, almost like dots, while Jasper’s were big and blue, like little pools on a summer day. Sure, his mother was tall, like him. But while Jasper was as thin and wiry as a lone mountain tree, his mother was as big and round as a hill of manure. Jasper’s hair was brown. His mother’s was blonde, except at the roots.

Maybe, Jasper thought, he had come from an egg, or maybe from a pod that fell from outer space. He didn’t remember being born. It seemed like the kind of thing you would remember if it had really happened. His mother always said they were family, but maybe she was just trying to convince him, because he couldn’t figure it. He just couldn’t figure it.

“Lord help me, Mary!” his father wailed. “Them chicken wings is fixing to fly up out of my gullet!”

“Serves you right!” his mother said. “You are collecting the wages of your sin.”

“Eating chicken wings ain’t no sin, woman.”

“It sure as Hades is.”

“Well, it ain’t in the Bible.”

“Well, it should be! And if God could hear you blubbering in that toilet right now, he’d add it in a footnote.”

“God hears everything, Mary.”

“Then eating chicken wings is gonna be a sin come morning!”

Jasper buried his face in his hands. If only he could escape. Wait in the car, or even just outside the bathroom. But they were family. They had to stick together. And anyhow, he was still stuck to the floor.

“It’s coming, Mary,” his father said. “It’s coming!”

A sudden, gurgling retch came from within the stall, followed by a sound like a mud-filled balloon hitting the wall. Fifteen seconds later, the door swung open. There stood Jasper’s father, all ninety-eight pounds of him, bespattered with sweat and other, unnamable fluids. “Okay,” he said, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. “Let’s go home.”

Little did the little man know that by the time they arrived home, the Snert family would no longer have a home to go home to.

—II—

When Jasper and his parents had left for dinner that evening, the only thing taller than a haycock in all the flat fields for miles around had been their little house. When they returned, the only thing taller than a haycock was Jasper himself, and maybe his mother.

Their house was completely gone.

Well, not completely. But what was left of it did not much resemble a house.

It resembled a barbecue.

Where their house had stood was now just a crater full of ash and glowing coals. If they had had some hamburgers and steaks, they could have had a very nice cookout. But they did not. And besides, Jasper’s father was still feeling a little ill.

“Oh!” he said. “Oh, Mary, you were right. This is a sign from God! He is punishing me for eating them chicken wings.”

Jasper’s mother simply stared, dumbfounded. Then, after a long while of simply staring, dumbfounded, she said, “My program, Wilbur. My television program. I’m going to miss my favorite program. My television program.”

Neither Jasper nor his father had any comment to this. Jasper’s father, because he was too busy staring blankly at the glowing heap of coals that had once been his house. Jasper, because his mind was on something a bit more important than his mother’s favorite television program.

“Ma’am, what about Ranger?”

“My program. My television program.”

“But . . . Ranger.”

“Forget about that rat-haired hyena!” Jasper’s father said. “Can’t you see our dang house been blown to Hades?”

Jasper nodded. But he did not forget about the rat-haired hyena.

Yes, Ranger was rat-haired. Yes, he did look more like a hyena than a dog. But he was Jasper’s rat-haired hyena, and the best and only friend he had.

Jasper scanned the flat darkness for his dog’s eyes reflecting the moonlight. Maybe Ranger had escaped before the house blew up. Maybe he had sensed some impending disaster, the way they say birds sense an earthquake. Maybe he had pushed his way through a screen window and run off into the night.

Jasper looked deep into the darkness, but he did not see a thing. Still, there was hope. In his heart there was a spark of hope that Ranger would come bounding out of the gray fields to greet him as he had so many times before. If not tonight, then tomorrow. There had to be hope, because the opposite possibility—being left alone in the world with only his parents—was simply too awful to contemplate.

“My program,” his mother muttered. “My television program.”

—III—

Jasper and his parents spent that night on the wide bench seats of their car. It was not until the following morning, when a team of scientists arrived in several large white vans marked National Aeronautics and Space Admin­istration, that Jasper’s parents discovered exactly what it was that had blown their house to smithereens. Of course, Jasper had already known.

“A meteorite!” Jasper’s father said. “That’s a bunch of bull!”

Mr. Snert was not sure what a meteorite was. He thought it might be a person from a country called Meteor. One way or the other, he was sure it didn’t have anything to do with blowing up their house.

The scientists from NASA only looked at each other and shrugged. They had seen the meteorite with their telescopes. They had tracked it from the moment it came near Earth. They knew the meteorite had landed in Laurence Corners, Jasper’s little town. They knew it had landed on Jasper’s house. But Jasper’s father did not believe it. He was sure that he knew better.

He wheeled on Jasper. “This is your fault, ain’t it boy? If we didn’t take you out for your danged birthday, none of this would’ve happened.”

Jasper did not say a thing.

His father put his hands on his hips. “You done something. You left on the gas on the stove, or you was making a home-made bomb up there in your room with all that science stuff you always messing with. Fess up, boy!”

Jasper opened his mouth to reply, but only closed it. What was there to say to this logic? Jasper knew what a meteorite was. He had learned about them in school. He had read about them in books. Jasper was fascinated by space, and science, and anything to do with it. He knew what had happened. If they hadn’t gone out to dinner for his birthday, they’d all be dead.

“Well, come on,” his mother said. “If you done something, tell up now, lest the further wrath of God be brought down upon our heads.”

His parents scowled at him like two angry crows. His father poked him in the chest. “You’re gonna pay for this, boy. And I mean more than with just a whipping. I mean with cash money. You’re gonna get a job. You’re gonna make enough money to buy us a new house!”

Jasper only took a deep breath and scanned the empty, colorless world around him. Where in the name of Hades was he going to get a job in all those empty fields? But more to the point, when in the world would his rat-haired hyena come bounding out of them again?


© Copyright 2017 a. p. hubbard. All rights reserved.

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