“The Ghosts at the Carwash Are Always Looking for Company”: Flash Fiction by Cathy Ulrich

Haunted Passages: Cathy Ulrich

The Ghosts at the Carwash Are Always Looking for Company

There is a universe where all the carwashes are haunted. Where there are creaks and groans and disembodied hands dripping with carwash water. Where our mothers sat us down since we were young, said never go to the carwash, said or you could end up a haunt there too, said when the first carwash was built, the ghosts were already waiting.

In the haunted carwash universe, we are washing our cars in our driveways with the radio playing on the front step. We are rolling the sponge over the sides of our cars and thinking how there is something like dinosaurs about vehicles, something ancient, something sturdy. We are thinking the world is so much older than it seems. We are waving to our neighbors mowing their lawns, we are singing Josie’s on a vacation far away, we are wiping sweat from the back of our necks, dripping lather onto our denim shorts.

In the haunted carwash universe, we are parking our cars in the garage when the weatherman calls for rain, we are saying we’ll get the groceries tomorrow, errands can wait. We are looking out the window at the fat darkening clouds and thinking of mud and mud and mud.

In the haunted carwash universe, we are afraid of ghosts. We are afraid of dirt, we are afraid of the looks our neighbors give our dust-coated back windshields. We are afraid of the sound of machinery at night, how its groaning sounds like dinosaurs, perhaps, dragging themselves free of the earth, as another carwash is built in the dark. We are afraid to know who is building the carwashes; we are afraid they are, somehow, building themselves.

In the haunted carwash universe, we are driving at night and the sky is full of stars. We are driving and our windows are down; we are singing with the radio, voices fading in the chill air, just ’cause you’re right don’t mean that I’m wrong. We are driving at night in our cars and the dark is like a cloak, we think, yes, like a cloak, and the wind is tugging at our hair and the radio is playing and we are surrounded by carwashes all around, all around.

Cathy Ulrich should probably wash her car at some point this summer, unless it rains, then what’s the point. Her work has been published in various journals, including Cream City Review, Pigeon Pages NYC, and Orange Blossom Review.

Image: “Car Wash Night” by Yann Gar, flickr.com

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