A Nickel’s Worth of Laundry

During the summer of 1976, we moved next door to the Peacock Court Motel. I think it was less expensive over there. Plus, it didn’t have the trailer park, so it was less crowded with people and campers. There also seemed to be a few less weirdos and drunks there – but only a few.

I don’t remember the entire move, just the image of my mother smuggling our cat Velvet over inside a cardboard box. She carried him for the 30 metres over to our new home, and his head popped up a few times as he tried to escape from his confusing ordeal. Mum just pushed his head back down and kept walking.

My friend Sheldon lived in Peacock Court, although I don’t think we played and hung around together as much as we had before. Kid friendships tend to drift back and forth like that, I think.

I was curious about Sheldon’s background. He told me that he was a Haida native from a bear clan. I had no concept of my own heritage at the time, and his sense of identity made me feel like I was sort of unrooted by comparison. His bear clan sounded cool.

Sheldon had an older brother that I thought was a bit of a tough character. He scared me. He was the same guy I mistakenly had thought had mugged me the previous year, although that event seemed to have been forgotten by everyone.

One day, I heard a loud, repetitive banging coming from Sheldon’s unit, so I went to investigate. Sheldon’s brother was squatting on the blacktop in front of their steps, whacking a coin with a hammer over and over again. He said that you could get a nickel to become the size of a quarter this way. It sounded like cheating to me, but also seemed like a cunning plan. Another technique I’d heard of for cheating vending machines was to use a metal slug of the right size. I’d seen a few of these around on the ground before.

Boy, did Sheldon’s brother ever whack the hell out of those poor nickels! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam!

I’d have never thought it was possible, but the extra-large nickels must have done the trick, because not long afterwards, I watched Sheldon walk up the lane from the laundry building with a huge black garbage bag of clean laundry slung over his shoulder. Behind him, socks and underwear fell regularly out of a big rip, forming a line back up to his house.

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The memoir and family history of E. John Love