Angela's stories · June · vision

Madonna of the Laundromat

By Angela Gallagher

I DON’T know why it was different this time. I mean, I’ve been there loads of time over the years. Once a week – twice if it’s my week to do the sheets, regular as clockwork. And why me? Why pick me?

AngelaI’m gonna tell it like it was: I’m not lying, though Kerry Malone posted online that I made it up just to get attention but I call that rich coming from her. I nearly called her something then but I’m trying to reform because Father Davey said “Did I really think that was an appropriate way to talk when I’d just been blessed with a sacred experience?” I can’t even remember what I’d said but he didn’t approve. He closed his eyes and had a pained expression on his face when he said it, kind of disappointed, which made me feel a bit crap – I mean rubbish. God, it’s difficult ‘cos that’s just the way I talk. I mean not God, I didn’t mean to say it like that. I mean obviously you can say the word God just not like I did then. It’s in vain or something. Hard to break the habit of a lifetime. Anyway she said – that’s Kerry – that I’d never even been to church. Well that bit was true but who’s to say it can’t happen to an unbeliever. That’s what Father Davey said – that it can, not that it can’t.

I’ve seen him a lot since it first happened, though he wasn’t too keen to start with. You’d think he’d have been over the moon to have someone come to him and say they’d had a vision of the Virgin Mary but he wasn’t exactly over-enthusiastic at the beginning. I thought it was because of where it happened – I supposed he’d have preferred it to happen to some Solihull yummy mummy while she was having her latte and super salad in John Lewis. But can I help it if I saw her face in the tumble drier at the laundromat down Cradley High Street? Anyway, I think it was actually because he didn’t believe me, though maybe that was because I wasn’t a Solihull yummy mummy. Although if I had been from Solihull I wouldn’t have gone to him because his church isn’t in Solihull so he can’t have it both ways. He soon changed his tune though when it hit the news and the number of people coming through his doors went through the roof. (Not literally through the roof).

God, of course, I haven’t even told you what happened yet (I mean not God. Sorry God, sorry Father Davey). Well, it was sheets week, and I’d done the wash and had put them in the tumble drier and I was just sitting there watching them go round and round and I always just zone out at that point, you know, just thinking of other things but this time suddenly I saw a face, in the window of the tumble drier. Holy shit! God, sorry I didn’t mean to say that. And I didn’t mean to say God. But I mean I just freaked out! I jumped up and nearly ran straight out of the place. Only I couldn’t ‘cos some thieving person would have nicked my bedding. There was about three other people in there at the time but I couldn’t even speak I just kept pointing and opening and shutting my mouth like a goldfish and they obviously thought I was loony or something ‘cos they couldn’t see anything. I don’t know what I thought it was – I knew she wasn’t actually in the tumble drier ‘cos her face wasn’t going round and round, it was just in the middle of the window looking out at me. And anyway I’d have seen her when I put the sheets in, wouldn’t I?

She never said anything that time, just looked at me all serene like and it made me feel really calm.  Always had that effect, even if I got home and Jason’d give me some shit – I mean crap – I mean rubbish. I’d just still be really chilled out. Better than any drugs. It got so I’d really hope she’d be there – I looked forward to laundry day. She never said anything the first three times, like we was just getting to know each other but then the fourth time she spoke to me, and has done every time since. I can’t tell you what she said ‘cos it was just for me, though Father Davey said it was alright to tell him, being who he was and everything. “The Church needs to know,” he said. Which does make it feel important, doesn’t it? I heard him talking to someone about it (or “The Situation” as he called it) one time when I turned up early to see him. His housekeeper showed me into the hall and his study door was open and I could hear him on the phone. He was saying how the Church needed to manage the situation. It made me think of big business with their managers so that’s when I started to think I wasn’t just some nobody – they thought I was important. He also said it was “in the hands of Rome now.” I don’t know what that means; I thought Rome was just some place abroad. Donna Franklin’s mum went there for her 25th wedding anniversary and came back with bad sunburn on her face and seventy Euros lighter thanks to some low life who mugged her outside a bar.

But when I really knew I’d hit the jackpot was when Father Davey told me the Church felt it had a responsibility to look after me and they were going to find somewhere nice for me to stay, so that I wouldn’t be harassed by the press – ‘cos that was starting to be a problem. I was worried because Jason and me can only just afford the hole we live in now and that’s a cr- rubbish place, so we certainly couldn’t afford somewhere nice. But he said the Church would take care of the money side although they’d only be able to look after me. Jason could take care of himself for a while, couldn’t he? Father Davey said to just think of it as an extended holiday. To be honest knowing I could have a few weeks without Jason going off on one every time he came home from the pub felt good. I felt lighter somehow, which was weird ‘cos I’ve always thought I couldn’t do without him. I’ve always relied on him, you know? And the bruises don’t mean anything, not really. It’s just part of life, en it? But I had this vision of me kind of floating down into a big fluffy bed (like Lenny Henry does in that advert) and having towels that weren’t scratchy and one of those trays with tea and coffee. And it is like that, sort of. Although more like a spa ‘cos bits of it are quite clinical. It’s really clean and there are loads of staff and all the meals are cooked for you. Only thing is, they won’t let me out at the moment – to protect me from the press, which is a bit of a bummer because I can’t sneak out to see Jason. But worst of all I can’t go to see Her, in the laundromat. They say they’ll arrange it “when the time is right”. I wanted to ring Father Davey and ask him but they took my phone so I could get complete rest and he hasn’t been to see me since I’ve been here.

It’s been weeks.

But things will change. She told me I’ve got things to do. Important things. Like, “change the world” important. So I can’t tell you now. But you’ll hear about it.

© Angela Gallagher 2016

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