|Dwain was seven inches in diameter and wore a round metal cap with fifty-five tiny holes. He lived in the basement floor of a three-story apartment building.
Sometimes he hid under a dark brown industrial mat. Other times he did not, and so when he unabashedly showed himself, the good residents of Locust Avenue going to and fro would step on him--but he didn’t seem to mind.
Dwain didn’t get along with the two washers on the second and third floors. Most of the time he’d do the “tighten-up” when the wash water came down, kinda like a little boy who curls up his toes when Mommy is trying to put him in his shoes.
So the wash water would just pool above his head, and Dwain would continue to pout and collect sticks in his copper stubbornness. His colleagues underground didn’t seem to care one way or the other. Dwain was a member of this underground, but he was the only one privileged enough to see shoe bottoms.
Dwain’s Mother lived just three feet away behind metal folding doors. She was a boiler, and she would get boiling mad. “Dwain, quit playing with that water!” His uncle was a shut-off valve, but someone left an oil can and a red bandana in his purview, so he wasn’t much of a help, mostly due to the oil.
His mischief was a real drain on the two residents who lived close. And his Mother’s pipes were red with embarrassment when they dug him up. His metal cap was hung on his uncle’s elbow for about four days. A big burly man stood shoulder deep in Dwain’s habitat, and even some of the underground saw things they had never seen before, or at least not since their subterranean assignment.
The washers on the second and third floors would communicate during permanent-press cycle pauses by tapping slugs against their tubs, sorta like big-house cons do on bars. They wondered why Dwain couldn’t be content in his state of lowliness.
Their ways just could not exist together, those of the washers and Dwain--never the Dwain shall meet. So there were many times before the big dig when Dwain was forced to swallow this long metal snake, powered no less. The theory being that this would not spoil the child.
Well, the day came when the dig was done, and Dwain was put back. He got back his cap, his uncle went click-clunk on the oil can, and his Mom sighed. The washers, however, turned on their timers. For a few days, all was dry.
Then on this one Tuesday evening there was an inordinate amount of tapping from the second and third floors, and Dwain's Mom released a blast of steam that set off the smoke alarms.
Dwain was forever changed after this, and he at once realized, finally, the difference between things that are important and those that only seem important at the time.
Writer’s Cramp Winner