Short Stories. The Ball Washer by Lance Manion. To celebrate the fact that Lance Manion book The Ball Washer, originally released as a free eBook with over 10k downloads to date, is now out in paperback, enjoy the eponymous story.
Travel always seems to leave me feeling a bit out of sorts. Checking into a hotel that had the word ‘value’ in the name didn’t help. On the way to my room I walked through an odor that reminded me somehow of the final apocalyptic throwdown between good and evil if, instead of the battle taking place between the forces of good and evil, it was the smell of urine and disinfectant facing off. The stink was quite formidable. The room, of course, had the requisite amount of mold and peeling wallpaper but the cherry on top was when I went to brush my teeth I found a pubic hair in the sink.
From the moment I entered the room I had braced myself for pubic hairs to be coating the tub and toilet seat but the sink? There was only one inescapable conclusion to be reached: the previous occupant of the room had been a ball washer.
Reeling a little from that realization I went out to grab some lunch. After spending fruitless minutes holding up the beef ‘n cheddar that was handed to me and comparing it to the picture of the beef ‘n cheddar as presented in the picture only a few feet over the head of the disinterested cashier at the nearby Arby’s, I became aware that nobody save myself was interested in the striking difference between the two sandwiches. However much I raised my voice or presented my beef ‘n cheddar for closer inspection the only thing that greeted me was the apathy of both the Arby’s managerial team and the customers waiting behind me. Where was the pride in their product? Where was the outrage from the consumer?
I retreated to the men’s room to splash a little water on my face and regain my composure. Even though my beef ‘n cheddar looked nothing like the Arby’s marketing department promised I was still hungry and remained a sucker for their zesty signature sandwich.
That’s when I saw it.
In the sink.
A black n curly.
I had once again stumbled upon evidence of a ball washer. In the men’s room of a fast food establishment no less. Have people no shame at all? My face unsplashed, I was forced to backpedal out of the very place I had backpedalled into and out to my waiting meal. I ate uncomposed.
Which brings me to dinner. And although there were many hours between dinner and my misadventure at lunch I was still noticeably uncomposed as I walked into the Kentucky F Chicken. I say F because I think the folks at Kentucky F Chicken believe that if the American chicken-buying public hear the word fried these days they will flee terrified into the streets never to return.
Am I the only person who’s noticed that over the years the size of the chicken legs have continued to shrink? When I was a kid I distinctly remember holding up a leg that would have looked more at home on a turkey and feasting like a miniature Henry VIII. It was all I could do to finish 2 of them before collapsing back stuffed and satisfied into the booth.
Have you seen the legs they give you these days? I honestly wonder if the chickens are able to walk around under their own power anymore. I picture a great field with all the chickens lying on their side unable to stand up on their tiny, weak, pathetic, meatless legs.
Once again, despite the airtight logic of my presentation, the cashier stood unfazed. No amount of passion was able to sway him and he seemed to be willing to wait forever for me to wind down my criticism and complete my order. I was left standing to wait for my meal with a sense of hopelessness regarding the size of the legs that would soon be making their way from the oven to my tray. Feeling I couldn’t stand there a moment longer I ducked into the bathroom for a quick pee before my food was presented.
The bathroom was filthy. The little checklist hanging on the back of the door letting the customer know the last time it was cleaned showed Billy had been in there to tidy things up in February of 2008. I relieved myself and headed over to the sink to wash my hands.
And saw it.
Another pubic hair.
My head swam and I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Except it was me in the hotel. My pants down.
I closed my eyes tight and tried to clear my head. When I opened them I saw myself shirtless and laughing in the Arby’s mirror.
The first rule of ball washing is you don’t talk about ball washing.
It couldn’t be. I grabbed the sink to hold myself up. I felt the cold tile under my bare feet.
I look like you wanna look, I fuck like you wanna fuck, I am smart, capable, and most importantly, I’m free in all the ways that you are not.
I was hearing this from the man in the mirror. The man with his pants down and his balls in the sink.
The second rule of ball washing is you don’t talk about ball washing.
I was the ball washer.