It’s time for another excerpt from SECOND PICTURE STORIES…
The Laundry Chute
It had been a long day, and eight little girls who should have been tired were being put in their pajamas and told to go to sleep. Our parents lined us up lengthwise on Grandma and Grandpa Walker’s four-poster bed, and left us with two very simple decrees: go to sleep, and do not, under any circumstances, slide down the laundry-chute. This latter mandate may seem odd, but not when one understands the nature of Grandma and Grandpa Walker’s laundry-chute.
It was a secret tunnel, a slide, a doorway into the magical lands of…. The Basement. Ok, it was little more than a hole in the floor of their closet that dropped down on top of the washing machine in the laundry room, but to eight little girls all under the age of ten, it was a portal to new and exciting worlds. Sometimes we pretended it led to Narnia, on other days it might lead to another dimension, but tonight it looked even more perfect and tantalizing than ever. The laundry chute must have been somewhat larger than most others I have seen since then, or perhaps we were just that little, but the laundry chute made the perfect sized-slide for us… if you didn’t mind breaking both your ankles upon emerging at the bottom and landing on the washing machine. We never slid down it with reckless abandon; you had to have at least some sort of caution on these sorts of adventures… quests… things.
As soon as the door closed on us and our parents crept down the hall to go sit around the fireplace and chat, mayhem ensued. We had been allowed to watch “Annie” just before bed, and the story had ignited our imaginations.
“I get to be Pepper!” Gwenny shouted excitedly (it’s amazing we never alerted our parents to the fact that we were not “going to sleep,” we must have been loud enough to wake the neighbors at least, if not the dead).
Her announcement was met by more than a few groans and “not fairs!” but she had called it first and there was not much we could do about it. A chorus of little voices chimed up quickly as each of us picked a different character. Nobody really wanted to be Annie, living in a nice house and being taken care of by people who love you? We all had that already; the true adventure was living in a dirty orphanage with an evil orphan keeper and a dozen other rowdy orphans. Starving to death, working our fingers to the bone, dreaming of escape… it seemed quite a romantic existence to our childish opinions. Spurning the idea of being Annie, each of us secretly wished to be just like Pepper: rough, tough, and perfectly capable of taking care of herself.
We danced around on the bed for a while singing, “It’s a Hard-Knock Life” at the tops of our lungs. We pushed and shoved and tickled each other and after a very short amount of time our antics erupted into a full-fledged pillow fight. Eventually we collapsed on the bed and the floor giggling hysterically and gasping for breath.
I don’t remember whose idea it was, but in less time than it takes to say we all became reverently silent. Someone had audaciously suggested that we try to climb down the laundry chute. The closet door was tantalizingly cracked open. Sliding off the bed and pushing the door open even wider we quietly gathered in solemn wonder and gazed at the gaping black maw of the abyss.
Kimmy and Keri quickly caught onto the idea, “We could pretend it’s a secret passageway leading out of the orphanage!” One of them said.
“Yeah!” We agreed heartily, the idea seeming far too perfect to be real.
“Gwenny could go first and then…”
“No! Oh no.” Gwenny said adamantly, bringing our dreaming to an abrupt halt.
I couldn’t really blame her, and neither could anyone else. Being the most daring and adventurous of all of us, Gwenny was often talked into doing quite dangerous and risky things merely on the promise that “if she went first, we would follow.” However, we had failed to hold up our end of the bargain too many times for her to be talked into breaking the trail for us without question. On a similar occasion at a previous date, Gwenny had braved the laundry chute by herself, only to find that she had no followers. We could understand her reluctance to repeat such a venture.
Will the cousins venture down the laundry chute? Will they get caught by the evil orphan keeper? Will someone break a leg?
Find out next week on…. SECOND PICTURE STORIES SATURDAY