Flash Fiction: The Gentle Art of Sock Balling, by Dettra Rose

Reading Time: 2 minutes

washing-machineI’m watching my clothes revolve. Trying not to sink into the grey concrete in my mind. The worries of no job or stable home. Nothing filling my wallet except receipts. There’s a lull at the laundrette, just me here and the service wash woman – ponytail, overall and a name badge, Jude.

She folds towels in perfect squares and t-shirts in soft lines. Her sock balls round as globes. I notice her hands as she’s working, I’m curious about the one that’s missing three fingers. It might be rude to ask, so I say.

‘Do you have a washing machine at home?’

She laughs. ‘Nope, don’t need one.’

Why is that funny? I don’t know why it is, but I’m laughing, too.

‘How comes neither of us have washing machines, Jude?’

She tugs a tangle of wet clothes from a top loader and says, ’Well you don’t need one either because you got ten right here. What’s your name?’

‘Gerry Boyle.’

‘Gerry Boyle, I got a ton of bedding from the motel to fold. Would you?’

She hands me a sheet corner. I step five paces back to straighten it then return towards her. We do this like a dance, must be forty times. We fold those broad white suckers in halves, thirds, quarters, until they look like they’re new in a packet. Jude thanks me with her smile and a custard creme.

I start dropping in on Mondays, when jumbles of bedding arrive at the laundromat and hog all the washers and dryers. And while they slosh and spin and tumble, Jude and I sit by the change machine and share a can of Sprite. Then the folding starts.

And when we finish the stack, Jude says … ‘Thank you for rescuing me, Gerry.’

We’re sweaty from the heat stuck in the sheets. She’s pink-faced like a ripe summer berry. And I’m standing paralysed, hot hands in my pockets thinking …  I felt useful, Jude. For a while, I had a purpose.

And she meets my eyes, shoves a plastic basket full of socks into my hands and says, ‘Ball them for me please, Gerry Boyle.’

So I smile, and I do.


Dettra Rose writes flash fiction, non-fiction articles, poetry and shopping lists. She wrote her first flash fiction in 2018 and has become addicted. Dettra’s pieces have won and been shortlisted/longlisted in a number of international competitions, including the Bath Flash Fiction Award, The Fish Prize, and the Australian Writers’ Centre. Currently Dettra’s precious writing time ping-pongs between finishing her novel and flash fiction. A born and bred Londoner Dettra now lives in Australia; she calls both places home. Say hello at Facebook – @dettrarose Twitter – @dettrarose