Panties in the Coal Mine

“What’s That over there in the corner?” P nods toward a mysterious square dark cloth laid out neat and flat on the top bench of Utopia.

“She’s drying it,” Sandy sighs, loudly. “I remember once I was at the Berkeley Y and this woman was drying her swimsuit in the sauna and I started to smell this horrible stench and said to her, ‘I think your Nylon is burning.’”

P and DL both chuckle. It’s a common theme in the women’s saunas of the YMCA. Women hanging their various clothing situations to dry.

“And these women that are always drying their panties in the sauna?” Sandy harrumphs, “I’d just toss a clean pair in my gym bag. Enough with the laundry at the Y.”

“Yeah,” P agrees, “I mean, how dry can those wet panties get in the sauna anyway?” P thinks about saggy droopy moisty panties and wrinkles her nose. But she has to laugh to herself about the Panty Theme for the day. That very morning, she’d been at a meeting, where the Chair of one of the Graduate Departments was going on and on about how her plumbing for her washing machine was clogged up and the plumber kept telling her it was her fault and she’d miffed at him and said, ‘Hell, do you think I just bunched up my panties and jammed them down the pipes to give you a thrill.”

Did she really say that?

P isn’t quite sure now after her long day and arduous swim.

Sandy shrugs, “I dunno. I just remember that stinking nylon suit at the Berkeley Y and how surprised the woman was that her suit was burning up. Hell, it is nylon after all.”

P nods, “It does seem like it’d catch fire even.”

“That it could. That it could. Hell, that’s why they have the signs all over the place saying don’t hang your wet shit, excuse my French, on the sauna rods.”
They all share a giggle. Then sit in companionable Sauna Silence for a few moments.

“How was your swim tonight?” Sandy asks.
“Oh, pretty good. I shared a lane with a super beautiful efficient swimmer.”
Sandy nods in approval, “Very good.”
“Yeah, I was amazed. She was so smooth and fast. I could tell she was pulling really hard under the water and so when she stopped I asked her about her stroke and she told me about it.”
“What did she say?”
“She said that she was pulling out to the sides instead of under our bodies, like I thought you were supposed to.”
Sandy frowns, “The S shape, under and around.” She makes the S shape motion in front of her sweat beaded torso.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought too, but this woman, well…she was so fast…..” P pauses for a moment, thinking of Super Efficient Swimmer Woman. “I do hafta admit that maybe I got it wrong though. I had my earplugs in and I was super distracted by her beautiful eyes.”

DL laughs, softly? Or does P just imagine this?

Sandy continues to puzzle through the S Stroke Paradox, “I wonder what she said exactly?”
“If I swim with her again, I’ll try to ask and pay more attention to what she’s saying,” P offers.
“Yes, do,” Sandy advises.

DL rises, weaves out of Utopia.
“Ah, the Canary in the Coal Mine makes her move,” Sandy chuckles. “Guess it’s time we follow suit.”
P tries to remember which story she used to teach that used this idiom. It was something famous and literary where the entire narrative was spun from this premise. There was an actual coal mine that the characters were all trapped in and the canary actually was sacrificed and it was horrible and sad and real all at the same time....

What was it? Something by Steinbeck? Or Nabokov? Or hell…..she can’t remember now. Maybe she’ll remember it tomorrow.

Or not.

Exiting out of Utopia, P encounters Evil Eye Towel Woman heading into Utopia (She’d given P and DL the Evil Eye earlier in the hot tub—P didn’t know why, but could only guess it was because she was giggling at something DL had just said. No giggling in the Hot Tub! the Evil Eye seemed to be saying).

After a moment, Evil Eye emerged from the sauna with the ‘dry’ fabric that had started this whole story.

Of course it belonged to her. How else could the story end?

She gives P the Evil Eye as she passes by while folding neatly her damp square cloth.

Proudly, she saunters into the steam room. P stifles another giggle, hurrying into the showers before it escapes into the steamy damp air.


Anonymous said…
This story lives up to the promise of the title. For me, I am always wondering if my goggles and swim cap will melt in the sauna. The idea of panties, well, I would never have thought to bring panties into the sauna equation.

Cj said…
Yes, the panties do add a 'hot' element! Thanks again for the sweet and thoughtful comments, Anonymous Cat!

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