Need something troublesome and unsightly eliminated permanently? Call Josie Toadfern!
There is no stain on Earth that laundromat owner Josie Toadfern can't conquer, and she's offered to share her expertise on world famous domestic doyenne Tyra Grimes's TV show. No one is more shocked than Josie herself when the Great Grimes shows up in Paradise, Ohio, to tape a segment in Josie's teeny-weeny hometown. But rapidly spreading rumors of the insufferable icon's immoral—and quite possibly illegal—carryings-on have sparked Josie's curiosity, and her uninvited sorting through Grimes's dirty laundry is exposing all manner of dastardly doings—from mischief all the way to murder. And the irrepressible Toadfern soon realizes it will take more than lemon juice to make this lethal stain come out in the wash.
About the Author
Sharon Short's humor column, "Sanity Check," appears every Monday in the Dayton Daily News. Her fiction credits include several short mysteries published in Murderous Intent Mystery Magazine and Orchard Press Online Mystery Magazine. In addition, Ms. Short is a principal of her own marketing communications firm and has a bachelor's and a master's degree in English. She lives in Miamisburg, Ohio, with her husband and two daughters.
Read an Excerpt
Time moves differently in a laundromat.
How differently depends on the person.
For Becky Gettlehorn, who stood in the corner folding clothes for a family of seven, I suspected it moved slower. Sure, she had two of her little ones with her, but the older three were in school on this glorious April day in Paradise, Ohio. Four-year-old Haley was busily coloring under the folding table, while three-year-old Tommy was at the front of my laundromat getting his hair trimmed by my cousin Billy. Becky had a peaceful, almost dreamy look on her face, as if the rhythm of folding countless tiny T-shirts and towels and jeans and her husband's Masonville State Prison guard uniforms and just the occasional blouse was somehow soothing -- a welcome change from, say, fixing macaroni and cheese for seven in the tiny kitchen of the Gettlehorn bungalow on Elm Street.
For my other Monday morning regular -- the widow Beavy -- time seemed to move frantically. Once upon a time, Mrs. Eugene Beavy had as many children as Becky, plus one, and I reckon that back then -- when my laundromat was still owned by my aunt and uncle -- she was a lot more like Becky. But time, besides moving differently in a laundromat, also has a way of taking its toll. Now, Mrs. Beavy had one load, maybe two, every week, but she always seemed overwhelmed by them, even though she did only her outer clothes, as she called them, at my laundromat. Once she confided to me that she did her undies at home in her kitchen sink, because, as she said, she didn't want the whole damned town of Paradise gawking at her panties and bras and extra-support stockings. I've long ago given up on pointing out to her that the whole damned town of Paradise, even with its tiny population of 2,617, could not fit in my laundromat, and even if it could, its citizens would hardly be interested in observing Mrs. Beavy launder her undies.
For me, laundromat time moves as normal time. I'm Josie Toadfern, owner of Toadfern's Laundromat, the only laundromat in Paradise, Ohio. I'm a stain expert -- self-taught and proud of it. Best stain expert in all of Mason County. Maybe in all of Ohio. Maybe even in all of the United States.
And on that fine spring day about four weeks ago -- before trouble came to Paradise -- I was using that expertise to finish up the last of Lewis Rothchild's white dress shirts. By the clock that hangs on the wall behind my front counter, it was 1:45. Hazel Rothchild would be in at precisely 2:10 P.M. to pick up her husband's shirts. She was always on time and always fussy about the shirts. Lewis was the third-generation owner of Rothchild's Funeral Parlor. He was also heavy and sweated a lot, and I did what I could about his shirts (pre-treating with a mix of equal parts water, cheap dishwashing soap, and ammonia usually worked). Still, Hazel always found something to complain about, saying that he had to look his best for his clients. And I always resisted pointing out that actually, he had to look his best for his clients' families, his clients being, after all, dead. (A good business-woman must know when to bite her tongue.)
Hazel would command all my time once she arrived, so I decided to check on my other customers now. I trotted over to Mrs. Beavy, who was fiddling with the cap on her bottle of detergent.
I peered at her clothes whirring around in the washer. "You're on the spin cycle," I said, gently taking the bottle of detergent from her. I put the detergent on the folding table and picked up the bottle of softener.
"Oh. That means it's time for the cream rinse, right?"
"Fabric softener," I corrected kindly, although I could understand her confusion, given that my ever-down-on-his-luck cousin Billy was demonstrating his Cut-N-Suck haircutting vacuum attachment by the big window that fronts my laundromat. His hope was that Paradisites would come in for his free demos, and then buy their very own six-payments-of-$5.95-per-month Cut-N-Suck hair-clipping vacuum attachment, which was supposed to allow the user to clip hair while the trimmings got sucked into the vacuum.
"I'm not going to get hair in my blouses, am I?" Mrs. Beavy asked nervously, pointing toward Billy.
"No, no, not at all," I said, measuring fabric softener into the dispenser on top of the washer.
"Because Cherry warned me I would, and I don't want hairy blouses." She added in a whisper, "Makes me glad I do my undies at home. Because I surely don't want hairy panties."
I thumped the bottle of softener back down on the folding table. Mrs. Beavy jumped, and I immediately felt sorry. I smiled at her, glancing over at the TV, mounted on a rack just to the right of the entry door, positioned so that anyone in the laundromat could see it. "It's about time for your favorite show. You want me to turn it on for you?"
She smiled back at me, instantly soothed. Her favorite show was, of course, the Tyra Grimes Home Show. Everyone in America loved, or at least knew about, Tyra Grimes -- a home decorating and lifestyle expert with a cable TV show filmed right in New York. She had books and videos, plus a company that made dishtowels and bath towels and sheets and other stuff for the home -- all very stylish, of course.
On the way to the TV, I took a detour by Becky, chatted for a few seconds about how fast her kids were growing, and suggested she help herself to my supply shelf for a dab of plain glycerin ...Death of a Domestic Diva. Copyright © by Sharon Short. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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“DEATH OF A DOMESTIC DIVA is an immaculate conception, and more importantly, good clean fun!”
“Sharon Short’s Josie Toadfern is wonderfully quirky.”