Out in the Wash
Out in the Wash is a story written by Iron Eater. It originally ran in Issue 77 at http://www.shousetsubangbang.com/mirror/out-in-the-wash/.
Trouble with the washing machine promises to be above and beyond a matter of a simple service call.
Some people Joshua knew were hesitant to call something that ran on supernatural energies a machine, per se, but in his opinion he was all for calling a spade a spade; it didn't matter if behind the inconspicuous chassis with the Maytag branding was a fantastic portal to the dimensional plane of soap suds—or wherever it went, as the manual warned against sticking your head into the unit to investigate and Joshua was an avowed manual-reader—because so long as he put dirty clothes in and got clean clothes out it was good enough for him. The laundry machine was a typical magical appliance in that it needed both electrical power and a connection to Realms Unknown to work, similar to how a dishwasher needed both power and water if it was meant to do its job. Like all machines built for human convenience, he only really thought about it when it wasn't working the way it ought to, and given the malfunction he had on his hands he was now thinking about the laundry machine quite a lot.
This story has no connections to other stories or characters.
This story has no related links.
This story almost didn't get written.
I couldn't find an approach I liked in an explicitly modern fantasy setting (as my submission before this one was one of my usual December yarns of mildly alarming length) and once I settled upon the concept of "busted magical appliance" I could not think of anything to do with it. A few hundred words floated, orphaned, on my hard drive for weeks. Then we started the process of setting up a mortgage! The deadline approached and still nothing; even with an intense eleventh-hour authoring of several thousand words I was left with an incomplete story on submission day. I also ended up with a horrible issue with my left hand in which my fingers kept involuntarily spasming. Suffice to say I requested an extension. After losing a day to recovery I was able to bang out a suitably decent ending scene. Sparklebeard once more provided invaluable input as a beta reader and helped me smooth out the bumps from the story's patchwork creation process. I am forever grateful that even stories I have significant problems bringing to completion tend to turn out okay-ish in the end.
Joshua's identity flip-flopped a bit as I felt out what on earth my plot was going to be. He ultimately ended up being sort of a Manic Pixie Dream Boy type, except somewhat more grounded than the archetype tends to be, so I thought it'd be fun exploring why someone so colorful and vivacious would be interested in a man as dishwater-dull as Willem. This was the entire inspiration for Willem later on asking if Joshua saw him as a "project" and why we get repeated insight into Joshua's thoughts, such as his rule never to date anyone more interesting than himself. As someone whose spouse commissions her for paying creative projects now and again I figured it couldn't hurt to show two people comfortable with exchanging money for luxury services and not being weird about it!
The concept of the imp by the wipeboard was recycled from a much, much earlier story that is not currently available online. It, too, enjoyed being fed peanuts.
Willem's skill with portals was a last-minute addition but I'm quite happy I thought of it, since it provides more of a payoff for his stated profession (originally just an excuse for me to use the phrase "business elementalism" because if that's not brief, punchy worldbuilding in the space of two words I don't know what is). Slightly shy characters struggling to express genuine emotion or sexuality are a well to which I can always return when I need to contrast with a brasher character. May it never run dry.
The title was originally part of the ending stinger until I realized it worked much better as a title, since it's got that multiple-levels sort of thing with the situation turning out fine, Willem being open about being into fancy clothes, etc. I like puns. It's not a problem, it's a lifestyle.