Ham and Cheese


I had just taken BART home from work, the day I met it. Correction: met him. It was hot out, the walk from the station to my house was miserable, and I recall being relieved it was only five minutes. The cars sped by on the road next to me, engines humming loudly. I walked up my driveway, opened the front door, turned off the alarm, and took my shoes off, the usual routine. Then, I grabbed my laundry hamper and hustled down the rickety staircase to the the washing machine in my basement. I opened the machine, dumping my laundry in. As I turned to get my laundry detergent, a flash of color caught my eye. I looked back at my laundry machine and found myself staring right into the eyes of a fish. It was red with tinges of blue on its head and fins. In all, it was about as big as my two fists placed side by side, pretty large for a fish. I didn’t scream, or run away. I just stared open-mouthed. I probably looked like a fish myself. The fish wiggled his way above the surface of my dirty socks, until I could see his entire upper body, as he used his pectoral fins to balance on the rim of the laundry machine. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that fish need water to survive. This fish apparently swam in dirty laundry.

“Ham and cheese,” he said. I stared. “A guy gets mighty hungry when he’s trapped in a laundry machine all day,” he huffed. “Would you please get me some ham and cheese?”

“Ham and cheese,” I repeated idiotically.

“Yes,” he said, “not in a sandwich though, I can’t stand ham and cheese sandwiches. I eat them separately.”

I’m not the questioning type; I do what I’m told. I found shredded mozzarella in my refrigerator and a slice of ham and brought them to the basement. I dropped them into my laundry machine, watching in shocked silence as the fish devoured them both.

“Much better. Thank you,” he said. He leaned over the edge of my machine, peering into my laundry hamper. “Let’s see now, two pairs of jeans, three T-shirts, and a pair of socks. You sure have a lot of socks, you know. There were fifteen pairs in your last load!”


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