Sorry for the delay – this section is from my novel, Life in Slake Patch, a speculative alternative future novel. Men and women live in separate compounds with visiting on only one day. It is from the viewpoint of the main character, Evan. I’m interested in what imagery you get from this.
I entered the laundry to the familiar sound of heavy hoof beats. At the rear of the building were six oxen harnessed to a tread wheel. The motion moved a system of pulleys by way of thick ropes, high in the ceiling. Through a series of cogs the ropes turned wooden struts, which were submerged in large vats of soapy water, twisting the clothes. The water was heated by a furnace situated between the laundry and the brewery house. The machine had been built using a plan found amongst the books in the library ten years previously, which made the laundry duty a much faster and more frequent process. The lye soap aroma had me remembering how I would watch my mother and sister make it. They mixed the lye with melted lard and water then boiled it. I can remember running out of the cabin shouting.
“That smells so disgusting Mother.”
“That is as maybe my boy but without it you would be blacker than mud.”
Later when the mixture thickened it was poured into shallow pans and once it had hardened I would help cut it into blocks. It was not a favorite chore but once the blocks were completed mother allowed me to deliver some to her neighbors. It gave me the opportunity to play ‘seek and hide’ with other boys in the compound, an enjoyable excursion from chores.
Jacob had told me that before the laundry machine had been built, men would wear their clothes until the smell was too much even for them to bear. At that time washing was limited to bashing the clothes with rocks in the river and then only when the river bank was clear of ice. In the winter months, so Jacob says, it was all you could do to sit next to someone. The stench within the long houses had many men risking the bitter winter cold just for relief from it.
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