By Q Cafe guest contributor, Tom Wyndham
Good Evening, Central Laundromat by Jason Heroux is a well-paced, poetic and entertaining novella published by Quattro Books, telling the story of a man, a mystery, and the strange phenomena accompanying the two – a fortune-teller trading life-altering advice for cigarettes, a best friend’s paranoid ghost, a pigeon with a plan of his own, and the strange characters the man comes across that seem to ride the line between reality and surrealism. This novella takes place in Kingston, Ontario, a town where “you either have to be a student, ex-convict, or senior citizen, or you’re nobody.”
I have to admit, I chose to start reading Good Evening, Central Laundromat after polishing off the second book in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy of five. In retrospect, this was a mistake; I will forever compare Cameron Delco, the voice of Good Evening, Central Laundromat, to the protagonist of Hitchhiker’s, Arthur Dent. Both are fairly passive, introverted males that let the newly erratic events in their environment unfold around them without consciously embracing their own place in the scheme of things. It would be wrong, however, to say that Cameron Delco hasn’t quite dug his heels into the shifting reality of his world. Cameron seems more at peace with the strangely subdued calamity that is taking place around him than many of the other people noticing their own titled reality.
The plot starts to lead the reader at the beginning of the story, without spending much time on exposition. This is a personal preference of mine; I start to go cross-eyed when I realize that I’ve just read 30 pages without the plot moving anywhere. The pacing of the story tells the reader, “Take my hand…none of this is important anymore, and we can learn more about that dude on the way.”
Though one of the main characters is mysteriously mute, dialogue is the strongest element in this story. It is simple, yet remains expressive of the slight displacement of normality of Cameron’s day-to-day life. Cameron’s unspoken observations make you begin to wonder whether or not Cameron’s mental state is the shifting element rather than the world around him, or if the entire town had a concussion, leaving everything just so slightly off kilter. I learned quickly, however, to remain wary of my own theories – this story doesn’t get any less bizarre.
This novella might make you feel uncomfortable, but I like uncomfortable. This story is bizarre, entertaining, intelligent, and makes you feel like you should be paying more attention to what’s happening in your own daily life. A mystery, indeed.