He only became aware of the problem when the washing machine didn’t fill up with water.
“What the-” he swore. “No water? Really? And I thought this town couldn’t get any worse.” The only other water sources were Rainbow River and the fishing pond, and he was not about to wash - no, soil - his clothes in such dirty water. Then, it clicked. The gas station. It sells bottled water. He left his clothes in the machine and sprinted out the door, hoping no one else had had the same idea.
A soft ringing signaled his entrance into the Exxon gas station. Dashing to the back where the drinks were sold, he was confronted with the sad image of a refrigerator stripped of its contents. Just like the town, there wasn’t a single drop of clean water.
There were only the river and pond left. A simple coin flip decided his fate. Rainbow River it is. After a couple minutes of searching, he found a bucket. Bucket in hand, he sprinted out of the gas station, eyes fixed on the chaos unfolding around him. People were rushing in all directions, either hauling full buckets of water back to their residences or trying to take back the water that had been stolen from them. Clothes were scattered everywhere from when people had dropped them. It was worse than when the power went out.
Despite the cool fall breeze, his shirt was already drenched in sweat. He’d have to wash that too. When he finally arrived at the river, he began scouting out a spot with the least amount of oil slick.
“Hey, can you help me?”
He turned around sharply. It was someone he had never seen before, although that honestly didn’t surprise him. “Who are you and what do you want?” he quipped.
“I’m Henry Johnson. I dropped my book in the river. It’s really important to me, but I can’t afford to get my clothes dirty.” He pointed to a small book floating amidst the sludge.
Who does this guy think he is? Asking me to retrieve his book for him like that. Lucien was about to say no and walk off, but Henry’s simultaneously distressed and hopeful expression made him consider otherwise.
Ugh, alright. I need to wash these clothes anyway, what’s the big deal. “Fine. I will. But you owe me one.” Wading into the murky water, he gingerly picked up the book. He could barely make out the title, it was so ruined.
“Here’s your book,” Lucien said, handing it to Henry.
“Oh my gosh, thank you!” he said, putting the book back into his pocket. “I’m so sorry about your clothes.”
Lucien looked down. His pants and shoes were soiled beyond repair, but no matter. “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”
When he arrived back at the Victorian, full bucket in hand, he went straight to the public washing machines to wash his clothes.
Except they weren’t there.