It All Comes Out in the Wash
Beth struggled under the weight of the loaded mail tub full of absolutely filthy clothing. Filthy and reeking. Nothing smelled quite as horrific as walker guts and she'd grown up on a farm where powerful odors were just a fact of life. She wanted to hold the load at arm's length, but it was too heavy so she balanced it on her hip as well as she could, and did her best not to breathe
Since they'd moved into the prison, and life had settled into as much of a routine as any of them could expect, Carol had insisted that at least once a week, they gather all of the dirty laundry and get it washed. . "We may all be wearing rags," Carol insisted, "but we're going to wear clean rags. And If I had an iron, they'd be pressed rags." Glenn had told Beth that when their group had been camped outside of Atlanta in an old stone quarry, Carol had led the laundry brigade there as well. It was just something she did. Here, they had access to water, and had either found soap in the prison stores or scavenged it on raids to the outlying towns. Most of everybody had only one or two sets of clothes anyway so even with everyone in the prison, there wasn't a ton of wash.
Most of everyone took turns helping, including the men, but because she did so much to care for baby Judith, Beth was usually excused from laundry duty. Glenn and Maggie had the baby for the day, so Beth was manning the wash.
It really wasn't such an awful chore. In fact it was one of the most normal things they did, gathered around the few tubs they had, scrubbing the clothes on old wash boards, chattering, laughing and when none of the men were helping, the ladies indulged in just a little bit of girl talk. It surprised Beth just how often girl talk revolved around one Daryl Dixon. The Woodbury girls in particular, had a strange fascination for their resident red neck. You'd think they'd grown up in New York or something.
Anyway, after all the washing and rinsing, they'd string a clothesline across the yard, hanging everything to blow in the wind. On a really gusty day, the flapping arms and legs of clothing drew walkers like crazy. The folks manning the chain link fence grumbled a bit about the extra load, but they didn't turn their noses up at clean clothes either.
Then come evening, before the dew fell, they'd all report back to help fold and sort. Getting the right clothes back to the right people was something Beth found challenging, but Carol managed to keep it all straight.
"Pretty simple," she told Beth. "Most of this stuff you recognize, because you see people wearing the same thing every day. None of Daryl's shirts have sleeves. The really big long john shirt is Tyreese's. Those skinny little tops are your sister's. The only really tricky part is the underwear." As she spoke Carol carefully sorted shirts and pants and socks into neat piles on the table in the cell block.
To some piles she added briefs to others, boxers. Skimpy little bikini briefs for some of the ladies. When she was finished the only chore left was to return the clothes to their owners.
As Beth grabbed several armfuls to take back to the cells, she stopped. "Oh, Carol, didn't you forget something?"
"What, hon?" Carol said, slightly distracted.
"There aren't any underwear on that pile."
"Oh," Carol shrugged haphazardly, "That's Daryl's stuff."
"But he's missing…" Beth began then she felt the blood rush up her cheeks.
Carol grinned. "You know there are three options, child. Boxers, briefs, or…neither."