When a famous actress trusts our cut-price Casanova with the job of dry cleaning her underwear, it can only end in trouble...

 

A new shop has opened near me, and I’m fascinated by it. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, it has no door. There’s just a big gap where one should be, opening up onto the street. Anyone could walk in and rob the place. “Why don’t you have a door?” I finally asked when I walked by it for the fourth time. The owner, an Islamic man with permanent stubble and eyebrows as thick as a moustache, replied. “We open 24 hours a day. Why waste the money buying one?”

I suppose his logic was faultless, but I still reckon he has a lot to learn about commerce. Because his little store is also remarkable for containing absolutely nothing that anyone equipped with taste buds could possibly want to buy. The shelves groan with Anatolian pickled walnuts, yellowing slabs of nougat, and packets of something called ‘Salt Cheese’. Combined with the lack of security, this makes me suspect that the whole venture is a cunning insurance fraud, something he actually wants to fail. It may be the retail equivalent of The Producers.

Anyway, I mention it because this month’s sexual reverie concerns a time when I too worked on the high street. (It also involves me defiling the silk panties of one of Britain’s most respected actresses, but you’ll have to wait for the lurid details.) The story begins back in the mid-’80s, when I was running a launderette. Of course, I knew nothing about the laundry business. But a friend of my uncle’s owned a chain of dry cleaning shops, and strings were pulled to get me off the dole queue and into regular employment. Luckily, the job was simple. All I had to do was operate the till, do the paperwork on dry cleaning orders and give out change for the machines. The actual hard graft – all the service washes, ironing and repairs – was executed by an ageing Irish couple, Jerry and Michaela.

After years of paying through the nose for a fancy education, my father declared himself pleased that I was at last “finding out about the real world”. But he couldn’t have been more wrong. Walking into the shop each morning was like entering a magical kingdom. And not a nice one. Jerry was a bitter little ogre of a man whose face was twisted by hatred of the human race. Sat with the Daily Mirror in the morning, he’d mutter an obscene but heartfelt commentary on the stories of the day: “Michael Heseltine, he’s a cont… Kevin Keegan, he’s a cont… Princess Anne, now she’s a proper sow’s cont…” He detested me on sight, considering me (correctly) to be an over-privileged Milquetoast brought in above him due to the inequalities of the class system. But once he realised that I was only interested in reading Elmore Leonard novels and watching the clock tick round to 5.30pm, he left me pretty much in peace.

The customers were not so lucky. If one of them rubbed him up the wrong way – something that could be achieved merely by breathing in his direction – he would exact a terrible revenge on their clothes. Unpacking a service wash in the back room, he would trample on the shirts, blow his nose in the socks or wipe thick, khaki bogeys onto the gussets of the underwear. Naturally, all the clothes got washed straight away, so it wasn’t as serious as having a waiter spit in your soup, but I think I got my first glimpse of true evil when I saw the rapture on his face as he “got one over” on a punter who’d upset him.

His wife Michaela had turned to religion, which was understandable given that you could not be married to Jerry without believing in Hell. She came in every day at 7.30am to open up and was always the last to leave. She had a tiny desk with a sewing machine on it, but she spent most of her time tirelessly working the ironing board, her wrinkled face damp from the steam. The back room had no windows, so it was always humid in there, like a South American jungle or the engine room of a ship.

Sometimes, during her 15 minute lunch break, I’d see her saying the rosary, her eyes tight shut as she mumbled prayers. I thought to myself, ‘That Jesus has got a fucking strange way of thanking her.’ But mostly, I thought, this job was a picnic. My days were pretty much my own. I’d circle job adverts in the Guardian, take early lunches in the pub, then spend my salary getting pissed and trying to pull girls at parties. If they seemed unimpressed by my rock-bottom career prospects, I’d tell them I was working on a novel set among the working classes. “Like Orwell and Bukowski,” I’d pontificate, swilling from a can of Colt 45 and trying to sound unstoppably sexy, “I feel it’s a writer’s duty to plunge himself into his subject matter. How else can I achieve any real… insight, yeah?”

As technique for getting chicks into bed, this literary hokum was surprisingly successful. Mainly because I never told them that the only “insight” I’d come up with so far was that many of my customers had no shame about the poo stains in their underwear. They would hand over a service wash containing Y-fronts that were tiger-striped with shit. If a pair of mine had been similarly soiled, I would have snuck out at midnight and thrown them into a volcano to avoid the disgrace.

So I was doing quite well with girls, having learnt that vital lesson all young men need to know: women want it just as much as we do. But that’s not to say there weren’t many girls who I considered out of reach, and one of them – an actress who for legal reasons I have to describe as Imogen Stubbs or Greta Scacchi – came into the shop with some garments to be dry cleaned. A dress, a long coat, and a silky underwear set of panties and camisole.

Now, I knew two things about this thespian. Firstly, that she was gifted at her craft, a talented performer who could handle a challengingly wide range of roles, from Shakespeare to costume drama. And secondly, that she was not averse to getting her tits out. Indeed, I had masturbated several times after seeing her naked on screen. So to be touching her in the flesh – well, to be pressing a receipt into her hand, anyway – was a highly sexually-charged moment for me. But I can assure you I kept the sacred bond between laundryman and client unblemished. Well, I did until she left the shop anyway, at which point – after checking that Jerry and Michaela were out of sight – I rubbed my cheek against the shiny material of her nether garments and inhaled their musky odour, redolent of perfect skin and a blonde, wispy vagina. It was like smelling a rose.

For a moment, I confess, I thought of stealing them. ‘Snowdropping’, as the crime of underwear theft is known, usually happens from clothes lines in back gardens, but it’s not uncommon in the dry cleaning business. After all, an inside job is the easiest crime to pull off. And the excuses are simple to come up with: the item was ‘lost in transit’ or ‘damaged beyond repair in a faulty machine’. But I resisted and packaged the whole job up for the delivery van’s arrival next morning.

Unfortunately for Imogen/Greta, I had a date that night with a girl called Amanda who was on a mission of sexual discovery herself. Over the course of our three week romance she had already wanked me off in the cinema and dragged me up an alleyway for a knee-trembler. In those days, when I was capable of constant erections, her insatiability made her the perfect partner. Nowadays, of course, it would be a sadly different story. The ‘Craig David curve’ of our relationship would go, “I met this girl on Monday, took her for a drink on Tuesday, we were making love by Wednesday, ricked my back on Thursday, had a coronary on Friday...” We hooked up in the pub, sank four pints of cider while playing the fruit machine, then decided it would be a fine idea to have a quickie in the park.

However, it was raining heavily outside, so we needed a venue that was both nearby and indoors. The shop was perfect. I let us in, pulled down the metal blinds, then ushered her into the back room. It smelt of fabric softener and Jerry’s Embassy cigarettes. There was nowhere to lie down, but our passion was not to be denied. We made a bed from black plastic bags filled with laundry. Giggling, we undressed and had a fine romp, like two happy peasants in a haystack.

In our post-coital sojourn, I mentioned the actress’s visit. Amanda – displaying a thirst for celebrity gossip that I now know 99% of females to share – wanted to see the clothes she’d brought in. As I lay there naked, she put on a little fashion show for me which ended with her wearing only the creamy-coloured knickers of Imogen/Greta.

“Ta-ta!” she said, doing a twirl with her hand in the air. She put on a luvvy, Oscar acceptance voice. “I’m an ah-ctress, dar-link! I’m so talented and bee-yootiful!” I was loving it. And, I admit, I was immensely turned on by the thought of fingering her pussy through a noted sex symbol’s clothing. So I dragged her back down again for second helpings, ravishing her from top to toe with my urgent lust. When it was over, I saw to my horror that the stitching on the panties had been ripped. It wasn’t a big tear, but it was very noticeable. Amanda’s arse had been too curvy to fit into Imogen/Greta’s scanties! Or I had been too rough with the delicate material! I had caused irreparable damage by… over-frigging! “Shit!” I panicked. “I’m going to get fired!”

I could see in a cold instant the headlines in the paper: ‘PANTIE PERVERT NAMED! GUILTY MAN SMITH WILL “NEVER WORK AGAIN” PLEDGES JUDGE’. Thinking fast, I asked Amanda if she could sew. She gave me a scornful look that said girls who gave blow-jobs as enthusiastically as she did had no need for such dull-witted skills. Then she told me to relax and get it fixed by Michaela in the morning. “Chill the fuck out, you dork,” was how she put it.

I didn’t sleep a wink. The next day I was in at seven and as soon as Michaela turned up I explained how an urgent order had accidentally got snagged on a nail. Little suspecting the cause – she would probably have insisted on a special dispensation from the Pope if she’d known how many sins she was about to cover up – she got to work with a needle and thread. Everything went off in the van on time, and when it came back a few days later, I could barely notice the damaged section. The real test came when Imogen/Greta picked her order up. For the next week, I was paranoid that the Sex Police would kick down the door and arrest me, but of course it never happened. I had got away with it.

By way of compensation, I still make a point of buying her films on DVD. Sometimes I even get aroused, and think to myself, ‘I’ve been in her knickers.’ But I never do anything about the sneaky erections. That would be disrespectful.