Knock, knock, knock. “Penny.”
Knock, knock, knock. “Penny.”
She opened the door before he could knock again and found Sheldon awkwardly balancing a basket of wet clothing with one arm while he reached toward her door with the other, knuckles extended.
“What's up, Moonpie?” she asked, fully expecting to be lectured about the unauthorized use of the nickname.
He didn't disappoint. “Only my Meemaw calls me that.” He shifted his grip so that he was holding the basket more comfortably in both hands. “The dryer is broken. I need you to take me to the laundromat. Normally I'd ask Leonard, but I know he finally got time on the telescope tonight.”
Penny sighed. The building's laundry equipment was in abysmal condition. One of the washers and two of the dryers didn't work at all, and the third dryer wasn't much better. “It works, Sheldon, it's just really loud.”
“Not any more. Now it just hums and nothing happens. I called the building manager, but he refuses to send anyone out here tonight. He said that he's not going to pay the repairman overtime, and it's going to have to wait until Monday.” He indicated the basket he was still holding with a tilt of his head. “I asked him what I was supposed to do with my wet clothes in the meantime, and his suggestion sounded very uncomfortable if not physically impossible. Then he hung up.”
That didn't surprise her. The building manager could be charmed, but Sheldon – well, charm wasn't one of his strong suits. “Can't Amy take you to the laundromat?”
He shook his head. “Amy's not here. She's at the hospital. Her father fell off the ladder while changing a light bulb.”
“Oh my God! Is he okay?” Penny hoped that if it was serious, Sheldon would have gone with Amy, but knowing his aversion to hospitals, it wasn't a sure thing.
“They're doing x-rays. He may have broken a minor bone in his foot. He only called Amy because her mother is making both him and the staff miserable. Amy said I didn't need to come with her.”
“Figures.” It also figured that Amy wouldn't want Sheldon there siding with her mother.
“So, as I said, I need you to take me to the laundromat so I can dry my clothes,” Sheldon repeated.
“Why don't you go up to the roof and use the clothesline?” One of the tenants had installed a line when the dryers had first started acting up. Shortly afterwards, a second line had appeared, along with a basket of clothespins.
Sheldon looked at her as if she'd grown a second head. “Hang my clothes outdoors? Where the sun will fade my limited edition Flash t-shirt? Where birds could--”
“Never mind.” She cut him off. “I'm sorry I suggested it.” Penny thought for a moment. “You said the dryer hums, but doesn't spin?”
“Correct, although I'm not sure why it matters. A hum isn't going to dry my laundry.”
“Hang on one minute.” She left him standing at the door and crossed to the kitchen, opening the door beneath the sink and pulling out a tool box. She returned to Sheldon. “Come on.”
He eyed her dubiously. “You keep your keys in a tool box?”
“No, I keep tools in my tool box. We're not going to the laundromat, we're going to fix the dryer.” She edged past him and started down the stairs.
Sheldon came to a complete stop, his foot hovering above the first step. “Penny, I'm a theoretical physicist, not an appliance repair technician. I know nothing about repairing repairing a dryer.”
“Well, if the problem is what I think it is, I can fix it in fifteen minutes. Twenty if you help me.”
“I believe you have that backwards.”
“You'd think so, wouldn't you?” Arguing with Sheldon would take at least an extra five minutes, but it would be easier to have a spare pair of hands. “Do you want your clothes dry, or don't you?” She continued down the stairs, noting that while he continued to grumble, he followed her down the steps.
When she'd first moved in, Penny had wondered why the building had fairly new commercial washers while having several aging residential dryers. The last time the repairman had been there working on the dryers, she'd found out that the building manager had scavenged the used dryers from another apartment building. They'd been old when they were installed, and they certainly weren't getting any younger.
Because of their age, the technician had needed to order parts, and Penny knew that he'd ordered several extra belts. Moreover, she knew where he'd stashed them. She was fairly certain from Sheldon's description that the belt had broken.
Reaching the basement, she opened the closet where the janitorial supplies were kept. She was happy to see that the spare belts were still hanging there. She grabbed one and rejoined Sheldon, who'd deposited his basket on the laundry table. She set the belt and her tool kit down beside it, then pulled the electrical plug and removed the lint filter from the least-broken of the dryers.
Dropping the filter on the table, she opened the tool box and pulled out a screwdriver. She removed the screws that held the filter, then pried the top of the dryer upwards.
“Penny! You're going to break something, and you're going to get us both in trouble!”
“It's already broken.” She reached down and pulled out the snapped belt. “See?” Rummaging around in her tools, she found the socket she needed. “Are you going to hold the drum up for me, or do I need to find something to prop it with?”
He edged closer, finally grasping the metal as if he was afraid it would bite him. Penny removed the front of the dryer and worked the new belt around the drum and pulley. “That's it. Now all we have to do is put it back together.”
Sheldon groaned. “I took a refrigerator apart once. Taking it apart was easy. Putting it back together wasn't. I ended up with a newspaper route.”
As tempting as it was, Penny wasn't going to ask. That had to be a long story. “A dryer has a lot less parts than a refrigerator. Two bolts, two screws.” She secured the front panel. “You can let go now.”
He stepped back, she pushed the cover down into place and replaced the screws securing the filter holder, then slid the filter itself back into place. Penny plugged the electrical cord in, then turned the machine on. It ran, not quite quietly, but with considerably less volume than it had before the belt let go.
Sheldon looked from her to the machine and back in what might have passed for awe. “You fixed it!”
“Of course I fixed it. I told you I was going to.” She didn't bother to tell him that she'd had her fingers crossed that it was only the belt, or that it wasn't the first dryer belt she'd changed. Her father was a dedicated do-it-yourselfer, and in her youth she'd had to assist with many home and auto repairs. Sheldon didn't need to know all that.
“So,” she began, hopping up to sit on one of the washers, “While your clothes are drying, you can tell me about this new Captain Marvel movie I keep seeing the trailers for.”
Sheldon started filling the dryer. “Well, first, Carol Danvers is....”