The Clothesline


6 June 2005





Chapter 1


She sits at the kitchen table in one of the 2 chairs and stares out the back screen door across the fields to the woods, which lay beyond. She is not thinking or feeling, only staring. Now and then, smoke from her lit cigarette comes curling, swirling up and into her field of view and she is reminded that she has a cigarette going and either takes another drag or crushes it out in the ashtray.


The boys have urged her to move but this is her home. Oh, it did take some getting used to, to start with when they moved here, all alone out here in the country with not a house for nearly a half mile in either direction but after a while, there came a certain peace and quiet she had not known when she lived in the city. No, she would not move.


Sipping down the last of the current cup of coffee, she gets up and heads outside, stopping on the porch for her wicker clothesbasket and then heading on to the clothes line.


It is a nice spring day with a clear blue sky, light breeze and a temperature she could bathe in all day long.


At the clothesline, she starts with the sheets, removing a clothespin at a time and then taking down the entire sheet in a folding motion. She loves that the sun and breeze have dried her clothes. Monday wash. Something constant about Monday wash, like it keeps the world in order, running. Once, years ago, he had suggested they get an electric clothes dryer so she could dry the wash even when it rained on a Monday, but she would hear nothing of it; had to be the sun and the breeze.


Folding and refolding the first sheet, she finally pats it between her hands one last time and lays it in the bottom of the empty wicker basket along with the 4 clothes pins that have been holding the sheet to the clothesline.


At the other end of the line, a blue jay has come to make his presence known and to call out. She looks down the line at him and welcomes him to the day. 


Another sheet off the line and again, the careful folding and patting and into the clothesbasket. As she lowers this sheet into the basket, she remembers when they bought them on that trip to town where they had splurged on ice cream and coffee at that fancy coffee store. He had wanted plain white but she had insisted on sheets with small little blue flowers and he had given in, as he always did.


She begins to take down her clothes. First, her Sunday dress and the best one she owns and then her everyday dresses and under things. As she folds the last of her things, she begins to feel a sense of dread, of anxiety, but moves on quickly to his clothes.


First, one of his dress shirts.  Dress shirt, work shirt and then rag.  Every shirt he ever bought had the same life.  Dress to rag.  The ones on the line were either dress or work. As she pulls down the first dress shirt, she puts it to her face and smells it.  Although his smell is gone from the shirt, she can still smell him, showered, shaved and laying beside her naked in the cool of the evening. Constancy. Monday wash lets her hold on when sometimes she is not sure she can.


She takes down another shirt and folds it. “Silly,” she thinks and suspects that if anyone ever sees her washing and drying his clothes and they know her, that they will think she has gone mad but she does not care. Taking his clothes out of the drawer and washing them with the rest of the clothes does no harm other than perhaps moving each shirt one step closer to rags.


He has been gone almost a year now but he is not gone. Every Monday, there he is on the clothesline with all the other clothes and she is relieved that the world does not change.



Chapter 2


Cassidy, lost in his Cadillac, comes to a fork in the road. “Oh, hell,” he says, turning left, not sure which way to go.


The road is empty of cars and it has been awhile since he has seen a house or even a sign of human life but then, coming over a small hill in the road, he sees an old woman outside of a small, single story house, at a clothes line taking down clothes.  "Clothes line?" He says out loud to himself. "Why would anyone still use a clothesline?  Maybe I should stop and get some directions? No, would scare the crap out of the old lady”, and so he passes the house and woman in the yard and continues on lost.



Chapter 3


She is taking down the last of his pants when she hears a car coming down the road. Odd time of day for any traffic on this road as locals are always either early morning or late evening, not now, and pausing for a moment, she sees a large old Cadillac going by, man driving. "Lost. Has to be." She thinks, watching the car go on by the house. "Lost. I suspect he is no more lost than I am," taking down the last of his pants.  


With the clothesline empty and the car now long gone, she returns to the house and makes her way to their, her, bedroom.  Opening his chest of drawers, she places his pants and shirts away until next Monday when she will pull them out and wash them again and again hang them on the clothesline to dry.


As she puts away his things, she sees the clothesline as sort of mirror of how her life has progressed, gone until now. A single line of clothes, then diapers and baby sheets and blankets, boys clothes, dual bed sheets, more sheets, 2 lines of clothes, more boys clothes and then 3 lines of clothes as the boys were always changing clothes 2 or 3 times a day. And then back to 2 lines of clothes as Jeff went off to the Army and then one line when George left for college.  Now there is just one line and that hardly full. 


She misses him.


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