Sheets


You still linger. Oh, you fool.

But that’s it. Beds. How glad I am. Even though we fit together, quietness and emptiness, like stacked spoons. But you still linger. You fool. You say and you mean it that I was coddled too much from life already. Coddled. Like an egg, I was coddled. That gentle coddling makes a woman soft, is that a problem?

Alright, I got coddled too much from life already, Faithy said and brought the iron down on the ironing board and the steam billowed off of the damp sheets. 

It’s a problem, it’s a crime. Let women get soft and then what? Then what? I’ll tell you what – everything falls apart, that’s what. Glory didn’t believe in women being soft, that’s what she said, that’s what she told us and told her kids too.

She and Faithy looked out the corner of their eyes at each other, both of them with their hot metal and the steam turning their faces pink and shiny. Pssshh, bang – the irons come down hard and hot on the damp sheets and the steam rises again.

Beds. How glad I am, how glad I am for flat ironed sheets and open windows of spring.

You still linger. You fool. It’s laundry day and on laundry day Faithy often goes to town in the cart with the washer woman and her children. There, the children go to the market for apples and sweets, deliver the laundry to the two or three houses that can afford clean pressed sheets, pressed and wrapped in brown paper and delivered on laundry day. On a good day, when you open the paper, the sheets are still warm and smell of steam and potential.

Faithy shakes the sheets out and spreads them over the bed and pulls tight at the edges, tucking in with the flat of her hands. Sometimes in the sleepy afternoon she feels a pair of arms around her waist as she bends to smooth the sheets, pulling her down onto the fresh made bed. Some days she lingers over the making of the bed, the fool, waiting to be coddled, waiting to be stretched tight like a warm sheet on a sunny morning.

You still linger, she says to herself. She touches her lips, a remembrance, and wraps her arms around her waist, holding, coddling, waiting.

 

(Writing practice: This is a found story. How to: Grab some books off a shelf and quickly choose two phrases from each. Set a timer and write freely, either using the phrases directly, or allowing them to influence the direction of the writing.

This piece has phrases from Gertrude Stein, Grace Paley, Arundati Roy, and a smidge of Victorian poetry, don’t remember the details. This is a 15 minute writing practice, lightly edited.)

 

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