MONDAY: Clothesline


Copyright is held by the author.

THE DAY was perfect for doing the laundry. Blue sky with not a bit of grey clouds and lots of sunshine had been predicted but Mrs. Jones did not believe in the weather forecaster for one minute. She needed to see and feel the day rather than rely on some maps and often wrong predictions. The light breeze would help to dry her clothes.

Quickly she walked into the backyard with her basket of wet things. As she looked around at all the other yards, she realized she was the first one to hang out the wash. Although it was a Monday, her neighbours had been slow to take advantage of the day. She was very pleased with herself for being the first one. That meant she would be the first one to be able to take in the clothes, roll them and put them in the icebox to freeze before she ironed them on Tuesday.

Everything in this small town was prescribed as to the kind of jobs that were done each day. Monday was wash day; Tuesday was ironing day; Wednesday morning was shopping because the shops had a ½ day closing at 1:00; Thursday was baking day or sometimes house cleaning day and Friday was house cleaning or baking day. On Saturday, most people did the gardening and of course church was Sunday. All the town knew where to find anyone on whatever day of the week it was.

New people coming into the town were shocked at the regularity of the local routines. They would often balk or try to change the pre-programmed chores. Sometimes they even tried to shop on a Tuesday or Monday only to find that the weekly specials were not advertised for those days. They disrupted the regular events so often that the townies did not even acknowledge the newbies and indeed often snubbed them, even at church!

Mrs. Field was one of those newbies. She had settled into her new home on the corner of the street earlier that month. Some of her neighbours had tried to explain the regular timetable of routines to her but she had yet to comply totally; not because she didn’t think it was a good idea but because she hated to be told what to do.

Mrs. Jones, therefore, was quite surprised when she turned around from hanging out her clothes to see that Mrs. Field, two doors down, had managed to beat her at putting out her wash first. She had not noticed at the beginning because the clothesline in Mrs. Field’s yard faced the corner next to the sidewalk and not the back yard of her house. She might have not even noticed then if she had not turned in that direction as she went back into her warm kitchen. Mrs. Jones was further surprised by what was hanging on the line. It was one pair of very large bloomers: not just white baggy underwear but red large frilly camiknickers.

Well, I never! thought Mrs. Jones. Wait ’til I tell the ladies at the tea shop this afternoon. That was another predictable thing that these ladies did every day. They went to Brenda’s Tea shop at 3:00 f or a well-deserved refreshment and a gossip session.

That afternoon the ladies gathered. It proved to be a very exciting one. Almost everyone had arrived when Mrs. Jones started her story about the knickers. The first question came from the mayoress. “Who lives in that house, now?’’ she asked.

Mrs. Jones replied, “Our newest neighbour Mrs. Field.”

“Hush. Here she comes,” said Mrs. Canter. She quickly moved over on the bench seat to give some room for a very slightly built Mrs. Field.

“Hello everyone. Sorry if I’m a bit late but I had to bring in my wash,” said Mrs. Field, as she sat down.

“Hmmm. It couldn’t have taken you very long,” said Mrs. Jones in a disapproving manner.

“Well, it didn’t actually,” replied Mrs. Field. “I wonder, though, if these belong to any of you.” With that she pulled out from her purse, the camiknickers, to everyone’s surprise and embarrassment.

“I found these on my line this morning. They are not mine, so I thought I would bring them along and return them to their owner. If any of you recognize them let me know, please.” No one responded. Everything had gone very quiet. “I guess since nobody is claiming them, I’ll keep them on the clothesline until someone does. I’ll put them out every Monday; however, I’ll probably have to extend the clothesline into the front of my house since I won’t have room for all my things plus the bloomers as well. Having a corner lot should offer everyone the chance to see them.”

With that she stuffed the offending attire into her purse. “Now what were you all talking about when I interrupted?”

Everyone began to talk at once and not about the knickers. Mrs. Field just smiled.

  1. Picky me
    pre-programmed = programmed

  2. Terrific! Sounds like the England I grew up in and couldn’t wait to leave! Mrs. Field was a breath of fresh air to that community!

  3. Sounds like Portsmouth in the fifties and my grandma’s house. A strong stirring of nostalgia about this story alleviates what I think is a slow introduction and build up to a quite short story. Deft touches abound. Other than the unexpected ending, I think many of us beyond a certain age can relate.

  4. Reminds me of the settings and characters in Alice Munro’s stories, though her comments are more oblique.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *