“The doctor said you are supposed to stay still. Now go back on the porch and play with your dolls.”

Today's Story


Of life and laundry

By Susan Reetz

Stepping forward, barefoot in the grass, she dips lightly, catching a wet shirt by the collar and hoisting it up to the line. Deftly she plucks two clips from the bag, fixing the shirt in place and immediately forgetting it as she picks up the next item. Soon the entire line is dancing in the wind, a disembodied conga of our week’s wear.

She raises a freckled hand to her forehead, absently brushing at a persistent mosquito. It dodges and circles back for another try, hardly visible in the early summer sun. My mother scarcely notices. She has other things on her mind.

The laundry reclaims her attention. She grabs a bed sheet by the corners, snaps it straight, and hangs it to dry. I like to watch the sheets blow in the wind and pretend they are sails on a great whaling ship, with me as the fearless captain. The fitted sheet is the last to join the line, a big puffy cloud on the horizon.

Suddenly a shark fin appears, cutting through the waves of unmowed grass. It sinks but resurfaces, closer this time, moving toward my mother, bit by bit. I can’t let it get her. I dive into the wake and chase the beast, catching it by the tail just in time.

My mother spins around, shocked. “Eleanor, what in the world are you doing?”

Our dog’s surprised yelp still rings in my ears. He looks at me, reproachful of the undignified treatment he’s received. I scratch his ears and am on the road to being forgiven. He rolls on the ground, exposing his belly so that I may better apologize.

“Eleanor, you know you’re not supposed to exert yourself,” she says. “The doctor said you are supposed to stay still. Now go back on the porch and play with your dolls.”

“But mom, I’m bored.” I know I am whining because mom’s mouth turns down at the corners and her eyebrows bunch closer together.

She looks into my eyes and softens, reaching toward me, gently tugging a piece of grass from my messy hair. She drops the grass and lays first the back of her hand, then her lips, lightly on my forehead, her version of a thermometer. I call it the “mom-ometer.”

“Well, at least you don’t feel warm,” she reports. “And your color does look a little better. Maybe we can play a game. How about Scrabble?”

She knows it’s my favorite.

Mom hauls the Scrabble board and a pitcher of limeade out onto the porch. I can still see the laundry and the ship sails as we sit sipping and spelling away the afternoon.


Susan Reetz is a confirmed word addict. A paid wordsmith since age 9, she makes her living writing SEO friendly web copy, video scripts, and print material. In her free time she writes short stories, nonfiction narratives, and poetry.


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