Working on a Clothesline

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]y very first fight was over laundry.

As a boy, my mother used a clothesline like anyone else. It was my job to fold clean laundry, but I was worthless as a can of pumpkin.

Not much has changed.

You could set your watch by Mother’s weekly laundering schedule. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Never Mondays, Fridays, or Saturdays. And God forbid Sundays. We weren’t even allowed to use the bathroom on the Lord’s Day.

Much less fish.

The boys behind my house, the Grimshaws, were little heathens. Spencer and his brother Marie-James. Marie-James’ mother named him that because she believed she was pregnant with a girl. When he turned out to be a boy, she slapped a masculine name on the end, and ruined that poor boy’s life. Some folks called him M.J. for short.

Most called him something more colorful.

One summer day, I caught the Grimshaw boys stealing from our clothesline in the backyard. My mother’s unmentionable garments. I tore off the back porch and threatened to make them very sorry. Marie-James laughed at me, so I made a clever remark about his God-given name. One thing led to another, and somehow, he managed to fit my mother’s panties over my head.

Then he beat me into a seedless orange.

When my mother found me lying in the backyard, I was a mess. She dabbed my face with a wet rag.

“God Almighty,” she sighed. “Maybe this’ll finally teach you to fold the damn laundry from now on.”

Then she laughed.

That woman knew me better than that.

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