Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the forty-fourth piece of flash fiction in this series. This week’s is a 608-word first person memoir story by mystery / suspense novelist and short story author Marjorie Doering.
At four or five, I didn’t welcome naps like I do now. I resisted lying down for even a minute, except on washdays. My bed served as a balcony seat for our damp laundry’s performances. I’d watch it flap on the clothesline with a life of its own. Jeans and dresses of various sizes danced side-by-side to the wind’s music—bucking, kicking, the beat slowing as the air stream gave way to a wash day waltz. And I would sleep.
Growing up we didn’t have much, but we always had a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, and food on a regular basis. Some meals were skimpier than others, but we always went to bed with supper in our bellies. Being the youngest of eight, by the time my oldest brother’s clothing got passed down to me, they weren’t hand-me-downs anymore; they were heirlooms.
Unlike our neighbor ladies, Mom didn’t stitch memories into quilts; she sewed them into her mind and heart with every tug of the needle and thread as she patched holey knees and mended rips.
Each repair represented a future recollection: like my tomboy sister Jenny’s Communion day when she snuck away and climbed into our tree house before the big event, fancy white dress and all. With only minutes to spare, Tommy and Michael found her and brought her back bawling about a six-inch tear in her dress. Dad threw up his hands, but Mom put hers to work. She hurried to the attic and returned with a broad strip of white satin from her wedding dress. Wrapping it from front to back around Jenny’s waist, she draped it in a graceful, inverted “V” over the tear and fastened it with a sparkling brooch—a gift from her great-grandmother. The tear became invisible, but no one in church could miss the smile on Jenny’s face that day. Secondhand dress or not, she knew it was special.
Then there was the day Will ran up against a skunk and tore a hole in the seat of his pants going over a barbed wire fence. I didn’t think the stink would ever come out. It took a while, but after several bouts with lye soap, her wringer washer, sunshine and fresh air, Mom did it, and the pants survived to clothe another Brewer.
In January of 1941, Will quit school and joined the army. His letters stopped coming in ’43. They never recovered his body. A car accident took Jenny’s life when she was eighteen. The rest of us moved on with our lives, and financially things got better for Mom and Dad. For their thirtieth anniversary he even bought her an automatic washer and dryer.
She used the wash machine gratefully, the dryer only for undies … to please Dad. Everything else she hung from the clothesline. On visits, I secretly enjoyed new washday dance performances.
Last year, Mom died in her sleep at the age of eighty-one. Now, with Dad’s health failing, Michael and his wife have taken him in.
When the house sold, we kids gathered to empty the old place of its contents, treasures and trash alike. Susan claimed the scrapbooks for herself—Tommy, a share of the old photos. Each of us found something special. Me? I came across a small trunk in the attic. What I found inside took my breath away—mended clothes—those that held some of my family’s fondest memories. The others laughed at my find, but I sensed a bit of envy. After all, inside that trunk, I carried home precious members of our old washday chorus line—memories still alive and intact.
That was lovely, thank you, Marjorie.
In 2005, her first one-act play was produced and performed by Darknight Theatrical Productions in Chicago, Illinois.
Omega Publications, in 2009, published a number of her short stories in an anthology titled Mosaic, A Collection of Short Stories.
In 2010, another of her short stories was published in Red Cedar, The University of Wisconsin Barron County’s journal of arts and literature.
If you’d like to submit your 1,000-word max. stories for consideration for Flash Fiction Friday take a look here.
The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with mystery writer and publisher Patricia Rockwell – the four hundred and thirty-seventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.