There is always something soothing to the sound of laundry on the line. It must be the muffled flapping of fabric, or the soft rustling when denim brushes against cotton. Maria looked out the kitchen window past the laundry and out into the rich green corn that literally stretched to the horizon. If she squinted in this bright July afternoon, she could see little golden hints of corn growing on the stalks, with their pale gray hair, hanging like moss on plantation magnolias.
The breeze changed direction and rotated the hexagon of laundry around to a new compass heading. Maybe it was the impression of looking at the sky, which gave her a momentary blind spot of gray, or perhaps it was the memory of the stain on Danny’s shirt. She saw it none-the-less. Real or imagined, the stain was there. It was always there. Maria set down the coffee cup and stepped out of the cool kitchen into the blinding light of the afternoon sun and approached the hanging laundry. It had only been on the line for about an hour so it was still damp to the touch, but with a warmth that was inviting in the way a down comforter was in February. She wanted to wrap herself in its white warmth. She spun the hexagon until Danny’s shirt was in front of her. A sign post. A constant reminder of her failure as a housewife, a partner, a soul-mate. Danny might not see it, but she could, and until the stain was obliterated from existence, she would never be worthy of his love.
With a quick tug it popped into her hands causing the clothespins to spring into the air, doing little summersaults until they disappeared into the grass. She’d pick them up later. Her first priority, no, she thought, her ONLY priority was to restore Danny’s favorite shirt to its rightful place – hugging his lean torso. In these parts of Iowa, not too many people have heard of Spontaneous Plastic, but as far as Danny was concerned, they are the only band that matters. Maria cursed herself, how could she have been so thoughtless and used the only shirt Danny wears out to 4H dances on Saturday nights? She wasn’t paying attention, and grabbed the first ratty looking t-shirt she could find. She was half way cleaning out the sty before she realized it was “THE” shirt! Once the blood returned to her head, she raced out of the half cleaned sty and began to clean the shirt. It went through the laundry 3 times before she tried hand washing. After that, she called her sister for advice. Maria can still her Kathy laughing in her ear, as the only advice she could give Maria was to ‘hope your divorce lawyer is better than his.” Danny was worse than a baby with a favorite blanket. Spontaneous Plastic was the band of his youth. They wrote the soundtrack to his life. When Danny was playful, he’d quote lyrics instead of answering. In fact, Danny was wearing this same shirt when he proposed to Maria. “Hitch a ride to my star baby. The universe is ours for a simple song.” In “Spon-P” lingo, that was the most eloquent marriage proposal on planet Earth. Maria, remembered Danny’s disappointment when she missed the hidden meaning and answered “Whatever.”
“No, no, Maria, LISTEN to what I’m saying….. Hitch a ride to my star baby. The universe is ours for a simple song.” Danny spoke as if he were speaking to someone who didn’t speak English – slow and deliberate. Luckily, she was fast on her feet and remembered the next line, “Ocean voyage or ox cart, I’m only a heartbeat away.”
Maria was lost in memories and elbow deep in laundry suds when her reverie was shattered by the sound of Danny in the doorway. “Whatcha got there?” he innocently asked.
Maria searched her memory for an appropriate lyric. Turned around holding a sudsy glob of memories and said, “It’s not the monuments of old that bind us, it’s the binding that builds new monuments.”
It was Danny’s turn to miss the hidden meaning…but only for a moment.