When Ellie Ironed 

Kathryn Hughes


When Ellie ironed it was Tuesdays. Mondays she hung linens perfumed by Clorox on the line to dry. Before she left for home in the evening, she'd spread them across the kitchen table, and sprinkle them to just-damp with water, and wad them up in the plastic sheeting removed from the dry cleaning: bagged mounds to remain cool and damp in the basement refrigerator overnight. 

Like cellophaned sections of unassembled snowmen, filling the fridge in the overnight. 

The next day, she would haul them up to the kitchen where she had set up the ironing board and tuned in the radio to WVON (the Voice Of the Negro). And as little Etta James bellowed a tune, and Coleman "Fast-Talkin'" Young jockeyed the discs from Record Row on South Michigan Avenue, Ellie drenched cotton in Niagara and pressed to perfection the sheets, the pillowcases, and Daddy's boxer shorts. 

She smoked many Chesterfields and drank much Coca-Cola from little green bottles. Her teeth were big and white despite the cigarettes and soda pop, and when I walked in her smile would light up the room, warming it like a fireplace in winter, sunshine in spring. This was Tuesdays.


Kathryn Hughes is an MFA student in the Writing Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has two young daughters and lives in Kenilworth. She is currently working on two major projects: an autobiographical novel and a travel memoir, having just spent two weeks in the Writing Seminars in Prague.


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