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hanging up the wash

It is a glorious, brisk March morning, a Saturday, the deep blue sky over the little yards on Fourteenth Street, abutting the yards of the houses on Fifteenth Street. Patty is separating out her siblings’ hand-washed clothes and clips them onto the rotary clothesline, turning it on its unsteady rusty axis.

She works from twelve clothespins at a time: two in her mouth, two on each nipple, and six clipped to her lush pubic hair, which she keeps untrimmed because it is so useful: four across the top, and one on the curls on each side of her labia. She doesn’t have to look down as she places them; she knows the locations by heart. The cold air stiffens her nipples to the point where they can accommodate two each. On the ground is a muddy puddle, the product of last night’s storm. She anchors herself with her right foot, submerged up to the ankle. She puts up with the sting of the clothespins and the numbing, freezing mud. Her breasts and the clips on them wiggle with her motions. Will any piece of clothing fall into the puddle? No. In the first place Patty is a careful girl; in the second place, these are the new pins with the extra-strong springs, which she bought at the dollar store.

“Some home run Jimmy hit!” This is Mrs. Okon, calling out from over the fence. Mrs. Okon is taking out the garbage.

Patty takes the pins out of her mouth and calls out. “Billy did a good job too!” They were both jumping up and down watching that thrilling last-inning rally, just as rain was beginning to fall. Also relieved; the freshman team had finally won a game, making them 1 - 3.

Now Jack Park, age 53, waves at Patty from next door. Patty waves back, both with her free hand and the clips that swing back and forth from her nipples as if hitting little home runs in the air.

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