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.
Patty inspects Robbie’s pajamas before she hangs them out. A hole in the knee. She decides they will be o.k. for now. She’s now out of clips and reaches back to the basket, fastening another twelve onto various parts of herself with graceful efficiency.
A more difficult problem is Jimmy’s sneakers. One can see the knitted brow of concern as she hangs them out. They are not the “cool” (expensive) brand and Jimmy is getting teased about it at school.
Now Kathleen calls out from inside. “Patty! Jimmy won’t give up the TV!”
Patty turns and calls back. “Jimmy! You’ve had your half hour! Be nice!”
As she turns back to hanging up Kathy’s sweater one might see a soft longing caress, an exaggerated shiver, the raising of heightened goose pimples on her buttocks, perhaps a momentary wetness in the pretty green eyes. Patty is at heart just a normal teenage girl.
Her cell phone, on the stand, rings. She has been expecting this call and has kept her left foot out of the mud so that she could work the phone without ruining it; she can’t afford an upgrade at this time. As she hangs Robby’s little socks and then Jimmy’s bigger ones she answers the phone with her big toe and with her pinky toe she puts it on “speaker”. Even reddened with the cold, Patty’s toes are very useful.
It is the electric/gas company and the impersonal voice talks about the “hardship plan”. “Do you have to call it that?” Patty says in a slightly hushed voice. The clips on her nipples jiggle as she hangs Kathleen’s little soft-cup bra and gives the 12-digit account number she has memorized, and agrees to the reduced rate, which is hardly a savings at all but permits a fixed monthly payment easier to budget for.
Patty removes the last clip from her pubic curls and finishes hanging up Kathleen’s pretty pink panties and Robbie’s Spiderman T-shirt. She rinses the mud off her toes in the clear part of the puddle. She will scrub them in the tub. The kids well understand that nobody is to interrupt her Saturday morning bubble bath.