Mary loved the way the laundry dried in the afternoon sun. She
the wash hanging
still upon the lines before gazing at the clear sky, wondering if there
would be wind today. When
the wind blew down through the trees, she imagined that she could feel
wash wrap around her
and fly her over the valley. Sometimes as she sat looking at the
and the breeze, she
thought she could feel what it was like to limply hang until the breeze
came circling around, calling
"Come play with me." Sitting on the back steps, Mary waited for the
as her fingers tugged at
the loose threads of her denim cut-offs and her feet, wrapped inside
muddied cotton canvas shoes,
tapped the wooden steps.
This one day every week she would sit on the back porch and watch the
heavily with the wet sheets, their layers clinging and barely swaying
the slight early morning
breeze. She watched as they dried in the summer sun and moved with the
winds that filtered down
the hillside behind her house. As soon as her chores were done and her
family disappeared to do
whatever they did on this day, she would escape to the back steps,
and waiting for the
feeling of freedom that the windıs dance with the wash always gave her.
Yet today was different. Her brother Zeke waited for Mary to come
the door and sit in
her normal place. Zeke stood in the yard tossing a rock into the air,
twirling before catching it in the
hand he held behind him and then dancing around the steps like a
version of a victorious
warrior. Mary watched him. Most days she played all day long with
around the farm. They
splashed through creeks and climbed hills. They told ghost stories in
barn loft when it rained.
They dipped their feet in the cold water at the mill and watched the
buckets fill with water
as the wheel turned.
Today Zeke waited for Mary to fish with him. She knew he was bored,
she ignored him
as a breeze slowly lifted the folds of the sheets. A bluejay flew over
lines and sat singing from
the brush hidden behind the wash. Any other day she would have been
fascinated by the bird, and
she, along with Zeke, would cross the long line of broken railing
the hillıs edge behind her
house and search for the exact branch the bird rested on. She would
raced after the bird as it
escaped to sing from the tall branches of one of the four apple trees
separated the back yard
from the vegetable garden. Mary and Zeke would run around the small
benches wrapping the
treesı base, calling to the bird to come and sit on their hands. But
today, her fascination was with
the two wire lines stretched tight between the wooden cross-ties as
with age as the rail fence.
Rather, her fascination was with the sheets clipped to the line that
sway with each breeze.
Zeke disappeared from her mind before he disappeared around the small
knoll that led the
last few feet to the creek. The wind picked up and the sheets danced.
first only a few moved
with the flirty breeze, but as the sun warmed their bodies, the lines
became filled with sheets
waving and moving to the windıs command. Like the spring sky makes
of airy clouds,
Mary watched as the wind bent, molded, and sculpted the cotton cloth
flying dragons, laughing
clowns, and pre-historic birds. Sheets shaped like tall sails formed
billowed as the wind
gushed across the open back yard. Mary grinned as one flattened and
like the magic carpet
of some old fairy tale.
She watched as the sheets played hide-and-seek with what could be
walls. They whipped around and pranced on the line. Sometimes they
to reveal a bunny
hopping threw the tangled briars at the fenceıs feet. Other times, the
sheets teased Mary's mind
with images of a mountain cougar she had heard her father mention he
seen as a youngster.
She had laughed out loud when her kitten Polly came walking under the
sheets, her tail playing
hide and seek with the material. She believed she saw a huge deer
but it was only tree
branches piled together from a previous storm. As the wash wrapped
the lines, Mary
caught a flicker of something and held her breath as the wind once more
moved the sheets.
Zeke leaned against the wooden brace that held the lines of clean
saw his mud-covered body near the clean sheets. The wind waved the
hiding Zekeıs small frame. Mary groaned as he grinned and cracked the
mud caking his face.
Bits of the brown earth fell to the ground. She held her breath as
slowly raised a hand as if
to caress the white sheets that surrounded him. She watched him grin
her as she sat, her body
ready to spring from the steps.
"Whatıs wrong, Sis?" Zeke said, his hands dusting himself off as he
walked toward the
house. "Whereıs Mom?"
It was late afternoon, the time their mother always gathered
from the garden.
He came closer. As he walked, large patches of dried mud fell and
his path between the
clothesline and the kitchen steps. As Mary watched, the white sheets
danced on the line. Zeke's
presence was already forgotten as the cotton material danced in the
The wind blew and
twisted the sheets, topsy-turvy like, over the line before the breeze
stilled and the sheets hung
Zeke let the screen door slam as he sat down near Mary, handing her
bowl of ice cream.
They watched the wash begin to blow in the wind as they ate. Mary
Zeke as her ice
cream melted in the untouched bowl. Her eyes waited for any sign of
"Pretty, ainıt it?"
Something in his voice made her look at him before shaking her head
placing her chin
on her knees. Mary watched the wooden brace fade and resurface as the
white material hid it
from view. The only sounds were the slight whip of the sheets on the
breeze and Zeke slurping the
last of his ice cream.
Mary heard Zekeıs sigh as he placed his empty bowl on the steps.
"What do you see when you watch this all day?" he asked.
Mary's tiny shoulders shrugged. She didn't look at him.
"I don't get it," he said as he knocked the mud from his legs.
Zeke watched the wash as it moved back and forth on the line. Mary
believed that all he
saw was the cloth attached to the line. He shook his head as he asked
Mary, "What - do - you -
Looking at her brother from the corner of her eye, Mary grinned as she
his right index
finger point at the clothes with each word like her mother pointed at
and herself when she
told them they couldnıt do something.
Mary looked at her brother and then at the lines. She lowered her
and whispered, "I
see all kinds of things."
"What things?" Zeke asked as he turned and squinted his eyes at the
laundry as if trying to
see these things that his sister saw.
Mary watched the wash on the lines. A faint smile traced her lips as
saw the shapes
form with the wind. She sighed because she knew Zeke would not leave.
She said, "See the sheets open and close." She stopped and pointed
"Watch how they seem to fly. Remember the baby robin who fell out of
tree and was flapping
her wings. Donıt you think the one in the middle looks like her."
Mary stopped to give Zeke enough time to see the robin. Mary watched
he sat with a
"Or," she bit her lip, " see how the ends move," she said.
like that boy's kite
at the beach. The one that was shaped like a butterfly, but wouldn't
because its left wing
always folded over." Mary stopped and pointed toward the third sheet
the first line. "Watch how
the last one, the pink one, stands up as the wind tries to flip it over
line. It acts like that soldier,
the nutcracker, you know, the one in the book Grandma reads to us.
Look at those." She
stopped and pointed to the two twin printed sheets at the end of the
as a fresh breeze caught
its dried fabric. " It's dancing. Remember how Grandpa would dance
Grandma around the room
before he died. See, they're dancing."
Mary stopped and held her breath as a rebel wind came racing down the
and made the
lines billow like the top sail of the old boat in the glass jar Mary
her father place on the
mantel in the living room.
"See how the wind lets them fly, almost like they're free. Sometimes
." Mary stopped
as she blushed.
"What?" Zeke asked.
"Sometimes," Mary shrugged her shoulders. She gave a long sigh.
"Wouldnıt it be nice to
fly like they do. To move with the wind above the ground."
Mary watched Zeke look at the lines, but she knew by his vacant eyes
he could not
see their magic. Mary knew to him the laundry wasn't free. She knew
only saw the wash
clipped to the line. Mary gazed at the sheets as they moved with the
wind. For a moment she
tried to feel how they must feel, but she couldn't. With Zeke
she could not feel the wind
and the wash. She lowered her head and tugged at the loose string on
When she raised her eyes, she saw him looking at the laundry. She
waited for him to
leave. She tapped her feet on the steps as she heard the wind begin to
blow through the trees at
the top of the hill.
"Hey, Mary," said Zeke. He turned his face toward her and grinned.
to race the
Mary's blue eyes widened as her mouth gaped open. She watched as Zeke
the two lines of sheets, his hands out-stretched and raking their
over his tiny arms. At the
end of the lines, he turned and back-tracked. Making sounds like an
airplane, his arms see-sawed
through the cotton fabric as he ran. Mary stood as he stopped at the
holding the wash from
the ground. Slowly, he walked around the pole once before stopping to
at her. Mary heard
her mother latch the garden gate on her way back to the house. Zeke
around the pole for a
second time and with a smudged hand tugged one sheet until the line
vibrated with the motion.
The third time around his hands grabbed the brace and tossed it into
The lines snapped free. The clothespins broke, and the sheets flew
through the air like a
group of migrating birds on their first attempt at flying together.
and almost weightless, the
wash sailed with the wind across the yard. Some dipped and covered
bikes, fences, and
apple trees while the pink twin caught the edge of the house and
a nail as others
completely escaped the yard .
As the sheets dipped and rose with the breeze, slowly turning mid-air
before diving to
cover the tomato plants in the garden or to clutch the old tree limbs,
Mary stood with her mouth
open, her feet tingling. Nothing had ever been as beautiful as the
whipping in the wind until
today. Not the autumn leaves whirling in shades of bold colors or the
Dogwoods blooming in
spring. Not the winter snow draping and bending the trees like magical
canopies. Mary did not fall
with the sheets. She did not hear Zeke as he raced from the yard. Nor
she hear her mother
call for her father. In her mind, Mary escaped with the wind. Her
floated with the breeze
over the hills and valleys, dipping down and dancing atop the flowers
before rising again to dance
free in the sky and whirl as young birds grasping life with new wings.