Once upon a time, there was a middle-aged woman who woke to a wrinkled house.
She rose while it was still dark and pulled out the ironing board and iron from within the closet under the stairs, behind the camping equipment and Christmas decorations. She laid the board out in the middle of the living room and plugged in the iron, only hesitating when adding the distilled water. But then she figured steam could only help. She ironed the furniture, windows, and walls. By dawn, she was exhausted. Worse, she didn’t feel any better, and soon her husband and children would be up.
She sat at the kitchen table, dipping a carrot into hummus, though never taking a bite, and staring out the sliding glass door at her tiny, unkempt yard until she fell asleep.
No sooner had her boys’ lips touched her cheek then she opened her eyes. She tried to smile but found her face creased from lying on the oak table. She worked the skin with her fingers, but there was nothing to be done about it. The boys tossed their bowls and spoons on the counter with a clang and were about to grab the milk and cereal when she asked if they’d like mommy to iron them. Sure, they replied, game for anything. She laid each on the board, pressed them carefully, then folded them up and put them together in a sealed plastic box in her closet. Returning to the living room, she placed the iron on top of the board and sat cross-legged before it, hands resting on her knees, thumb and forefinger making a circle. For a few minutes, she thought she might be getting somewhere. The line in her face started to fade. But then her legs fell asleep, bent crooked beneath her.
She knocked her husband on the head with the iron as he emerged from the bathroom after his shower and shave, ironing him right there on the floor. She found it much simpler to smooth him out once he was dead. After, she folded and placed him in a box on the high shelf next to her children.
She returned to her ironing board, placed the iron on top once again and spent the rest of the morning sitting before it. Within minutes, the couch and loveseat became tangled, and soon the entire living room bunched up like a ball of socks she’d just pulled from the dryer.
That afternoon, she moved the ironing board from the living room to her bedroom, thinking perhaps that had been the problem. She changed positions from sitting to kneeling, and there she passed the rest of the day, chanting and genuflecting. The harder she tried, the more wrinkled she became. The walls folded in on her. The ceiling dipped and curved with unseemly lines. She tried to stand but in the process kicked the ironing board over. The iron fell on her head, and she sank into blissful sleep.
This morning she smiles over toast and coffee. The house seems in order. The walls and windows appear relatively straight, the furniture passable. The little pig cooking timer ticks away on the counter beside her. Every hour it rings. That’s when she yanks the cord, releasing the iron from the pulley mechanism she’s rigged to the beam above her. The iron lands squarely on her head each time. After she wakes, she resets the timer and hoists the iron back to its resting place. Every once in awhile she runs her hand absently over the tablecloth, remarking at how smooth it seems.About the author:
Peter Grandbois is the Barnes and Noble “ Discover Great New Writers” and
Borders’ “ Original Voices” author of The Gravedigger, The Arsenic Lobster: A Hybrid Memoir, and Nahoonkara. He teaches at Denison University in Ohio and can be reached at www.brothersgrandbois.com.