"Why haven't you hung up the laundry?" my mother berated me from my bedroom doorway, where she leaned against the doorjamb. A bottle occupied one hand, but she shook her other fist at me.
I delayed my answer for a few seconds as I shifted my body to a more comfortable position on the old, beaten up bed I had been resting on. Finally I said, "I thought we were going to use the dryer."
My father had just purchased a washing machine and dryer for my mother for their anniversary. She'd told him that he was an inconsiderate ass, that she'd wanted diamonds. Aside from the diamonds, this was not a new scene in my house. So far, she'd used the washer twice, but had yet to even look at the dryer.
"You stupid girl," my mother replied to my statement. "I'll never use no damned dryer. Clothes smell better when they's hung on the line, and they look better too. Now go put them clothes on the line."
I reluctantly got up but didn't say anything. I didn't want to be the cause of another drunken rage. I remembered all too clearly the last time Mother had sent me to hang the laundry. The incident was burned into my mind, even though it had occurred more than a year ago.
I'd broken one clothespin while hanging my mother's blouses. It should have been fine; we had plenty of clothespins, more than we would ever use at one time. But my mother had somehow noticed, even though she was more intoxicated than usual, and she'd sent me to find the pieces. She'd screamed at me from the kitchen window as I'd crawled frantically in the thick grass, "You stupid worthless girl, what have I done to have a child who breaks my pins and just throws the pieces away? Keep looking, there's more. There! Now put the pin together. It ain't broken, you stupid girl. Quit worrying about pinching your damned finger and fix my pin!"
When I'd repaired the pin, the stupid worthless pin, I had dried my eyes before looking up at the woman I'd grown to hate in the past fifteen years. The only thing she'd said was, "Maybe there's some hope for you after all."
I was not beaten that night, which was new. However, what I remember most is not the fact that I managed to avoid my mother's ultimate wrath. It is that I heard optimism, or something like it, in my mother's voice for the first and last time.
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Short Story / Non-Fiction
Short Story / Literary Fiction
Short Story / Non-Fiction
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