Hot Off the Press
Claudia watches out the window at the terrace across the way. She holds her burnt toast, ready. A woman opens the sliders and steps out with a watering can. Claudia glances at her watch. Seven o’clock on the dot. She bites in synch with the sprinkle of the first plant, an unruly fern. Her shoulders relax as she chews. The day promises good order.
Fifteen minutes later, the last plant is watered, the dishes washed and dried, the tablecloth swept into place. Most use a tablecloth to catch crumbs and protect the table, but not Claudia. She works days at the laundry and knows first hand what people drip and drool and spill, thinking all stains come out in the wash. She smooths her simple dress, freshly ironed and starched crisp. Claudia leaves her job ironing and pressing to come home to ironing and pressing her comfortable cotton dresses, washed out in the sink and hung to dry on the shower rod, waiting for her return at five o’clock sharp.
Claudia can press a men’s tailored shirt in six minutes easy. Aluminum foil is her secret, sandwiching a piece beneath the ironing board cover to reflect heat hot enough to iron a shirt two sides at the same time. She keeps the garment moving with a flourish, her free hand pushing fabric freshly pressed away as the iron wisps and wedges into crevices inaccessible by an industrial speed press. The yoke across the back sometimes slows her with thoughts of her father, his offers of broad shoulders to lean on, his manipulation of her fears and time-keeping ways when she refused. You can’t control what lurks around the clock. I want you to be safe. Let me help you, please, at the very least with the apartment. She flattens the yoke quick and even, then jabs and jabs and jabs beneath the shirt buttons, singeing the threads off-color, angry at herself for relenting and allowing him access, if only to pay the rent. The puffs of steam soothe her nerves but frizz her bangs and curly hair. She keeps it short at the nape, in anticipation of the small blessing of a cool breeze.
Claudia removes the kitchen chair jammed under the doorknob, the last save in case the five deadbolts fail. She gives the apartment a final once-over, double checks the window bolt, and grabs an umbrella, a misty rain is falling. Wiggling a couple of buttons free at the waist of her dress, she hides her key inside the travel wallet worn belted beneath. Never will she carry a purse on the street, no matter how good the neighborhood. She is out the door at eight and will arrive at the laundry promptly at 8:20, embraced by cloudy steam. Claudia and the ladies will break at noon and gather around the radio broadcast of the presidential motorcade through downtown Dallas. The sun should be out by then.
Sheree Shatsky writes wild words. Her work has appeared in a variety of journals, most recently BLACKCACKLE at Entropy, Tiny Molecules, The Wild Hunt, and Ellipsis Zine with work forthcoming at Ghost Parachute. She is twice-nominated for Best Microfiction 2020. Read more of her work at shereeshatsky.com . Find her on Twitter @talktomememe.