Permanently Pressed

Peggy got up every morning at five to fix Bobby’s breakfast and iron his work clothes. She stood behind the ironing board looking out the window, dreaming about the men she saw on the TV the night before. Every few moments she let the iron rest in order to build up the steam that provided the magic puffs that set the creases permanently into the legs of his uniform pants. The radio played on the windowsill, a Ray Charles song. 

Born to lose, I've lived my life in vain.

As the iron rested, Peggy twisted the small, diamond ring on her left hand, as if it might be tight. Bobby leaned out of the bathroom in his boxer shorts, shaving cream on his face and an unfiltered cigarette stuck to his lip.

"Did you make any coffee?"  He called out, the cigarette flapping up and down.  Peggy sighed,

"No, I'm ironing your pants."

She thought she had loved him once, but that was so long ago. Peggy wished she could be a better housewife and have Bobby's uniforms ready and all, but she really hated ironing, and the afternoons were so warm that they made her sleepy. Peggy twisted the ring around her finger.  

"Is there any coffee left in the pot or did you boil it dry?"  The smell of burned coffee wafted throughout the house.  Peggy pulled up her apron and used it as a potholder to pour a cup of coffee. 

Bobby left for work and Peggy sat in a chair smoking his cigarette butts staring at the picture of Hawaii on the kitchen calendar, twisting the ring, she sat there daydreaming about places she had never been to keep from getting blue.

photo supplied by the author

photo supplied by the author

- Nicole Chakalis is an MFA alum in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago. She studied at the University of Havana and received the Sylvia McNair Award for Travel Writing. Nicole was the recipient of a fellowship at the Ragdale Artists Residence and the featured reader at 2nd Story during Story Week 2014.  

Dress Like a Lady

Carry yourself like a lady. Dress like a lady. Don’t take foolishness from anyone.

I learned those things from my paternal grandmother, a tiny woman who was always well-dressed and –coiffed, and whose tolerance for the antics of others was miniscule.

I carelessly put on a poorly ironed (perhaps un-ironed) shirt once during a summer visit to her spotless home.  Because I was a teenager, and therefore a young lady, this was simply unacceptable.  She pulled out her ironing board and iron, and gave me a thorough lesson in proper pressing.

"My grandmother is dabbing her eyes at my parents' wedding and looks perfectly put-together. She may as well have been crying about my future lack of ironing skills."

"My grandmother is dabbing her eyes at my parents' wedding and looks perfectly put-together. She may as well have been crying about my future lack of ironing skills."

1.     Start with the collar. Use plenty of elbow grease. She didn’t have starch when she learned to iron, so I didn’t need it, either.

2.     Iron the collar flat, then fold it down on its crease and iron that.

3.     Next the back.

4.     Then the sleeves.

5.     Finally, the front. This is what people will see first. Saving it for last makes it less likely to get wrinkled before you hang it up or put it on.

I put my freshly pressed shirt back on. She told me I had done a good job. My arm was stiffening up from all of that elbow grease.

Then she added a final step.

6.      When you get married, do not iron your husband’s shirts. If you start, you will be ironing his shirts forever. Take his shirts to the dry cleaner.

My husband irons his own shirts. I’ve watched, and he does it wrong.

- Jacqueline Bryant Campbell