Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

Secrets on the Clothesline (a story)

Love is the magic balm. Children are the purveyors of love,

treating our worst injuries with sloppy kisses.


She stood at the clothesline, her broad hips echoing the shapes of the nearby shrubs. Even the colors of her faded housedress blended into the yard—another withering bloom anticipating the winter. Her hair floated in iron wisps within the afternoon breeze like strands of gray cotton spider web twisting in the sun.

Her freckled hand rose to brush the hair away from her eyes. The motion lifted her sleeve just enough to reveal the numbers burned into her wrist. She realized suddenly, as if someone were watching, and tugged her cuff lower.

And in the golden afternoon, specters of death and decay danced devil dances behind her eyes. Without thinking, she drew the back of one hand across her mouth, fiercely wiping away a kiss that would never disappear—like the blood on Lady Macbeth.

A small child toddled past her singing a tuneless song of existence, but the voice was a scream in the old woman’s ears. She had learned to ignore the screams. She kept pinning—underwear, dresses—seeing skeletal children flapping on the line, beseeching her with tiny arms.

“Grandma, look!”

The child was twirling around and around in dizzy spirals. And there was clattering music. The music of the beer hall. The hot liquor breath of the young lieutenant. The stench of his body.

Grandma straightened her spectacles, wishing someone could invent a glass which would screen out the ghosts that haunted her vision. But she could be blind; she’d still see them.

No mystery in the secrets pinned in her mind. Only the tragedy of a life made wretched and hateful before it could find delight. Only bloody sheets and sorrow.

“I love you, Grandma.” The pudgy pink fingers pinched a little, but Grandma didn’t mind. This small, determined being was the only one with the magic to paint the world in new pastels. Here was hope and caring—tenderness that refused to stay murdered.

Grandma smiled. Once again she was a bloom in the meadow of the yard.


(Do you enjoy these little snippets of story or memoir?

Please let me know in your comments.)

One comment on “Secrets on the Clothesline (a story)

  1. Judy Veris-Decker
    October 15, 2018

    Powerful story

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