Good morning. Welcome to this week’s edition of Tuesday Tales. This week, the word is stolen.
Continuing with Hello Again, things are about to get tricky for Charley and Shirley.
Moving to the bags on the floor by the door, Charley undid the straps and opened the bag. As Shirley had predicted, everything smelled skunky the way clothes did when you washed and forgot to take them out of the machine to dry them. That smell never seemed to go away, even after you rewashed the clothing—especially the towels. They were the worst.
Wrinkling her nose at the unpleasant smell, she pulled underwear, T-shirts, tank tops, shorts, and jeans out of one bag. From the other she removed shoes, long sleeved sweaters, slacks and socks.
“Damn! The bag with my dress clothes is missing,” Charley said. “Even if I get the job in Saskatoon, I’ve hardly got anything decent to wear to school.”
“I don’t know where you’re going, but it won’t be to Saskatoon.”
Charley’s spirit hit rock bottom. If Shirley said she wasn’t going to get that job, she believed her.
But what am I going to do?
“Stop pouting and help me strip the beds,” Shirley said. “I told you everything will work out. Have faith.”
“Faith’s a lot easier to have when you’ve got a job, a car, and a sturdy roof over your head. At the moment, I’m oh for three.” She sighed. “Why are we stripping the beds?”
“Because it’s Wednesday. I always wash my sheets on Wednesdays,” Shirley answered matter of factly. “I see no reason not to do them today, especially since you’re here to help. With that wind, they’ll dry in no time. Besides, your clothes will stink up the place if we don’t wash them now.”
The air couldn’t be more still if it tried. It was hot, heavy, and humid outside.
“You’ll see. Now, toss your clothes in that basket and follow me.
“Outside to do the wash,” she said. “You seem a little slow today. Maybe I should look at your head again.”
Visions of scrubbing all her garments by hand flooded Charley, but she dutifully followed the woman outside to the storage shed without another word.
My head’s just fine. She’s the one not making sense.
Guilt flooded her. Being judgmental and nosy like this wasn’t like her. Maybe she did have a concussion.
Shirley walked into the corner and turned on the light revealing what Charley considered an antique.
“We’re going to do all this laundry in that?”
That was a wringer washer, the kind she’d only seen in museums or in old television movies, like the Ma and Pa Kettle marathons she and Mike used to watch.
“I used to wash by hand, but this is much more convenient.”
You’ve got to be kidding me.
“You know, there are easier ways to do this now.”
“I know, but this works well, and I have nothing else to do today but wait for the storm.”
Charley frowned. If doing laundry like this kept her mind off the coming storm then she was all for it.
Shirley pulled the machine over to the taps Charley hadn’t noticed and she hurried over to help her, surprised when the washer rolled easily into place. While the machine’s tub filled, Shirley opened a folding bench and placed two galvanized steel tubs on them.
“What do you do in the winter?” she asked.
“The same, but I usually use racks inside the house to finish the drying. Look around, Charley. This shed is used year round. It’s heated. I may talk to my ancestors, but I don’t live like them.”
“I didn’t mean to insult you,” Charley said, horrified that she might’ve done so, especially after Shirley had been so kind to her.
“I know that. You and Bill have kind hearts. That’s why the spirits chose you.”
Unable to stop herself, Charley erupted into laughter when Shirley tossed a laundry pod into the washer.
Shirley must’ve seen the irony of it because she laughed and shrugged.
“What can I say? I like the smell.”
The first thing into the washing machine were the whites, which included the sheets.
While they washed, Shirley used a hose to fill each of the tubs. Into the first, she added another modern convenience—fabric softener. In the last tub, the water stayed clear.
Four hours later, Charley stretched her stiff shoulders and back. Washing clothes, especially with a wringer washer was hard work, far more difficult than tossing the clothes in the washing machine she and Mike had owned.
While Shirley had a few personal items to wash, Bill’s uniform needed to be cleaned, as had the items she’d been able to salvage from the suitcase.
As Shirley had predicted a strong wind had come up as soon as the first load was ready to dry. Hanging the clothes had been quite a challenge, but taking down the sheets had been far more difficult. Now, the beds were remade with sheets that smelled of flowers, fresh air, and sunshine.
The washer and tubs had been emptied, thanks to a series of hoses that had led away from the shed and into the ground on the far side of the house. Shirley took down the last of the items on the line, folding them carefully and placing them in the basket. Surprisingly, the wind had stopped the moment the last load of laundry was dry.
The spirits work, no doubt.
Living at the Claymore Academy, her laundry had been done by the locals hired to look after the day-to-day needs of the staff and students. Unless you specified something was to be air dried, it all went into the massive dryers and arrived back in her room “fluffed and folded”, one of the perks of the job.
Something else I’m going to have to do for myself now.
Glancing up at the western sky, Charley noted the dark clouds had stolen the sun, hiding it from view. If it were possible, the air was more humid, and she noticed how much harder it seemed for Shirley to breathe.
Would Bill make it back before the storm? She hoped so.
Shirley stopped what she was doing, and stood still, almost as if she were sniffing the air the way Charley had seen prairie dogs do. Within seconds, the older woman resumed her task, moving much faster than she had.
The sensation punched Charley in the gut.
Shirley picked up the basket of clean laundry and carried it to the house, puffing harder than she had all day.
“We’ve got unwanted company coming,” Shirley said, stepping into the house. “Bill won’t get back in time. He’s got an emergency of his own to deal with. Help me secure the house. I’ll get the outside shutters. You get the inside ones.”
Charley swallowed her fear and followed Shirley’s instructions, removing items from the sod house’s deep window ledges and closing the indoor shutters and bolting them deep into the woodwork beneath the windows. As the light from outside disappeared one window at a time, the soddy grew dark inside.
Shirley stepped into the house, closed the two heavy doors, both front and back, and dropped steel bars into the brackets.
“No one’s getting in here now. Come on. She lifted the rug and opened a trap door Charley hadn’t noticed.
“Grab the rifle and that ammunition. We’ll be safe down there until Bill arrives.”
Well, that’s it for this week. Now, please drop by and visit all the Tuesday Tales.