This is a small excerpt from the short story The Road is Long, available in full as part of the book Shy Feet: Short Stories Inspired by Travel.
My husband likes to iron his underpants.
For the last thirty-eight years he has committed two hours of his Sunday afternoons to creating an elaborate display of crisply pressed shirts, neatly folded trousers and perfectly stacked underwear. I expected it to end when his retirement began, but that wasn’t the case.
At first, I was fascinated. I would sit close to him and watch the metal flat of the iron glide under his control. I’d follow as he slowly pointed the metal tip into the cotton corners and curves. Manoeuvring around the Y of his white underpants took almost as long as flattening the sleeves of a shirt. He’d always do his underwear last, building a pile at the far end of the ironing board. When he pressed the iron onto the top and small kisses of steam escaped, I knew the ritual was over.
His technique hasn't really changed over the years, but technology has. The irons are very different now compared to the day his habit was born, the eve of his first day of work as a qualified accountant. What has also changed is that I don't watch him anymore. In fact, I can’t stand to. It’s the purposelessness of it all; who really cares if underwear is ironed or not? What benefit is there in it? Futile, time-wasting tasks have always aggravated me, but I’m not sure when I started to see my husband’s peculiar sense of peace as a waste of time. Yet it has certainly been that way for the last fifteen, maybe sixteen, years. Now, when I hear the iron’s hissing begin, I know it’s time to lace up my walking boots and leave. By the time the ironing board clicks into place I’m ready to go. And come rain or shine or snow, I do.
I’ve always been physically active and I’m thankful my legs have kept their bounce, if not their smoothness or shape. In the two hours that my husband spends hunched over his clothes, I can cover nearly fifteen kilometres around the lake our village sits beside. At first, I would treasure being alone - away from my husband, his iron and his underpants – but then I met Edgar and the walks became something else. I didn’t feel pushed to go on the walks anymore, I was being pulled.
I’m not sure why I’m thinking about my husband ironing his underpants at this exact moment in time. It doesn’t seem to relate to where I am and what’s happening. Standing under a cruel sun on the other side of the world, I’m staring at a very different problem. But it’s another problem caused by us.
I shouldn’t be thinking about Marius ironing his underpants. I should be thinking about what to do next; what I should do and what we should do.
Read the rest of The Road is Long and eleven other stories inspired by travel in Shy Feet available on Amazon (ebook and paperback) or Kobo (ebook only, suitable for iBooks and Nook. And you can add Shy Feet to your Goodreads bookshelves . Thank you for supporting my writing and books.
Photo by Michael Theis.
Frances M. Thompson
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