Clothesline Number 9

Amy Barnes

              The sun dries my paintings where Mama can’t see me. I’m supposed to be doing chores but instead I’m painting bedsheets with no-name cheese puff dust, with day-glo orange fingers because brushes cost money.

              For once, it’s not our underwear hung there for the whole neighborhood to see and point and gawk at because we don’t have a dryer. I arch happy, golden arcs, not dull gray, overwashed, holey, not holy underwear splattered with the us of it all, not yellow-y, smokey bed sheets with cigarette eclipse burn holes.

              I roll and hide the underwear from the basket, wearing my one extra pair. I roll bologna around cottage cheese, pretending it’s a sandwich.

              I snap clothespins to the train sounds, hang painted sheets on the right side of the clothesline, right side of the track.  I’m proud to have made rich people laundry art that they’ll walk past, drive past like it’s a backyard museum.

              They’ll wonder who the artist is, not who the underwear wearer is and I’ll stand behind it with only my shoes peeking out in case they want my signature, my head painted too, smelling like lye soap flapping dripping across my hair, warm sun hand wind brushing, moving my paintings closer to them like we know each other.

              When they drive by in their white Cadillacs and white pants, I can almost smell the McDonalds on their breath. I can almost smell their white tablecloths and white underwear and white bed sheets, dryer sheet fresh.  

Amy Cipolla Barnes writes short stories, flash fiction, CNF and essays that have been published at a wide range of sites and nominated for Best Microfiction, the Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions and longlisted for the Wigleaf50. She’s an associate editor at Fractured Lit, editor for Ruby Lit, co-editor at Gone Lawn and a reader for Narratively, CRAFT, Taco Bell Quarterly, and The MacGuffin. After a debut chapbook “Mother Figures” in June, 2021 by ELJ Editions, her full-length flash collection “Ambrotypes” was published by word west in March, 2022. You can find her on Twitter at @amygcb.