'The Ironing Board at the Side of the Road' by Cathy Lennon
In the other room they sat, little pharaohs, while she plugged in the iron and erected the board. Antique, this board. Wooden, no less. A gift from a grateful Jamaican neighbour of her mother’s, in the days when a smile was a splash of colour in a waterlogged winter garden. The plate ticked as it filled with heat. Her chest throbbed.
To the accompaniment of thud and hiss the pile transferred itself from one side to the other. Kitchen odours drifted beneath the worn smell of hot linen. From the other room the rattle of canned laughter. She pressed down hard, the iron an extension of her weightiness. The board creaked. The steam release, the sputtering roar did nothing to unlock her jaw. The flex slapped at the board’s edge, flailing between iron and plug. If it had been a snake she would have bitten off its head.
A searing pain. Snapping the thumb to her mouth, she sucked away the fire. Plonked onto its arse the iron remained impassive. Face twisted she gripped it. To have this weight in her hand and swing it, hard. In spite of its resistance, she yanked it from the wall. At the back door she stood and hurled it, teeth gritted. It smacked into the garage door with its winkle-picker snout, clanged to the floor, inert.
‘I’m going out,’ she told the faces at the door, come in puzzlement to watch her wrestle the board along the hall. The side door of the family carrier swallowed it, erect. On the hard shoulder she looked in the rear view mirror, counting the seconds between the cars. She closed her eyes and imagined herself, pinballing between the lanes, pinged from door to door, bouncing off bonnets and landing, wide-eyed and unconscious on the motorway surface. Flattened. All the life ironed out of her.
She pulled it out from between the seats, the wooden ironing board, and left it there, at the side of the road. Instrument of someone else’s torture or fodder for someone’s fire, she didn’t care. She drove away, north, carrying on to where the land was peaked, not flat.