Fat Auntie Ursal with her coffee-breath,
baggy pink house dress, and worried
rosary beads would haul a basket of linen
to the backyard, pick clothespins out
of her mouth, and staple sheets to the line.
When it rained, I rushed to watch Auntie
panic-waddle into our backyard,
eyes wide, rosary flying, as she
pulled down the pristine sheets
as if lowering the mainsail
in a gale.
Later, she’d plead with Uncle Pete
to buy a dryer, but he couldn’t hear her
over the sound he made while sucking
food bits out of the crevasses between his
teeth—a sound so constant and irritating
that it camouflaged his life-long
devotion to penny-pinching.
Uncle Pete worked at Wallick and Volk Realty
in Cheyenne. Wallick and Volk sounded,
to my four-year-old ears, like Walikenvolk—
one word. I became further confused
by my idea that Uncle Pete was, in secret,
a car salesman selling Volkswagens
for the Walikenvolkswagen company.
In those days, when uncle and aunt lived
in our basement, I was as clean and carefree
as those linens on the line, as innocent
as the wind that blew them dry in Wyoming,
and surely unworthy of all the rosaries
fat Auntie said for me.
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