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by Rob Walton

I’ve seen some things.

Her hands, gnarled like those in a painting that didn’t reach the auction estimate, clutched the washing basket to her chest as though it was part of her. Part and parcel.

She made another journey from her upstairs flat to the communal space, where the washing line sagged from the bins to the caretaker’s haunt.

How much washing did the woman have? This was an epic spring clean. All the sheets, pillow cases and towels in the house must have been washed on what seemed to be the first sunny day of the year.

Mind, I couldn’t remember if there had already been a sunny day this year. And I couldn’t remember when I had last seen her husband. That was one of the things I couldn’t remember today. I couldn’t remember where the TV guide was and I couldn’t remember if that John the Baptist programme started at 7:15 or 7:45.

You could hear the clipping of the pegs on the line and then, every time before she traipsed back upstairs, you’d hear the bin lid.

They must have been having a clear-out and the poor woman was having to do it all on her own. He wasn’t a bit of help.

Some of those sheets caught the wind as though they were dry as soon as she pegged them.

I made a cup of tea, and found the TV guide inside the kettle. I’d been trying to hide it from something or someone. It had worked a treat. I put it on the radiator.

I remembered when we were at school together. I remembered when she met her husband, but I couldn’t remember what he looked like, but I think I might have seen him yesterday.

This time she was down with the brushed cotton pillowcases. Again I heard the bin lid before she went back upstairs. All the lines were full now and there was no way she could have any more sheets or pillow cases in her little flat, even if her husband was confined to the bed. After we’d left school, talk was that they were both confined to the bed.

There was a longer gap this time, but eventually she came down with the brown plastic basket. She looked proud as she went straight to the bin, lifted the lid, then tipped the basket, allowing her husband’s balding head to join the rest of him.

Rob Walton is a writer, performer and teacher from Scunthorpe. He now lives with his family in North Shields, from where he travels to perform in schools and libraries. His poems, short stories and flash fictions have been published by the Emma Press, Northern Correspondent, IRON Press, Red Squirrel, Northern Voices, Harper Collins, Arachne, Flash Frontier (NZ) and others. He collated the text for the New Hartley Memorial Pathway and was winner of the National Flash Fiction Day micro-fiction competition in 2015. His poem Letters features on the 2016 National Poetry Day website.