When the door slammed after lunch, Esther sighed. Her husband had driven the children back to school and returned to his job at the butcher shop. Their departure marked the end of yelling and fighting, reproaches and charged silences. Now she had the rest of Tuesday, her favorite day, to herself.
It was a perfect day for ironing while she listened to a sure win for the Yankees. The temperature was in the 80s, and Whitey Ford was on the mound. Mel Allen just announced that Mantle was back in the starting lineup. Esther looked forward to her special treat, a glass of cold beer, at the seventh inning stretch.
Ironing relaxed her. She pressed her husband’s dress shirts as Whitey mowed down the Indians in the first two innings. Even on a hot day, she loved the billows of starch-scented steam rising from the shirts. Seven shirts for seven days of the week, all perfectly crease-free. He could work at a bank instead of a butcher shop in these shirts.
Next she ironed her own clothes, her Sunday dress and a few skirts and blouses, and then the children’s school uniforms. It was the end of the fourth, and Whitey still had his shutout, but the Yankees hadn’t scored either. Would Mantle come through as he usually did for Whitey? She would iron the children’s jeans and t-shirts in the bottom of the sixth-top of the seventh. She smiled to herself. They wouldn’t be home for hours, hours of peace and quiet.
The rhythm of ironing soothed Esther. She felt as if she were transported to Yankee Stadium, watching Ford pitch the shutout. She wished she could save this calm. Why couldn’t every day be so well planned, so pleasant?
Finally, the seventh inning stretch. Esther carefully shut off the iron and propped it up. She took a cold Ballantine’s from the refrigerator, poured it into her pilsner glass—careful, not too much head—and took her first cooling swallow.
A few more swallows, all thoroughly satisfying, and Esther turned on the iron to finish the linens in the final innings. Top of the eighth, and Ford was in trouble with two on and two out. He checked the base runner back to first, then stepped off. Back on the mound, he peered in at Berra, then shook off the sign. Another sign, and Whitey just stood there. Berra called time and walked to the mound to talk to Ford. Esther sympathized. All that effort, yet the game seemed headed for disaster.
“MOM. The door on Daddy’s car. It flew open. Missy fell out. Daddy took her to the hospital. I ran.”
The shout, the sudden spill of words. Esther felt herself squeeze the iron’s Bakelite handle the way Ford squeezed the ball before he pitched. It flashed on her to pitch the iron. Teach her son not to interrupt.
Whitey never lost his control.
She smelled burning. She had scorched a pillowcase with the hot iron. Whitey set down the side while Esther set down the iron.
She looked at her son. Controlling her voice, she said,
“Now tell me what happened to your sister.”