Leggings, A History of Flight

by Jeff Burt

The daughter wore knit ankle-to-thigh leggings for dance practice to toil, to sweat, not for elegance of form but to remember strain, effort, feet bared to develop leathered soles like the palms of her father, her mother, from their work in the soil. When life slowed after college, the urge to jeté left her legs. She gave the leggings as a present to her father, obsolescent in work and make.

Drawn up to and bunched at the father’s knees, the leggings pulled the pooling blood at his ankles back toward his thighs for the coursing transport up to his heart. They reminded him of semi-pro baseball days, the loops worn, the white leggings showing, the second base bag kicked and dust stomped off his cleats, the clay a lasting swipe across his stealing legs, the five-dollar bill full of Nebraskan dust handed out by the furniture store owner when the game was over. He’d been known for getting a good jump on the pitcher, for flying down the base path. That winter, dying, he read westerns, and one morning gave the leggings as his last present to his wife. 

Out in the snowing, the flakes piled up, uniqueness compacted, lost. The mother felt the warm pleasure of the leggings pulled taut under her heavy jeans, let the shovel stand against her arm, the blizzard cover what she had just cleared. Here, at sixty, husband inside chest opened and closed from surgery and lashed to a wheelchair, she was unaccountably happy, thinking the leggings made her nearly airborne like the snowflakes, she was drifting, a snowflake, her home was no longer the ground but the sky. She had not felt elation in such a long time. Her husband died by morning, having rolled out onto the patio in his wheelchair overnight. She moved south to Arkansas, welcomed wintering birds, found warmth returning to her body. She gave the leggings to her neighbor, a young man who could not afford to heat his small apartment.

The young man liked to jump around the house in the leggings listening to The Moldau as if they were waders to remind his feet of fly-fishing, a river, and the cold channel that ran at the bottom where both the rounded rocks and bigger fish lived. He knew the eagerness of water to run, to leap. He left the leggings at the end of the couch one morning before going to work.

His young cat, with the white paws and back and belly and the black legs, played with the long leggings, drew them to the hardwood floor, with claws unraveled them. When the young man returned home, he saddened, but kept the door open and swept the filaments outside.

When the wind blew, the threads flew.

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Jeff Burt has contributed fiction to Gold Man Review, Green Lantern Literary Journal, New Maps, and Lowestoft Chronicles. He won the 2018 Consequence Magazine Fiction Prize.

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