There was a large woman who was being chased by a cloud of dust. The faster she ran the bigger the cloud was at her heels.
She had been doing so nicely all day, working for Mrs. Hay, ironing and folding the linen. Then Mrs. Hay said, will you go across the yard and fetch the wash off the line?
The large woman bowed, I will certainly go across the yard and fetch the wash off the line if you promise not to follow me with your eyes, which will make you then see how really fat I pretend not to be.
Mrs. Hay said, oh go along with you, I don’t waste my dimming eyesight following you about like some love struck old lady who has found her hefty maid servant irresistible.
But you see, I’m a lot fatter than I seem. And just maybe you’ve been drawn to me a little bit, and when you see me at a slight distance you’ll suddenly realize I’m a little too fat for your highest esteem, said the large woman.
I don’t like you the littlest bit. I’m an old woman and haven’t though of things like that for twenty years. And I never took up with serving women anyway, said Mrs. Hay.
Well I’ll go, but I’m going to keep looking back, just to make sure you’re busying yourself and not hot after me with your eyes, said the large woman.
I said go along now, or I’ll call Mr. Hay to whip you, said Mrs. Hay.
But as the large woman was crossing the yard she looked back to make sure Mrs. Hay was averting her eyes, calling to Mrs. Hay, that’s right, honey, keep yourself busy, I’ll be back before you know it; but she noticed a cloud of dust at her heels. She tried to kick it away, but it only got bigger. And then she began to run; and the faster she ran the faster the cloud followed.
Mrs. Hay, Mrs. Hay, she screamed as she ran.
Russell Edson has books with Harper and Row, Wesleyan, and New Directions. (Fall 1974)