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True Mettle
by Bruce Costello

From my armchair on the other side of the room, I hear the rhythmic hiss of my steam iron. I put down my magazine. Iron Man is just finishing my pleated skirt with great care.

Glancing up at me, he asks: “Are you on your own?”

“My husband, Gerald, died a year ago.”

“So’d my wife. We had a dry cleaning business. I couldn’t face it without Annette, so I sold up and started ‘Hire an Ironman.’ You’re my first customer.” He grins. “Be gentle with me.”

He rests the iron and holds up the skirt. “How’s that look?”


His face creases into a smile.


I write out a cheque. “Thank you so much. I’ve been too depressed to tackle that silly little mountain.”

Impulsively, I hug him at the door, but it’s like hugging Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz. I squeeze him a little, then step back and gaze into his moist blue eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “It’s a year since a woman held me. I’m not up to much. My friends tell me to harden up.”

I blush.

“If only there was a way to iron out crinkles in my mind,” he says.

I gently draw him to me and he rests his head on my shoulder, relaxing as I stroke the back of his neck.

“Maybe there is,” I say. “For both of us. But good things take courage. And time. Would you like a coffee?”