Mudlark No. 39 (2010)

Plastic #7 (Other: Nylon)

     Although not exactly plastic... nylon offered an almost pure 
     case study of the domestication process to which Americans 
     submitted plastics after the war was won.
             — Jeffrey Meikle, American Plastic: A Cultural History

New York World’s Fair, 1939

She drops her hands to her sides in unison with the Lady of Chemistry, who spins seven feet
above the floor on an oversized lazy Susan. In a single practiced motion, the plastic-clad angel
lifts her skirt just enough to give the public a fleeting glimpse of what they’ve been clamoring

Stooping to finger the baggy rayon that covers her knees, Bridgette marvels at how the full-
fashioned thermoplastic hose embrace the patella, how the unfaltering superpolymer seam
caresses the back of the thigh. Her husband envisions her garter belt: red, white, and blue, with
hand-stitched peek-a-boo eyelets.

Adorned with cellophane bows and semi-precious Lucite jewels, the Lady smiles and waves,
swishes the hem of her rayon skirt, and clicks the Pyralin heels of her patent leather shoes as the
platform turns to greet the crowds. The honeymoon is everything the newlyweds could have
imagined. Bridgette melts with desire. Her husband is extruded.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1943

Hoping to put a dent in the roughly 4,000 pairs of stockings needed to land a single B-29
Superfortress safely, Bridgette donates all but one of the fourteen pairs of nylon hose from the
top drawer of her dresser. She rolls that single remaining pair into a careful ball and slides it into
the back corner of the oak drawer, behind her socks.

She imagines her husband, the bombardier, in his dress best: ballistic nylon flak jacket cinched
tight at the sides, nylon socks, and rot-proof nylon shoelaces, his carefully packed nylon
parachute within arm’s reach. She worries him groundward towards some Pacific island, where
he sleeps soundly on a nylon hammock, shrouded in nylon mosquito netting, inside of a nylon

In the solitude of her master bath, after a long day’s work drilling submarine torpedo tubes at the
machine shop on the south side, Bridgette paints her legs with pancake makeup, applies a
charcoal seam up the back of her leg with an eyebrow pencil, and brushes her teeth with a nylon
bristled toothbrush before heading out to dinner.

Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, 1945

Eight days after Japan’s surrender, nylon stockings went back into production. Bridgette was
fourth in line outside of Gimbels the day they went on sale.  

Osseo, Wisconsin, 1969

From the rust colored couch in her living room, with her bare feet planted in the Berber carpet,
Bridgette watches quietly on her dusty black and white as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin
squeeze through the open hatch of the LEM. She watches the war rage in Vietnam during the
commercial breaks. She watches as the pair plant an unwavering nylon flag in the dusty soil.
The phone rings. It’s her only son calling to let her know he’s arrived safely in Canada.  

Drew Dillhunt | Mudlark No. 39 (2010)
Contents | Plastic #7 (Other: Cellophane)