Fiction

 

STITCHES

My mother was a fabulous knitter. Out of necessity, pullovers and cardigans that we’d outgrown or outworn were unpicked and the wool re-rolled ready to be transformed into something new and needed. 

            Our house, like the houses of everyone I knew, was filled with such knitted marvels, from delicate baby booties and matinee coats to entire blankets. Everything could be reborn into a new life. I marvelled at the transformation. Naturally, I was schooled in the art of knitting, crocheting and sewing as were all my siblings. I never bored of the slow and steady creation, the rhythmic pulse of hands, the intricate weaving and interlocking of yarn. However, my dexterity never quite matched my enthusiasm. My basic patchworks were more work than patch, my cardigans and booties could only ever hope to be utilised by the severely afflicted. But my ever-resourceful mother replaced needles and hooks for a little wooden, doll-shaped bobbin and my efforts were at last rewarded. A sometimes mono, sometimes multicoloured cable quickly emerged from the base of the doll. It could be sewn together to make a multitude of plump, woollen shapes: squares, circles, even splat-shaped creations became coasters and placemats. The warmth of the yarn as it slid between fingers, the soft, light bulk of it as it grew, coiling, as yet unformed, from the bobbin and into my lap was a delight. This newfound success grew to a bedside rug that was given pride of place on the floor of our room between our bunkbeds and our big sister’s single bed. And so, I was “hooked”. 

            “Whacha making, this time, then?” 

            “I don’t know yet.”

             And the stitches kept going, loop after loop and the coil grew and grew and grew. Round and round I sewed the cable but even as the creation widened, it never seemed the right time to cast it off. 

            Then, one night, long after sleep had taken hold of the house, a knock rapped hard at the door; urgent, insistent, shattering our peace. The voices of strangers mixed with cries from my mother and questions from my father. Big sister. Accident. Hospital. 

            Hours dragged by one endless minute at a time. Tension wrapped tightly around the house so that breaths were small and shallow. I held the bobbin and slipped one stitch over the other, one stitch over the other. The cable lengthened. I sewed it round and round. Soft, warm, plump.

             In the early hours as the grey light competed with the yellow of our single bulb, Big sister was brought home, shocked and medicated such that standing was unsteady. Mum spoke softly, forcing calm between trembles in her voice. Sliced skin held together with thick black knots marked our sister’s face. Her cheeks and eyes bruised and ballooned, discolouring and disguising who she’d been just hours before. 

            With a finger to her lips, Mum signalled to our wide and frightened eyes. Dad came and unscrewed the mirror from the wall and then a silence ushered in a tension that froze us all awake. From out of this hush leaked a sob. Small and wounded. Weak and broken. 

             I climbed creaking down the bunk bed ladder, my coiled creation in my arms, and placed the gentle weight of it over her broken spirit, over her sobs, over her swollen cuts. 

            For a few short days, perhaps a week, my creation served as a buffer from reality. A cocoon whose softness kept memory quiet and flashbacks mercifully brief. But soon enough, reality bullied and pushed its way in. The coiled cover transformed without being unravelled. It changed into a garish reminder of sobs in the dark, of split skin and screeching brakes, of shattering glass and blue flashing lights. So infused with nightmares, the cover quickly became a thing to be shunned, removed and hidden like the reflections in our stone hearted mirrors. The idea of reusing such a tainted yarn was unthinkable. This recycled piece had reached its final stage, served its final purpose. 

            The little wooden bobbin made appearances after that, just from time to time. But the chord spun never amounted to more than a mass of twisting yarn. A bag here, a bag there, all unwound and repurposed, but not by me. New cardigans, booties, perhaps a hat and scarf to match were fashioned by hands more skilled in pleasantries than mine. My contributions to the threaded items in our family tapestry had peaked. But from that peak, I felt all the tenderness and ache of anguish and all the profundity of love. I discovered the precious fragility of life and knew to hold it safe. These epiphanies too, in their turn, have been endlessly recycled and repurposed. Sustainability, it turns out, is quite beautiful.

 

Author Bio:

Pam Knapp lives in the UK’s rolling countryside of the Sussex Downs, close enough to London to feel the heat, far enough away to avoid being burnt. Optimism is her greatest asset. Her writing can be found in Dreich Magazine, Green Ink Poetry, Owl Hollow Press, Lucent Dreaming, and others. 

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