Monday’s post received more views than all 11 chapters of Where Demons Fear to Tread combined, so I’m going to take that to mean that nobody is really into WDFTT and stop wasting my time posting chapters. That’s not a bad thing and I’m not being passive-aggressive, BTW. I’m perfectly fine with people not being that into it (okay, I’m not, but still…).
So, instead of posting up chapters of WDFTT on Friday’s, I’m going to replace it with a series I’m calling Wednesday’s Words wherein I’ll post up short stories I’ve written or just a snippet from a story of mine that I really like.
This week’s Wednesday’s Words is a short story called The Fabric of the Universe.
For as long as I could remember, my grandmother had carried the same green fabric grocery bag containing a pair of knitting needles and a skein of yarn with her wherever she went – the doctors, the store, Seniors Yoga at the community center. Neither I nor anybody else had ever seen her actually knit anything, yet whenever it was suggested she leave the bag at home, she’d clutch it to her chest and proclaim “But I might need it.” Grandma Bea was the most stubborn person ever and nobody thought to argue with her when she set her jaw in just such a way.
It wasn’t until I went to visit her in hospice care after she’d broken her hip that I found out why she never went anywhere without it.
I’d barely sat down in the faded blue chair next to her bed when she pulled the bag out from under her pillow and held it out to me.
“Here, Gracie, I want you to have this.” Her frail, quavering voice worried me more than the fact she was giving away her prized possession.
“I can’t take these, Grandma, they’re your knitting supplies.” I tried not to let the worry show in my voice, but it cracked on the last word.
Grandma shook the bag insistently at me. “Don’t be silly, I’m giving them to you.”
“But I don’t know how to knit.” I knew I should just accept the bag and thank her, but there was something so final about it. A childish, irrational part of me wanted to refuse so she would never die, but I knew it was stupid even as I continued to shy away from the bag.
Grandma laughed and shook the bag harder. “That’s exactly what I told my uncle when he gave these to me before he died.”
“You’re not dying, Grandma. Don’t talk like that.” My heart leapt into my throat and I could barely breathe. I refused to think about her dying.
“Of course I’m dying, dear.” Grandma Bea waved her hand to encompass herself and the hospital bed. “I’m three months shy of my eighty-sixth birthday and bed-ridden in hospice. The odds of me leaving here are slim. That’s why you need to take these.”
I choked back the tears that sprang up at her words. “But don’t you want your knitting stuff so you can knit while you’re here?”
Grandma smiled and shook her head.
“Why would I? I don’t know how to knit.” Her laugh was wheezy and set her to coughing. “Besides, they need to be out in the world where they can do the most good.”
“I don’t understand, Gram.” Her words confused me and I had to consider the heart-stopping possibility that my grandmother was going senile.
“The knitting needles, the yarn, they’re special, so very special – they knit together the fabric of the universe.” She said it with such matter-of-fact surety. “Edges start to fray, seams come loose, knots untie and they all need to be repaired. The needles will guide you.”
Tears burned at the back of my eyes and one slipped out to trail down my cheek. I hurriedly wiped it away, hoping Gram hadn’t noticed it.
“Don’t look at me like that, Gracie, I’m not crazy.” Grandma Bea smiled sadly and pushed the bag onto my lap. I had no other option but to either take it or let it tumble to the floor. “I know what you’re thinking. I probably thought the same exact things you are when my uncle told me about the knitting needles and yarn, but I promise you, it’s all true.”
I shook my head, not able to believe anything she was telling me.
“Just take the bag, Gracie, carry it around with you for a bit. You’ll see what I’m talking about,” she insisted, patting my leg before hitting the button to lower the top of her bed. “Now get on out of here so I can get some sleep.”
She waved her hand dismissively and closed her eyes. I rose to my feet and went to set the bag on the floor next to the bed, but my grandmother snapped, “Take it, Grace, don’t make me say it again.”
When I picked the bag back up, it felt like an ordinary grocery store bag holding nothing but ordinary yarn and knitting needles. I heaved a disconsolate sigh, wondering how long my grandmother had nurtured these delusions of hers and, with one last sad look at her tiny form engulfed by the enormous hospital bed, I left the hospice.
I trudged down the street to the bus stop trying to figure out how I was going to break the news to my father that his mother was slipping into dementia. The bag slung over my shoulder grew heavier with each step. I shifted it to my other shoulder, but the heaviness didn’t abate.
A car roared past me, leaving a swirling tornado of leaves, dirt, and bits of trash in its wake. The dirt shimmered as it hung suspended in the air and then the illusion expanded to overlay everything in my sight.
I shook my head and blinked rapidly to clear my vision, but I still saw a subtle glimmer clinging to the edges of everything. A glimmer that looked for all the world like stitching.
It’s just the way the sun is glinting off things, I told myself. My grandmother’s condition and her words had obviously disturbed me so much that I was imagining things.
But the red-faced businessman hurrying past me, a phone clamped to his ear and a black briefcase clenched in one fist had several sparkling threads trailing behind him. I turned to stare after him and saw the threads originating from the back of his head. As I watched, yet another strand unraveled from his scalp and joined the others undulating in the breeze.
In the bag on my shoulder, the knitting needles began to click together.