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This Is Just Another Yarn

Story by Ann Walters (Read author interview) March 16, 2007

In which the grand old themes of love, death, and knitting are explored while our heroine makes a classic journey of self-discovery and a hero is strangely absent.

It begins with Moira, who didn’t think it would be like this, with a hundred skeins of yarn and a restless kitten. There is wool looping through the house, winding in and out of chair legs, through drawers, over and under tables. There is wool spilling from the ice dispenser in the side-by-side refrigerator/freezer. It looks like a child’s game of Cat’s Cradle on a cosmic scale and Moira tries hard to remember which strand to pluck next, which finger to fold or raise.

Every so often the kitten yelps or squeaks or makes soft mewling cries for help and Moira follows the sound, stepping between lines of fluffy beige homespun, straddling delicate strings of silk laceweight pulled taut at waist level. When she finds the helpless creature strung four feet off the ground like a morsel in a spider’s web, she takes her time, pulling threads one by one until only a knotted piece of plied cotton remains. Moira takes a notepad from her pocket and writes in it to remind herself that this is where the yarn for the six matching placemats has gone, even though she’s never set the table for more than one.

About halfway through the story, Moira has a dream. Or maybe it’s a hallucination brought on by extended hours of knitting coupled with too much chocolate. Whatever the case, the vision is surprisingly devoid of wool. There is no clack of needles, no gauge swatches in random blues, purples, and creams. The only sound is a man’s snore, rumbling low and even like the train that used to pass downtown thirty years ago. The only texture is smooth, bare skin.

When Moira wakes up, the kitten has grown into a cat that uses its claws to knit – five projects going at a time and not a single one is for Moira. Is this gratitude, or retribution, she wonders.

She goes back to sleep and dreams of cold clear ice, of mountains shrugging glaciers from their shoulders like lacy white shawls. The shawls are whispering as they float away and Moira thinks she catches her own name just before laughter begins. When she wakes up this time, the cat has thrown down the knitting needles that used to be her claws and is packing a suitcase. Moira sneezes while the cat folds mohair sweaters, the fine hairs flying up her nose. There is something familiar about the cat’s laugh as she leaves, bumping luggage down the hall and out the front door.

Near the end of the story, Moira wanders the rooms of her house squeezing balls of yarn like fresh fruit and rubbing an unfinished sweater of soft angora/wool 20-80 blend against her cheek. She sniffs for something other than the fresh scent of handwashed knitwear, yearns for a moment that doesn’t snag on rough walls or sharp corners. Moira reaches into the leather scabbard at her waist and pulls out sharp embroidery scissors. Yarn begins to fall like a plague of promises.

Also near the end of the story, there is music. It is subtle and unexpected. Moira wonders if the sound is new or if her ears have always been stopped with wool.

Just before the words THE END, Moira lets the scissors fall from her hand. They drop point first, stabbing into time, wedging themselves into the heart of memory. They land without a sound on a cushion of years.

Moira dances on a knitted grave.

About the Author

Ann Walters lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two beautiful daughters. Her fiction has appeared in Quintessence and Gator Springs Gazette.

This story appeared in Issue Sixteen of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Sixteen

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