She walked the aisles of the yardage store, seeking just the right piece of cloth. Finally she spied it. Taking it up the the cashier, she asked for one yard. After paying for it, she took it home.
For a few weeks, she tatted some lace around its sides. When she was done, she lay it on the old maple table that stood in one corner of her livingroom. It had been her mother's and now was her's. She stood back and looked at her handywork.
It needed something more. She went into another room and came back carrying her Grandmother's antique wash basin and pitcher. These she placed on top of the table cloth she had just finished. In the pitcher, she put artificial flowers. This was all it needed to complete the look.
The Chesteridge place, a red brick Federalist Era style mansion stood way back from the road, out of sight of foot and vehicle traffic. A tall dense hedge ran around the perimeter of the huge lot, fronted by an eight foot high wrought iron fence with sharpened pickets. A guard shack stood inside the electronically controlled gate. Roaming Dobermans made it clear that casual visitors weren’t welcome. Bart Chesteridge III owned many of the businesses in town, held a place on the Town Council, and assured the success of his favorite candidates for high office with large campaign contributions. As was the custom in the family, his three children had attended the same prestigious colleges that graduated Barts I, and II before him. His heirs did as expected, running family enterprises in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Bart III was the financial pillar of the high-spired white Congregational Church at the corners of Main and Edgehill Streets downtown, where a polished brass plaque announced to all that a front pew was kept vacant for his rare visits. Reverend Bentworthy realized that Bart was usually too busy to attend services, often traveling on important business. Nevertheless, the good reverend rarely left the pulpit without mentioning to his flock some recent generous gesture from Mr. Chesteridge, a true example of Christian charity.
What few people knew was that there was a commodious room in the tile-floored basement of the Chesteridge mansion that no outsider had ever entered. The furnishings in this room were of Spanish Mediterranean style, rather out of place in New England, but revered as passed down antiquities from venerable Chesteridge ancestors. The stuccoed walls were lined with metal sconces, shields, crossed swords, and flintlock weapons, both rifles and pistols. Fine tapestry hung on both sides of a massive italian marble fireplace. In the place of end tables, the sofa was sided by two large wooden chests of ancient heritage. Their corners were reinforced with decorative metal, and colorful escutcheons on both, hinted at royalty. Each bore different initials, esteemed calligraphed monagrams of former owners. The old coffee table was a broad slab of what looked like teakwood, covered with a long outdated map of the Caribbean, and that topped by a sheet of plate glass of more recent vintage.
But, what hung above the fireplace was the object never to be viewed by other than family members. It told the tale of plunder, rape, keel hauling, plank-walking, and other more bloody forms of torture. It was a yard square of black cloth, singed on one corner, and bearing the white skull and crossbones, formerly flown atop a mast of Black Bart’s ship, and rescued from the conflagration at Tortuga Bay.
The year is 2017. After twenty-two years of hiking, Finley Dolphin’s covering needed replacement. “I told you I was allergic to perspiration, Harry”, said Finley. “I’m sorry, Finley, but when we escaped from the mountain lion, I didn’t have the time to put you back in your raincoat.”
Thus it was that they found themselves at Rags and Things. “This is a pretty color.” “No, Finley, chartreuse is just not your color.” They found it finally. One yard of forest green fake fur. A scrap of red for his mouth. And some light corduroy for his eyes. “I shall be as good a new”, exclaimed Finley. “Too bad I can’t say the same about you.” Finley ducked quickly, avoiding the glass that shattered against the wall. “Careful, Finley, I can still sew you together inside out.” “Sorry, Harry.”
The old pattern had been carefully stored away. It was taken out, and used to cut the new pieces. “Make sure you have my nap going in the right direction.” Green thread went onto the bobbin. Sew on the eyes, the wings, the dorsal fin and the tail pieces. Sew together. Now came the hard part: anaesthetizing Finley to remove the fiberfill stuffing. Finley had accomplished this himself with a bottle of gin. “Hmm”, thought Harry. “He drinks like a dolphin.” The stuffing was removed, and stuffed into the new covering. Harry hand stitched the opening. Finley opened his eyes. “Thank you, Harry. Aren’t I cute?”
It was a wonderful piece of satin! Just the perfect color and it shined like a star. Beth grabbed it from the counter and found that it was a stray piece and only a yard square.
She sighed and thought, "It figures just when I find exactly what I was looking for it would be too small for me to make a fancy shirt." She was going to put it back and something wouldn't let her do it. There was no reason she should buy it but it seemed to want to stay with her. A little static electricity made it cling to her hand, as though it needed to stay with her.
When she arrived home, she put the satin piece in her sewing room. It had the glimmer of a morning sunrise.
She ran her hand over it's slippery surface a few times.
This was too beautiful to just stick in a drawer. There had to be a use for it. She sat near her sewing machine and stared at it.
At four A.M. she looked at what she had done.
The sky was beginning to get that slight shade of color that tells you the sun is coming. The bird noises were becoming more distinct. The world was waking up slowly and she held a pale pink baby dress. It had been a long time since she had made any baby clothes.
The only reason she could think of for making this one, was that it had told her what it wanted to be.
She folded it carefully and wrapped it in white tissue.
There would be a use for it in the future. She wondered how long it would take for her daughter to call to tell her that she was going to have a grandaughter for her.
Sometimes there are things that you just know will happen. That square yard of satin knew it and it had told her about it as soon as she had touched it.
As you get older, you can hear things talk to you that never had a voice before. You learn how to listen.
A wisp of an old lady named Belle rocked in a chair by a bright window. She hummed, not knowing what she hummed. She talked, not knowing what she said. Belle had loved, married, raised children, cooked, cleaned sewed, and had a garden while losing her eyesight. Now, blind, she had also had the painful knobby joints of arthritis and mental dementia. Toward the end of the depression years her dear husband had died and she had to leave the home where she knew every crook and cranny, and move in with her children who turns caring for her. It was a near impossible task, and though she had a sweet disposition, she lashed out in frustration frequently. As she rocked she heard her daughter say "I could sure use some new dish towels." Daughter's husband said "I can take care of that - I can bring you some old money bags from the bank. If you rip one side and the bottom off, they make a square, a yard of cloth." (The husband was a janitor of his bank, but he had a job.) He brought the bags home, neatly stacked, and Daughter sat about ripping out the sides. Oh, what funny looking dishtowels they were printed on them with $l,000.00 or "Bank of the States" labels in big black printing. And when Daughter looked at them, she almost cried. She tried to use everything, and will use these, too, but they are so raveled. The one redeeming feature was that they were lint-free, and glasses dried with these towels sparkled like dewdrops in the morning. Daughter remarked "I wish I had time to hem these bags." Belle had been rocking and rocking one day and became more and more agitated. All the while the 12-year old granddaughter was listening, knowing her mother was losing patience. "Mom, remember how you taught me to roll the hems of hankies and sew them? I can teach Grandma and she can hem the towels!" Daughter was very skeptical of this since Belle was totally blind. Still, her fingers were still nimble and sensitive, so Daughter searched for a needle and thread and gave them to Granddaughter. Granddaughter took Grandma's old gnarled hands in her own, said "Feel, grandma, roll up the edges," and she patiently, oh, so patiently, taught her to make nice rolled sides. Then she threaded the needle, knotted the end, and put it between those sensitive fingers. Something in Belle's mind could remember that she had rolled and sewed edges before, and she felt and rolled and stitched and felt and rolled and stitched while Granddaughter kept needles and thread coming. It was slow to be sure, but for many afternoons, Belle did her work with her hands, humming old songs that she no longer knew. For a while at least Daughter knew that she was content and got some much-needed quiet time. Those money bag dish towels stayed in the family a long time after Belle had gone, and one may be in an attic somewhere to this day. A yard of cloth from a bag of money and and old lady felt a little useful again.
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