Friday, April 07, 2006


I thought of this skit (or vignette, I'm using very vague language) while walking to work the other day after receiving the package from Christine that had some of her odd balls in it. It got me thinking about how one person's useless yarn is another's treasure, even if it's in small amounts.

Keep in mind this is a rough writing. Click on "Read more, maybe" to see it. Enjoy!

“I’ll see you, and raise you half a skein,” Margaret “Peg” Johnson said, tossing a center-pull ball the size and color of a lime into the pot.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Ivy “The Eye” protested, shooting the older woman a signature look of cynical incredulity over her Buddy Holly glasses. “That was alpaca.”

“Wool’s as good, if not better, than alpaca,” Peg said, biting sensuously into a dark chocolate candy. Puff-paint kittens chased a ball of yarn across the bosom of her red sweatshirt, belying the wild heart that lay within. Peg liked to live dangerously; she never used a lifeline, even in lace. Sometimes she didn’t even swatch.

“It’s chartreuse,” Ivy insisted, pointing with a black lacquered nail at the ball laying atop the heap of yarn like a small, gaudy cuckoo’s egg. Juice glasses in various states of emptiness stood around the mound like sentinels, slices of lemon hanging languidly over their rims. Ivy had emptied two of those glasses herself, but she was still not someone to be trifled with. A plump, unnatural brunette in her early twenties, Ivy had an uncanny ability to guess the weight and length of practically any yarn, give or take an inch or gram. She didn’t even need to pick it up.

“It’s vintage. You don’t find yarn that color every day,” Peg insisted.

“I certainly hope not!”

“Just throw in another, Peg,” Gladys said with a sigh. “You’re holding up the game.” Gladys had known Peg since before either of them had ever dreamt of steeking; she would listen to her.

Peg reluctantly pushed a small ball of blue tweed toward the pot, the five other women following the bid with their own carefully selected offerings. Snow was falling swift and silent in the darkness beyond the pale green curtains that ran the length of the small, linoleum tiled breakfast nook. Large bags of every shape and size huddled around the player's legs like shy dogs hiding behind their masters. Most of them were empty. None of the women were particularly eager to trudge out into a winter wonderland of snowplows and buried cars - at least, not as long as the vodka held out – so the meeting was lasting longer than anyone had anticipated. The pizza was long gone, the chocolate was on its way, and the pot in the middle of the table had grown to dangerous proportions, a veritable mountain of yarn. Not only was most of each woman’s stash of odd balls herded together on top of the kitchen table, but tape measures with little black lamb tails and cat faces; primary colored row counters, set to random numbers; bright plastic portable scissors and the odd anodized aluminum stitch holder.

“We could make charity blanket from this,” Peg said conversationally. “Out of granny squares.”

Ann, a slight, ash blond woman in glasses and a pink Aran cardigan with star buttons was dealing, her knitting (a cotton lace tank top) clamped under one arm. “I can’t crochet,” she said.

“Hit me,” Ivy said.

“It’s easy, Ann,” Melanie, Gladys’ seventeen year old granddaughter, said brightly. “I could show you.” Much to Melanie’s disappointment, Peg had stocked the fridge with a liter of Ginger Ale before everyone arrived, and she had it all to herself. No one else seemed to want any. Coupled with the comparatively meager hoard of odd balls she had managed to accumulate over the last two years, Melanie had despaired of making a success of the evening. Fortunately – for her, that is - she was experiencing a streak of beginner’s luck that increased at almost the exact same rate as the other women were drinking.

“It won’t be an afghan,” Ivy said, carefully arranging her cards. “I’m going to win it, and then you’re all going to cry.” She tossed a ball of off-white fingering weight alpaca into the pot, immediately following it up with two softball-sized pull skeins of red alpaca. “I’ll see you, and raise you two, Peg.”

“I fold,” Ann said, taking refuge in the box of chocolates.

“Cocky, cocky,” Gladys murmured, tossing in some mercerized cotton in particularly god-awful combination of burgundy and orange. She seemed to weigh her choice for a moment, then added another ball. Peg put in the chartreuse wool’s five evil brothers: Puce, Lemon Sherbet, “Lego” Blue and Transit Worker Orange. Melanie blithely gave up a couple of mini-skeins of angora, while the new girl pulled a sacrificial ball of super wash merino wool from a bag by her feet. Her name was Kathy, or maybe Karen, something that started with a K or C. She was a thin, dark haired woman in her early thirties with Brooke Shields eyebrows, but that was where the resemblance ended. Ann had met her at the local coffeehouse and had encouraged her to bring her odd balls with her to the “meeting”. Kathy-or-maybe-Karen was slowly knitting a shocking pink scarf in garter stitch, English style, on a pair of size 15 needles. Peg’s big gray Persian, Trouble, who normally didn’t take to strangers, had taken up residence in on of Kathy-or-maybe-Karen’s empty bags, just a fuzzy rump and tail visible beyond the twine handle.

“Oh, no!” Ann exclaimed, peering desperately into the box of chocolates. Or rather, the box that had held chocolates.

Gladys gave Peg a meaningful look. “I told you one wouldn’t be enough.”

“There’re still plenty of corn chips,” Melanie said.

“That’s hardly the same,” Ivy pointed out.

“Hit me,” Kathy-or-maybe-Karen said to Ann, who was still staring tragically into the empty box.

“One would have been enough if it wasn’t for the snow.”

“One is never enough, Gladys, and you know it.”

“Ann, hit me,” Kathy-or-maybe-Karen said again.

“Oh, sorry!”

“I might have some candy corn in the cupboard above the fridge.”

“I’d rather eat the chips.”

“I’ll see you and raise you one,” Kathy-or-maybe-Karen said, placing a ball of yarn on the table.

Glances at the ball quickly became stares.

“Grandma, is that the yarn you need to finish the Roine-”

Both Ivy and Ann made not-too-subtle gestures at Melanie to be quiet. Everyone knew that Gladys enjoyed color work; the Fair Isle pullovers she made for her husband were the stuff of tears and dreams. But every knitter has their Achilles’ heel, and for Gladys, it was a certain color work sweater, using five different yarn types, all of which had been discontinued years ago. Gladys had come very close to completing it. One ball, maybe two, of a particular color, and she could block it and stack it neatly in her closet beside her other conquests. She had been searching so long for that one or two balls, of a particular color, that she now considered it close to sacrilege to bring up the topic of possible substitutions. Saying the name was akin to asking for an hours-long rant on the logistics of yarn manufacturing and distribution.

Gladys had gone quite pale.

“Where did you get that?” she demanded.

“I used to work at a yarn store,” Kathy-or-maybe-Karen said with a smile.

Gladys looked accusingly at Ann.

“Didn’t I tell you that?” Ann said in a small voice, clutching her knitting.

“No, you didn’t,” Gladys agreed darkly, glancing at the novelty yarn scarf Kathy-or-maybe-Karen was knitting.

“I’m letting my wrist rest,” she said, by way of explanation. “I just finished a Dale sweater.”

“Really?” Peg said, her interest piqued. “Which one?”

Gladys would not be distracted. “How much do you have?” she asked Kathy-or-maybe-Karen.

“Four skeins.”

“I fold,” Ivy announced.

“Me, too,” said Peg, picking up her knitting.

“How much is that worth?” Melanie asked.

Gladys glanced down at her remaining yarn. She had three half-balls of canary yellow Cotton Ease, a dozen tiny balls of sock yarn remnants, and a cat-chewed cable needle.

“I could use another drink,” Ivy said.

“You’ve got a good hand?”

“Gladys, you’re not supposed to ask that!”

“Call me and we’ll find out,” Kathy-or-maybe-Karen said.

Gladys looked at the wedding ring shawl curled up on her lap. She had worked on it off and on for years, through holidays, vacations, snow storms. She had made her husband watch TV on mute with subtitles so that she could focus. But she would never rest until she got that damn Roine… sweater…. off the needles and blocked. Then she would be free. Free to get truly obsessed over another project. Yes.

She really loved the wedding ring shawl, but sometimes sacrifices had to be made.

“Grandma, no!” Melanie cried, recognizing the determined look in Gladys’ light blue eyes, but Gladys didn’t listen. Cries of shock and horror rippled around the table as Gladys ruthlessly whipped her new #0 circular Inox from the shawl.

“I have a lifeline,” she said, laying the needles quietly on the table. The wedding ring shawl was not ruined. “And I have a chocolate.”

All eyes followed as Gladys slowly pushed the tea saucer that held the last chocolate toward the center of the table. It was a square chocolate, with dark chocolate sprinkles, still nestled in its brown paper wrapper. The silence was such that it was possible to hear clumps of snow falling off the eaves into the yard.

“Is that nougat?” Ann asked hopefully.

“Um, I think I’ll fold,” Melanie said quietly.

“Smart girl,” Peg whispered.

Gladys and Kathy-or-maybe-Karen’s eyes locked over the heap of yarn and knitting tools. “Are you sure you don’t want to fold?” Kathy-or-maybe-Karen said. “I could trade you the yarn sometime.”

Gladys opened her mouth to answer, but just then, like an act of God, the lights flickered and went out.


“Where’s the fuse box?”

“Nobody move!”

“What was the hell was that!”

“I think you just stepped on Trouble.”

“Oh. Poor kitty.”

“He’s not a poor kitty, he’s a menace.”

“I’ve got it, I’ve got it!” Peg exclaimed.

A small flashlight clicked on, illuminating the scene in a sickly yellow glow. A couple of glasses were knocked over, but they were thankfully empty: the pot was dry. Ann and Peg moved back to their seats, and Kathy-or-maybe-Karen righted her chair. It was then that they all noticed that something had gone missing from the table. They stared for several moments in shocked silence.

Gladys was the first to speak.

“Okay, who ate the chocolate?”

For the next bit, click here.
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Jeanette said...

LOVE it!

wenders said...

This is perfection. Nice work!

arianna said...

i LOVE this!!

i would definitely go see it acted out.

do you write often? you write very well; you should definitely do more of it. not that i'm an expert by any means, but i think being an avid reader gives one the authorization to deem certain people good or bad writers. you, i think, are a good writer. :)

Lissy said...

Brava, Christine. You have a second career awaiting you, or at least a good essay for the next Knit Lit book.

Zee said...

Perfect!! Never did poker seem so much fun -and I LOVE poker!

Witchypooh Lynne said...

I think you may have started something. This is hilarious. Please keep writing!