Knit 1, Purl 1, Repeat

by Leanne Kutzer-Gregg

Yeouch!" I burst out as I accidentally drove yet another thumbtack through the fleshy part of my index finger. I really should've been more careful. I suppose these injuries just come with the territory, though. I am president of the Bartlett Falls chapter of the Knitting Society of the Midwest (BFCKSM as we call it), and I've been hanging fliers all over town this week in an attempt to build anticipation for the upcoming "Knitting Extravaganza: Knit Your Socks Off!" Not a lot of people have respect for knitting these days. They think that all we do is sit around and gossip. I never gossip. I don't believe in it.

Anyway, I've just been a little distracted this week because I've been working non-stop on a very complicated cable-knit turtleneck sweater.  I suppose I should explain:  I'm not a very talented knitter, but I am the president of the BFCKSM, so I have to keep up appearances, and if that means I have to stay up until three in the morning every day until the next meeting, so be it.  I know that Alice Bulow is just waiting for me to drop a stitch so that she can gloat.  That Alice, she's been hovering in the wings, trying to steal my presidential title since I was elected to office.  I hate her.  Unfortunately, that woman can knit better than the pope—if the pope could knit. Can the pope knit?  Perhaps I was too quick with my comparison.  Knit, purl, knit, purl, the repetition can drive a person to say things.

Last night, for example, at the weekly meeting, we were making socks for the homeless orphans at the animal shelter. No, wait, that's not right.  We do a lot of charity projects, but somehow they all involve knitting socks.  Well, that's not really important.  What is important is what comes out at these meetings.  The familiar sound of the gentle, rhythmic clicking of the needles and the feeling of yarn slipping through our fingers draws us all into an almost trance-like state.  In this state, the knitters can't help but blurt out extremely personal details about their lives and the lives of their neighbors.  Knit, purl, knit, purl, Did you know that Sandra's not here tonight because her husband left her for a man? knit, purl.

"Sandra's husband left her for another man?" Paula asked as everyone turned to Pamela who had spilled the beans.

"What?  Did I say that out loud?" squeaked Pamela, turning the same color as her yarn (cranberry no. 14).

"Oh yes you did!" I said.  "Now, you have to tell us what happened—it's in our constitution" I added that rule myself in order to build friendship: "once one knitter begins telling a story to the group, he or she must finish it."

"Do I have to?" she asked.

"No, it's a stupid rule," rudely piped up Alice. 

"We must abide by the rules, Alice," I responded while mentally poking her with her own size 8 Cloverleaf bamboo needles.  "Come on Pamela, finish the story."

"Well," sighed Pamela obediently, "there's not a whole bunch to tell.  Just that Sandra came home last night and…do I have to say it?"

"Yes!" we exclaimed in unison including Alice, that nosy gossip.

"Well, Sandra came home last night and--"

"Shut up!  Shut up! She's here and she's headed into the building!" announced Brenda who had been sitting by the window.  At that point, we all frantically tried to knit as we had never knit before. 

"Oh hi there Sandra!" chirped Brenda, "A little late today, aren't you?"

"Yes, well, I'm not going to be able to stay, I just stopped by to pick up that skein of cashmere yarn I accidentally left here last meeting.  Has anyone seen it?"

"What color was it?" Alice Bulow asked, the snoop.

"Oh, what does that matter?" I asked as I discretely placed the charcoal no. 12 cashmere socks I was knitting into my knitting bag.

"The color is charcoal," answered Sandra.

Sandra's eyes were so red and puffy.  It looked like she was up all night crying.  I suppose I would have cried all night too, if my husband left me for another man.  Of course, my Stuart would never leave me. That's ridiculous!  Poor Sandra, I wish that she had a marriage as good as mine.  Although, to be fair, Sandra's husband Bill was not all that attractive—perhaps it was for the best. Look at the glass half-full I always say.

"Hmm. Charcoal no. 13 you say?" I asked.

"No, charcoal no. 12," Sandra responded.

"Well, I haven't seen it, but I can't speak for everyone else here," I said glancing suggestively in Alice Bulow's direction.

"Oh, don't worry about it," shrugged Sandra, "I really should be going anyway."

"See you next time then," I said.

"Well, actually, you might not see me for awhile because I'm going to spend some time with my family in Montana."

"Oh?" I asked "Is Bill going too?"

"No, just me," she said, bristling.

"Oh? Trouble in paradise?" I asked with a tasteful amount of pity.

"Well, I have to be going now," she said as she opened the door and hurriedly sprinted out.  She is so sneaky, trying to get around the issue.  Everyone should just say everything out in the open.

After the door snapped closed, we looked at each other in silence for a moment. Then Brenda announced, "She's gone.  That was hard to watch.  I didn't even have a clue that Bill would ever leave her—especially for a man."

"Are you kidding? I could see that coming a mile away.  I can tell these things," said Steve the only male member of the BFCKSM.

"And what, tell us, makes you an expert?" Pamela asked. 

We all leaned in to hear what Steve had to say. See, Steve has been attending BFCKSM for quite some time, but we haven't quite figured out if he really just likes knitting, or if he really likes knitting and men.  He's never said one way or the other--I don't know why he just won't come out and tell us. 

"Oh, I can always tell.  In school, a group of us guys would always beat up the boys who seemed a little too—you know.  It's a gift being able to tell who's—you know," Steve stated knowingly. 

Just when we were processing this information about Steve's past, he added, "But speaking of gifts, we should really buy Sandra a new wardrobe.  Best way to get over a cheating man is a new dress—I always say.  Lord knows, Sandra really needs one!  Did you see what she was wearing?  I'd like to scratch the eyes out of the guy who came up with bringing back Victorian lace.  Was it me or did she look like a freaking marshmallow?  Has she ever heard of Marc Jacobs? Hel-lo?"

We all just stared at Steve for awhile after his speech, more confused than ever.  It's not like whatever way he swings makes a difference to me though. I don't judge people.   I don't believe in that.

"Does anyone want a low-fat lemon square?" I asked in order to break the awkward staring.  When people are staring, people aren't talking.  You can't talk and stare at the same time.  Everyone took one except Brenda.

"Brenda, you know they are low-fat, right?"

"Well, I should stick to my diet, but I do love your low-fat lemon squares."

Brenda has been on Weight-Watchers now for six months and she lost over 30 pounds.  She was getting pretty hefty for awhile, but now she is starting to really slim down.  She always seems to be carrying around little books filled with lists of foods she can and can't eat.  She even has a little calculator-thing that tallies up her daily food consumption. She follows that diet to the letter—it's like a religion to her.  I don't know how she sticks to it.  I tried going to Weight-Watchers with her, but it seemed like a group for fat people. I'm not fat.  I would describe myself as slightly above the average weight after taking off the extra 20 pounds my broken scale adds, that is.  I don't believe in diets, that's why I put extra butter in my low-fat lemon squares. If I didn't call them low-fat, no one would eat them! 

"I really don't know how you do it," said Brenda. "These lemon squares are so rich and delicious that they don't even taste low-fat."

"Thanks Brenda."

"What do you put in them that makes them so…so…delightful?" asked Brenda.

"Love," I smiled.

"And butter," muttered Alice that little jerk.

"Ha, ha, Alice, very funny," I said.

"Well how much butter do you put in them?" asked Alice

"Oh Alice—you jokester!" I hissed.  Then I turned to the group, "So, is everyone excited about the Knitting Extravaganza?"

"I don't know," Pamela said warily, "after what happened last year, I'm not sure that we should even be having another Knitting Extravaganza."

"Oh Pamela!" I said, "You have such little faith!  Last year's—events---were merely a fluke. This year will be different. Better."

"I think that I agree with Pamela," Alice added in an obvious attempt to undermine my authority.

"Oh nonsense!" I exclaimed.

"We're lucky that the church didn't sue," said Alice.

"They wouldn't have sued us, Alice, they're Calvinists–the fire was predestined."

"You mean it was destiny that you decided it would be a good idea to knit by candlelight, not realizing that no one could actually see anything, and that most synthetic fibers are highly inflammable?" questioned Alice.

"I think you mean flammable.  The yarn was mislabeled as inflammable."

"Both words mean the same thing: giant ball of fire," she said.

"Well, whatever, everything turned out all right in the end," I noted.

"For whom, may I ask?  That church congregation is still meeting behind the Tastee-Freez."

"And they've never had a better turnout! Imagine!  They were so clever to come up with Sundae School!"

"Yes, well–"

"You see, Alice?  Everything turned out for the best!"

Alice merely grunted and went back to knitting wool socks for the homeless.  I could tell she knew she lost the argument.  She can be so self-absorbed sometimes.

We knitted in silence for a few minutes before Paula asked Pamela, "So, you never finished the story. What exactly did happen with Sandra and her husband last night?"

"Oh, well, I don't really know if I should tell you all.  I only found out what happened because I ran into Sandra at the liquor store at two in the morning. I was running low on vodka, and she told me the whole story."

"The liquor store? Running low on vodka? Two in the morning?" asked Sally in disbelief.

I elbowed her lightly to send the message to shut up.  Sally is our newest member and she doesn't know a lot about Pamela and her habits.  I'm not one to gossip, but Pamela has always been a fan of the sauce, if you know what I mean.  Sometimes her knitting can get a little sloppy.  We try not to talk about it when she's around though.  It wouldn't be polite.

"So, Pamela, what happened?"  I asked, trying to steer her back to the story.

"Oh, well, I said 'hi' and everything, but she looked like she had been crying, so I asked her what was wrong.  She said that she came home early from work in order to surprise her husband and she was the one who was surprised.  Apparently he had been moonlighting as a male exotic dancer at  "Nacho Man," you know, that weird Adult Mexican restaurant for a few months to earn some extra cash.  He met Dave there who is part of a Village People impersonators group—he's the Indian Chief.  Apparently Bill can't resist feathers.  That's pretty much the whole story.  Not much to tell."

We all stared at Pamela.  Steve uncomfortably cleared his throat. From the way that he shifted back and forth in his folding chair, I could tell that something Pamela said struck a chord.  I think he even dropped a stitch—but it's hard to tell.  I'm pretty sure that he's been to Nacho Man.  He probably even knows Dave.  They all probably know each other.  He probably goes for the Never-Ending Nacho Night every Wednesday from 7pm—12am.  The best night for nachos really is Tuesday, though, because they just serve all the stale leftovers on Wednesday.  That's why they're so cheap. So I've heard.

"What do you mean you didn't have much to tell us?" asked Sally.  "That was pretty much the whole story!"

"I guess so," said Pamela, "I just wish I knew more."

"What else would you possibly want to know?" asked Alice. "Do you want to know if Sandra cries every time she hears Y.M.C.A?  It just doesn't seem like it's our business.  That poor woman is probably really upset right now."

"Alice, lighten up.  We're just discussing what happened," I said.

"Well, it just doesn't feel right—all this gossip."

"It's not gossip if it's true.  Besides, I don't believe in gossip."

"Neither do I," said Pamela.

"Neither do I," stated Paula.

"Neither do I," said Brenda.

"Neither do I," said Steve.

"And neither do I," said Sally with enthusiasm.

"See?  We don't gossip around here we just knit," I told Alice. 

Alice sighed and silently turned back to her socks.  I had won the battle, but from the looks of her cashmere basket-weave socks—I could sense the war would not soon be over.  I turned my attention back to my own pattern: knit 1, purl 1, repeat.

BIO: Leanne Kutzer-Gregg holds a Creative Writing degree from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is the Fiction Editor at Literary Orphans and a copy writer by day. She lives in Chicago, IL.