Nightmare Blanket

>> Thursday, December 8, 2016

I revamped my short story anthology (sold some stories I had in it so needed new ones). Here's one of them. I'm sure many other folks who fought on the right side of things feel similarly. Sometimes stories wake me up in the middle of the night to be born.

This was one of them.




Nightmare Blanket
Chain, chain, chain, chain, chain, double stitch, double stitch. The slim worn needle worked, in and out, grab and pull, weaving a web of delicate pink yarn as soft as silk and as dainty as lace. The fingers were gnarled, no strangers to arthritis, the skin dark and the touch sure. In and out, grab and pull, chain, chain and turn.

She bent over on her rocking chair, neck aching, feet and fingers chilled despite the space heater. The wind howled and shook her window, and her lamp shuddered, but her fingers never stopped moving.

In and out, grab and pull, stitch, stitch, stitch.

She was tired—so tired—but the baby went home early and they needed her blanket by tomorrow. Stitch, stitch, stitch. Marnie always used the softest yarn, acrylic with a pearly sheen, though the girl would never see its cheery color, would never feel the softness. The style was beautiful but quick to make, useless for keeping warm, but that baby would never be warm again, lost too young to leukemia.

In truth, the blanket wasn't for her, but for the parents who would have to bury her, a nightmare talisman to soothe their sleep, not hers.

Stitch, stitch stitch.

It wasn't enough. It was never enough. But that was who Marnie was. She couldn't fix everything.

But she would do what she could.

Stitch, stitch, stitch.

How she might have laughed when she was younger to see herself now. Marnie had always been a woman of passion, who wasn't going to settle for what the world offered. Passion that got her into college and through it when that was still unusual for a woman, especially for a woman of color. Passion that had tied her to a "bad boy" before she realized what that really meant: not necessarily just a rebel, but someone who could be lost to drink, to drugs, who'd lash out at his woman and then beg her for forgiveness. Which she gave him, in her passion, until he'd turned his malice on their daughter.

That's when Marnie let her passion send him on his way, once and for all. Nothing was stronger than her love for Sue, the tiny girl with the poofy pigtails and enormous brown eyes.

Stitch, stitch, stitch.

So Marnie marched for women, because her daughter deserved a better future than Marnie had had, deserved all the chances that anyone else deserved. She marched for black's rights, and worker's rights, for gay rights. Whatever her daughter would be, Marnie wanted her to have every choice, every opportunity, every possible future. Sue was Marnie's future and she deserved it all.

Progress was slow. Even joined with thousands of other voices, one voice was hard to hear and change was slow in coming. But Marnie tried. Didn't let that stop her.

She would do what she could.

Stitch, stitch, stitch.

The first blanket had been for Sue, too. Marnie had dusted off the skill her own grandmother had taught her when Sue had had nightmares not long after the attack by her own father, had cried out in the night, and shivered herself awake. So tiny, so sweet, so quiet, Sue never complained but Marnie wept for her and made her a blanket in pink and purple. Told her it was a blanket to keep nightmares away, and Sue believed it, curled under it, and slept in peace.

Stitch, stitch, stitch.

Over the years, Marnie made many blankets for Sue. Sue became larger, grew, tall and slim as a reed, her smile shy but so beautiful, those dark eyes alight with sweetness. And the blankets kept the nightmares away, new ones crocheted in larger sizes Sue could tuck herself in under, head to toe, and sleep soundly.

Stitch, stitch, stitch, turn.

The nightmare hadn't come at night. He stormed into the school in a cloud of wrath and sense of entitlement that made him think his rage was justification enough to destroy others, an insanity that let him choose the most vulnerable as his targets. He walked into an elementary school, an agent of death and pain, and spared no one before they hauled him off in cuffs. And left those who had lost their most precious to pick up the pieces, rebuild what lives they could when what they loved most was shattered and stolen and lost. Marnie had felt dead inside, had stroked that precious tiny hand, now cold, and smoothed the last nightmare blanket she had made for Sue in a coffin Marnie had never hoped to see.

And had buried her future and her dreams with her daughter while the skies wept as fruitlessly as Marnie did herself.

Stitch, stitch, stitch.

Marnie marched for better gun laws then, for the safety for other people's children, for a better future she had no part in any more. She canvassed and made calls. Perhaps she made no more difference than she did marching before.

But she did what she could.

Stitch, stitch, stitch.

Decades had past. Marnie didn't march any more. Her hip never healed right after she'd jumped the barrier in the courtroom, trying to get at the man that killed her daughter. She didn't call much any more, or fight, or protest. She never knew if it had made a difference anyway, though she was still proud she had tried.

Stitch, stitch, and tie.

She fluffed out the blanket, completed. Tragic in its smallness, in what it represented, the last decoration to another life snuffed too early, another future unfulfilled. She shed tears, as she had shed countless tears before and would countless tears still to come. Her knobby fingers smoothed the blanket and found some solace in its beauty and the care of its construction, in its sheen and softness. She hoped the girl's parents would as well. She folded it neatly and pulled a different color yarn from her bag, blue this time, and began a new line of chain stitches.

She couldn't do everything.

But she would do what she could.

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