Unusually, the parcel that arrived here on November the fifth was not for Ray, and it wasn’t book-shaped. I couldn’t remember ordering anything lately, but sometimes I set up a flurry of subscriptions, and then don’t notice what’s missing, until the laggardly ones arrive.
This parcel was soft, and wrapped in brown paper. I turned it over, noticed the Irish stamp and wondered. Lynda lives in Ireland (we were at University together, and she writes novels, scripts and flash fiction, if you’d care to visit her blog, by the way). But we exchange emails, comments on each other’s blogs and occasional letters, not usually presents. Besides, it wasn’t my birthday.
There’s an art to getting the most from a gift that I learned, long ago, from Gran. Wrapping paper was not for tearing, it was a source of potential drama that she could stretch out for tens of minutes, turning, shaking, squeezing and throwing out wild guesses until we, the givers were stretching out clawed fingers. ‘Go on, open it Gran, please. Please? Shall I help you?’
We never were allowed, and we didn’t learn that asking only increased the twinkle in her eye and generated a fresh set of speculations.
I haven’t managed to achieve that level of suspense, but I like the frisson of additional excitement that delaying creates, even when the giver is not there to appreciate my performance. So I made a few wild guesses before unpicking the tape.
None of them came close. I unfolded a patch-worked, quilted, panel. One strip of it had Eudora Welty embroidered on it, another Cold Comfort Farm, and a third, Alice Munro. All are favourites of mine.
Beside them was a small square panel with a shamrock appliqued to it, and a note explaining how to hang the two pieces. It was signed, ‘Love, Lynda.’ I checked the packaging, but there was no second page.
Like Rusty, I tilted my head and wondered. Had Lynda been to a craft fair, or was this her own handiwork? Perhaps this related to a facet of Lynda’s history I should have remembered.
Surely she learned sewing at school… I picture Lynda at a sewing machine. I’ve seen her typing often enough for that to work.
Her red-polished fingernails adjust the tension settings; thread the needle. Her glasses are perch on the end of her nose, as she feeds material through the footplate, slowly. She’s removing pins, stabbing them into a small cushion by her right hand. I can hear her nails clicking against the chrome foot-plate, and the buzz of the electric motor. A small cone of light illuminates the needle punching through the fabric.
Shadowy figures are beginning to form next to, and behind her. They’re not in focus yet, but soon someone is going to speak.
Often my stories are found, this time I’ve had one posted to me. So, thanks again, Lynda, for a gift that brightens the wall in my office, and contains the germ of a story.