This short story was inspired by a post on Jill Weatherholt‘s blog: http://jillweatherholt.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/is-that-really-true/. If you haven’t visited Jill’s blog yet, you should do so. Like me, Jill is a writer who has to juggle a full-time job with her passion for writing. Her posts are always entertaining, thoughtful, and generate a lot of comments. And, apparently, they can also be the inspiration for a short story.
Another off-white, brown speckled clump fell beside Emily. She had been dozing. Well, really she had been sleeping. Sleeping for six days as she did every week. The soft thud of the odd clump was enough to rouse her, and she stirred in her rocking chair, her hands folded in her lap. She stretched, raising her arms straight up and then out like wings. Her back crackled as each vertebrate popped into life. She gazed down at the unsightly lump beside her chair and smiled. It was Sunday. Sunday dinner to be exact, and she could knit.
First, she had to spin the clump of quickly drying fluff into yarn, but that didn’t take long anymore. Over the years of living in this dark lonely place, Emily had taught herself how to spin rapidly, twirling her hand spindle so fast it became a blur and emitted a low hum. Yarn materialized as quickly as the spindle twirled and within seconds, she would have enough yarn to knit. Then another off-white, brown speckled clump would fall beside her and she would start over.
This Sunday was special for apparently they were feeding the little girl the “good” stuff: real potatoes cooked with their skin still on and then mashed up. She was relieved that the little girl hadn’t yet developed a taste for potatoes and gravy, for that would make a mess of her work. As it was, the clump of potatoes that came sliding down the little girl’s throat and into her stomach took a few minutes to dry. Emily couldn’t very well spin wet fiber, and gravy would truly make the process stickier and longer. She didn’t have much time. She had to spin and knit all within this one slot of time: Sunday dinner. Once the little girl stopped eating, the clumps would stop falling, Emily would stop knitting. She would then sleep for six days.
Sometimes, when the little girl was particularly petulant about her potatoes, Emily had time to sit and reflect while she waited for the next clump. She had been living in the girl’s belly for a few years now, and her life was pretty much like clockwork. Every Sunday the girl and her family sat down to a dinner of mashed potatoes, gravy, a roast of some sort (or ham if it was Easter Sunday), and green beans. The little girl hated mashed potatoes. Emily didn’t know why. She didn’t really care except that because the little girl hated mashed potatoes, Emily existed.
Emily still remembered when she first came to life. The little girl was sitting alone at the round pedestal table. Her mother was washing the dishes, telling the little girl that she couldn’t leave until she had finished her potatoes, which by now had grown cold. The little girl would take a forkful and swallow, gagging slightly as she did so. And she was bored sitting there at the table by herself. And so she imagined someone living in her belly, someone who needed the potatoes. But why, the little girl asked herself. What would the person do with the potatoes? Then she remembered a trip she and her family had made to Old
She had been enraptured by a domestic scene in one of the houses: A delicate woman with red-blond hair sitting in a rocking chair, knitting white lace that flowed over her lap; a young girl standing next to her spinning clouds of fluffy white stuff into yarn from a drop spindle. The little girl had had to be dragged away from the scene. She could have stood there forever and watched.
The little girl didn’t think she could fit two people in her belly so she just imagined the one, the woman. She called her Emily because she thought it was a pretty name. Imagining that there was an Emily living inside her and needing the potatoes so she could knit, the little girl cleaned her plate. Eventually.
Many minutes had past since the last off-white, brown speckled clump had fallen beside Emily. Her eyelids grew heavy and her knitting slowed. She gazed down at the lacy fabric that flowed from her needles. She had no idea what she was knitting, just that it needed to flow over her lap. She closed her eyes, wondering if this would go on forever. Would the little girl always need her? Would every Sunday dinner be the same? She had noticed that the time didn’t stretch out so long anymore. The little girl had become more obedient since Emily formed in her imagination. But what about when she got older, when no one could make her eat something she didn’t want to eat. Would Emily just be asleep forever? Would she cease to exist?
Emily leaned back in her chair and allowed herself one last stretch, her eyes still closed. Really, it wasn’t much of a life, she thought. It would be fine with her if the little girl never ate mashed potatoes again.