Monday, March 13, 2006

The Embroiderer

"The needle is my brush and thread is my paint. Handkerchiefs are my canvas and my only muse is death."
The Embroiderer

Every town has mysteries, riddles so deeply woven into the unique civic rhythm, that all attempts to decipher them cease and they simply become as they are--no more or less strange than the hardware store on Main Street, or the statues on City Hall's lawn. And so it was, long ago, in the coastal town of Targas, with a man they called The Embroiderer.

No one knew his real name and few had ever heard him speak. He lived alone on the north side of the bay, in a Japanese style house that he rebuilt by hand after every major storm.

"A bucket of thinner proves the frailty of paint. I tie art to itself and pass it through a cloth. It is beautiful from either side."
The Embroiderer

Targas was a lumber town, and the man who owned the mills was named Frank Barnessy. Frank was a great big bull of a man, used to getting his way. When Frank's youngest son, Chip, chose Sara Caine to be his bride, Frank thundered that no expense would be spared. It was decided that the wedding invitations should be hand-stitched in needlepoint and one name rose to the top of a very short list.

At first The Embroiderer refused and slid the paper door shut in Frank's face. But Frank put his fist through it, dragged The Embroiderer out and threw him off a mid-sized cliff.

"I was not expecting," The Embroiderer murmured, from his crumpled repose, after Frank jogged the long way around and joined him on the rocky shore. "To be thrown off a mid-sided cliff today."
"Sorry 'bout that." Frank said, helping him to his feet. "I'm just not used to people refusing me."
It would be hours before Frank realized he had become only the fourth person in town to have ever heard The Embroiderer speak.
"Come on." Frank said, draping his arm around him. "Let's go back to your house to discuss the price for embroidered wedding invitations. That way I won't have to throw you off the cliff again."
"Fair enough." The Embroiderer whispered and Frank helped him up the trail.

"Fingertips that have turned to iron from the stab of a million needles, come in pretty handy when you accidentally grab something you didn't know was hot."
The Embroiderer

"What the hell is that?!" Frank asked, peering at something hanging in shadow along the back wall. The Embroiderer followed his gaze but remained silent as was his way.
"Is that..." Frank stood and took a few steps forward, then stopped and shot a very dark look over his shoulder at The Embroiderer.
"Is that Sara Caine, my son's bride-to-be?"
The trace of a sad smile trickled across The Embroiderer's face.
"It is, isn't it?!!!" Frank demanded. The Embroiderer blew on his tea. Frank trembled with rage, yet unsure of its release, but then he gasped a moment later when the sun broke free of the clouds and splashed the portrait with a shaft of light.

It was a magnificent work, subtly shaded and alive. No charcoal, watercolor or oil has ever captured the female form quite like The Embroiderer's thread. Even Frank was moved, and he was not a man prone to such.

"She's younger." Frank breathed, brushing the cloth with the back of his hand. "And wears a look I've never seen on her." Then the cloud patched the hole in itself and the room was cast in shadow again. As if on cue, Frank snorted dangerously and strode for the door.
"When I tell Chip about that portrait he's gonna rip out your heart with your own goddamn needles."
The Embroiderer laughed and it rang strange, like a sound seldom attempted.

"Mine is an art that does not demand blood to do it well; it bloody well demands so much more."
The Embroiderer

"I'll do the invitations for free." The Embroiderer murmured. And angry as Frank was, the lure of a bargain steadied him.
"For free?"
"On one condition."
"What's that?"
"You send Sara to pick them up alone."
"That's quite a condition."
The Embroiderer shrugged and stirred his tea. Frank stalled for a bit, but his decision had been made the instant it was offered, for something lurks deep within the wealthy that won't let them pass up such savings.

"Done!" Frank bellowed and lumbered across the room to shake The Embroiderer's hand. "But I don't know what you expect to come of it. She'd never leave Chip for you and even if she tried, my sons and I would kill you both."
The Embroiderer ignored him.
"So what?" Frank blustered. "You're gonna show her the portrait and hope that brings meaning to your wasted life?"
The Embroiderer smiled at him, and for just an instant Frank was afraid.
"If you really must know, Frank, I'm going to show Sara how to use a needle to kill you and your sons as you sleep."

"Every blank cloth represents purity. Then entrails of thread are stabbed through its woven soul. Fibers scream if you listen."
The Embroiderer

"That was a joke Frank," The Embroiderer chuckled. "To get you back for throwing me off a cliff."
Frank set the hammer down.
"Well sure." He grumbled. "I knew that."
"I know you did Frank. I mean, after all, you're a great big bull of a man and I'm just an Embroiderer."
Frank laughed hard and started clapping his massive hands. "That's true, so true."
"Send Sara by tomorrow Frank, just before sunset."
"You got it Embroiderer."

Frank walked away from the house, still laughing as he went. The Embroiderer reached for a needle and a stone and started scraping the former across.

"Needles were born to pass through things and don't care what they drag along. Thread was born to stay behind. They each do their job so well."
The Embroiderer


At 6:40 AM, Blogger Mary Lewys said...

That was beautiful.

At 6:42 AM, Blogger Helga von porno said...

The meaning eludes me. Is there more?

At 7:30 AM, Blogger slarrow said...

Beautiful, hell. That was bloody spooky.

It's always the quiet ones you have to watch out for.

At 9:10 AM, Blogger Monkeypotpie said...

An excellent story. I like a man that takes a verb for his name.

At 10:14 AM, Blogger Lightning Bug's Butt said...

Ah, man. That was deep. Macabre quality to it and all. Beautifully written, too.

At 10:46 AM, Blogger Ethan Greer said...

I really enjoyed this.

Just one problem: "Embroider" is a verb. The word I think you wanted is "embroiderer," i.e. one who embroiders.

At 11:42 AM, Blogger Latigo Flint said...

Thanks Ethan Greer. It was real late and, um...

You know, that's it!!! I am definitely firing my good-for-nothing editor...

(Okay, I'm an idiot actually. Good to know you've got my back.)

At 12:07 PM, Blogger Berlinbound said...

You can never fully trust a man of the cloth ... or the thread for that matter. Great opening act LF ...

At 1:15 PM, Blogger tabitha jane said...

what happens next???

At 1:46 PM, Blogger Peter said...

I hope there is more to come Latigo and it's not just your macabre sense of humor danglin' us up there.

At 2:30 PM, Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

Finishing up:

"That's me, isn't it?" asked Sara.

"Yep," says the Embroiderer.

"Bully," says Sara. "See ya."

"Bye," he says.

At 4:49 PM, Anonymous Sara said...

Gosh. Did not realise my far reaching inspirational excesses. x.

At 6:59 PM, Anonymous Fallen_Ranger said...

God damn I'm going to be depressed all day. And not just from the story but the quality of writing and how much further I have to go to get there.

Bloody fantastic stuff!

At 5:45 AM, Blogger hen said...

Ahh latigo - you are pure gold.

So is that the mystery - no one knows what happened next?

At 11:16 AM, Blogger Sharon said...

Men named Frank are always used to getting their way.

Impressive tale. I was spellbound.

At 2:30 AM, Blogger Latigo Flint said...

Thank you Mary Lewys.

But there's always more, isn't there Helga Von Porno?

I adore you for saying that Slarrow.

Me too usually Monkeypotpie, but not always... Chip, for instance.

Thanks LBB, all insanity aside, that means a lot to me.

Well, now you're reading things into it I never saw Berlinbound... how magnificent! I guess just leave things open ended enough, right?

Do you have to ask Tabitha Jane? How long have we been friends? (More likely than not someone gets rabies and dies.)

There's always more to come Peter... it's just rarely what we expect.

Beautiful Old Hoss. (It's what goes unsaid that truly makes it.)

And I take that to mean, Sara, that your last name is Caine? Are you single? Would you like not to be?

I'm humbled Fallen Ranger, you're too kind to me and too cruel to yourself.

Oh, I don't know Hen, probably. I mean, honestly now, everyone just read over a thousand words about an Embroiderer... how many more could anyone stand?

Thank you Sharon, that means a lot to me.


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