Colors of Hope

Angela Maracle has mentored young people and passed on the art of dance for over thirty years. She owns a studio in Ontario, Canada, and has also taught in Campo Mourao, Brazil. She traveled to post-revolution Romania in 1990 to adopt one of Ceausescu’s forgotten children, and has two younger boys, eight and ten. She enjoys sewing, painting and crafting, but her lifelong passion is writing. She recently had two pieces published in Microfiction Monday, and won second place in the flash fiction Chest Writing Contest sponsored by author Mike C. Paulus.

 

 

Colors Of Hope

Except for the weather, nothing changed on Greta’s street. Sepia-bricked buildings stood crumbling day to day; sidewalk cracks spread in tedious patterns.

Most mornings she turned left at the corner store and walked to high school, others she turned right and did aimless things.

Because there were no colors in her neighborhood…only dying grey walkways and brown apartments…the ball of green yarn in her path today gleamed like an emerald in a sewer. She approached tentatively and peered down at its woolen strangeness. One end lifted up and away to a third floor window, invisibly secured beyond the frame. Probably knocked outside by a playful cat. She picked it up, digging her fingers into the softness.

“Hey! You dropped your yarn.”

A bicyclist steered around her, then glanced back. No one appeared at the window.

“Hello? Did you drop some yarn?” She gave it an experimental tug, but instead of revealing an end it pulled taut.

She was reluctant to put it back on the sidewalk. It was so pretty, so warm, its fibers sparkling in the morning sun.

With a last glance upward, she continued on, gently feeding out the string. It caressed her fingers as it unraveled, and she turned to track its progress behind her. Squinting into the glare she barely made out its arc to the open window. She walked backwards for a while, ignoring curious stares.

At the corner, the ball was still quite large. Without thinking, she pressed it to her face and inhaled its undetermined nostalgia. Mac looked up at her from the pavement, his expression unreadable beneath his battered hat.

“What the hell is that?” He propped himself up on one elbow and shook off his blanket.

“Yarn. I found it on the sidewalk.”

“What’s it tied to?”

“Don’t know. It fell out a window.”

“It’s so green.”

She turned right and moved past him, pulling the yarn against the vacant tailor-shop’s rough bricks. Mac reached up and twanged it with his finger.

“Just leave it.”

Two doors down, a disheveled young boy occupied a door stoop. A sign in the window beside him read “For Rent. Inquire With-In.” He dropped the stick he was scraping against the wall and jumped up.

“Whatcha’ doing?”

“Unravelling yarn.”

“Why?’

“Just because.”

“I’m going to see where it comes from.” He sprinted past her, his bare feet spraying up dust.

“Don’t touch it!” she called. The window’s reflection surprised her; the yarns intensely vibrant green.

A woman across the street set down two garbage bags and stared at her. Greta held up the yarn like an exquisite treasure.

She passed the dingy bakery and the darkened beauty salon. The yarn diminished quickly and she slowed her pace.

Pilk and Doug rested on the bench ahead, cigarette smoke thickening the air between their heads.  She wound out the yarn to its end and tied it around her finger.

Pilk turned and waved. “Skipping school again today?”

“Kind of.” She strolled up and leaned against a rusted garbage can.

“What’s that you got there?”

“It’s yarn. I found it by my apartment. Look how far it reached.”

Doug leaned back to inspect her hand. “What’s the other end tied to?”

“I don’t know. It fell out a window I guess.”

“Someone’s going to be reeling it in. Reel you right back where you got it, right through their window, and then they’re gonna kill you. It’s a trap.”

Pilk punched him in the shoulder. “Don’t be stupid. It’d break first.”

Greta laughed. “I’ll be careful. See you later.” She slipped the knot off her finger and started back the way she had come, slowing rewinding the ball.

Mac was still awake. He lay flat out on his blanket rubbing the line of yarn above him with the palm of one hand.

“A single blade of grass,” he said as she neared him.

“I’m sorry to take it away.”

Winding, winding, she rounded the corner. A faded yellow cat stood on its hind paws batting at the yarn. Before she could get too close it scampered into an alley. The little boy from the door stoop ran toward her, grinning.

“I followed it all the way,” he said breathlessly. “It goes up to a window.”

“I know. “

“I pulled on it, but nothing happened.”

“I’m going to put it back where I found it.” She dug in her pocket and pulled out two quarters. They were no good to her, but would buy him a Popsicle. “Here.”

He groped the money from her hand. “What’s this for?”

“Not touching it. Leave it alone.” She spun the yarn around and around until it was back to its original size and set it on the sidewalk where she’d found it.

##

Greta skirted around her older sister sleeping on the floor, fumbled open the apartment door and stepped into the hall. No point in waking her up, it wasn’t like she had a job to go to. She hurried down stairs and out into the brilliant morning.  Would it still be there? It was, and a larger ball of yarn rested beside it. This one was pink like a tropical flamingo, pink like cotton candy at the fair or nail polish in the drugstore window.

She rushed to it, surprised no one else had found it first. Or maybe no one cared. But how could anyone pass it by…the only bright paint on a drab and dying canvas?

“Hey!” she called up to the window. Something on the other side held the end in its secret grip. Something or somebody. She picked up the yarn and tossed it in the air like a ball. She should go to school today.

Cradling her prize loosely in her hands she walked to the corner. Mac sat on his blanket, wide awake. The little boy from yesterday played with some pebbles beside him.

‘There she is.”

“It’s pink today,” she said, smiling.

Mac pushed his dirty hat off his forehead. “I’ll be damned. What does it mean? “
“I don’t know. It’s falling out a window. Or someone’s throwing it out. But the end is attached to something.”

The boy leapt to his feet. “Let me see.” He rubbed the rosy strand between his thumb and finger. “Cool.”

“I’m taking it to school today. Well, at least as far as it will reach.”

“I wish I had some.”

“The green one’s still there.”

The boy took off, arms pumping. “Thanks,” he called back over his shoulder.

Greta crossed the street, reluctantly, because it meant the yarn would become a victim of passing cars. She didn’t care if it got soiled, but she didn’t want it to break. It ran out just as she reached the school. She was late, and there was no one to ask her what she was doing so she sat on the front steps and tickled her arm with the end of the strand. She hated to just leave it there.

##

After school there was no trace of the yarn until she was almost home. The telephone pole outside her building boasted a colorful ensemble of interwoven woolen fibers. Pinks and greens wrapped around the splintered wood in gleeful abandon, and she plucked at the design, amazed. Whoever did the art must have cut the yarn, or pulled it until it snapped….there was no trail leading back to the building down the street.

Her sister appeared at their second floor window, tangled hair tumbling over the sill. ‘What is that?”

“I don’t know. It’s pretty.”

##

The next day there was a yellow yarn ball. Pilk and Doug waited at the corner with Mac and the little boy to see it. Greta handed it to them and went to school. On her way home she saw traces of it everywhere…festooning Mac’s hat brim, shaped into child-like pictures on the sidewalk, dangling from an old shop sign like a fancy banner.

##

The next day was blue. A deep, ocean-in-the-dust blue. It was a good day for skipping school and everyone had plenty of ideas for the yarn. Pilk said his wife could knit a dishcloth with it, but Doug told him not to be selfish and recommended winding a bit around the slats of their bench to give it a touch of class. Mac taught them all Cat’s Cradle, and the little boy, whose name was Kenny, made a fantastic hopscotch grid outside the deserted beauty shop.

##

Greta couldn’t wait to see what color the yarn would be this morning. She would go look first, then come back and get ready for school. She bounced down the front steps and squinted up the street. Nothing. Her stomach twisted in disappointment. Someone else had found it first. It had gotten too popular too soon. Still, she walked on, and saw that there was something up ahead after all, but nothing big, nothing colorful.  It was a humble ball of grey wool, camouflaged with the ancient cement.

She followed its path to the third floor window. Why was someone throwing yarn out a window every day? For a while she had forgotten to wonder. This drab little bundle was so inconsistent with its rainbow predecessors; she didn’t pick it up.

Her faded slippers slapped the walk. She let herself into the apartment building’s front door. A row of broken mail boxes hung on the left, and a narrow staircase crept up to the next floor. She climbed to the first landing, then the second, and stood in the third floor hallway. The yarn window would be in the first apartment on the right,

What would she say if someone answered the door? She was just in her pajamas. She shivered in the sunless corridor and knocked. Waited…waited. A roach scuttled over her foot and she shook it off…knocked again.

“Hello? “

Not a sound. What if yarn was tumbling from an empty apartment every day, like a ghostly message? She turned the handle and the door opened noiselessly.

‘Hello? Is anyone home? “

Inching the door wider, she peeked inside. Directly across the room was the yarn window, and on the floor beneath it lay an old lady.

“Oh my God”. She burst in, stumbling past furniture. The woman clutched a tiny skein of brown wool in one hand, her other stretched toward an overturned basket. A pair of knitting needles crisscrossed haphazardly on the cracked linoleum.

“Are you okay?” She knelt down, staring into the old ladies wizened face for a sign of life, but her eyes fixated unblinkingly on the ceiling. Tied around the radiator legs under the window were remnants of colored wool….green, pink, yellow, blue and grey.

All the beauty, the conversation and games….all the art….it had been a signal for help. She had used the brightest colors first. Day after day she had lain here waiting but no one had come. Greta put a hand on the windowsill and stood with unsteady legs. She would call 911. Someone had died while she had been living….simple pleasures had been stolen from someone’s only hope.

She found the phone and told the dispatcher where she was and what was wrong, then lowered herself to the floor, tears falling on the still, wrinkled face. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.” She gently pried the ball of yarn from the woman’s fingers and slipped it in her pocket.
THE END

 

 

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One Response to “Colors of Hope”

  1. Defenestrationism » Blog Archive » 2014 !Short Story Contest! Finalists Says:

    […] Colors of Hope by Angela Maracle […]

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