Keepsake

The occasional click of needles and snip of scissors filled the silence. The circle of crafters worked away at their projects, pastel baby blankets and muted sweaters swung from their skilled hands. A clock ticked along on the wall and a small lump slept in a pet bed beneath the table. Most of the group members were women in their late 50’s or early 60’s. It was their escape from sitting alone in their homes all day. One member, however, stuck out like a sore thumb.

Jeremy sat within the circle untangling a knot from his skein of yarn. Strands of lime green covered his lap, and his frustrated expression made Marion, the woman sitting next to him, giggle. He stared intently at a small knot gathering 4 different strands of yarn together. His large fingers picked at it to no avail.

“Would you like some help there?” Marion asked.

“Actually, yeah. That would be great” Jeremy replied with a dejected sigh. In a matter of seconds, Marion had the knot untied and handed the skein, wrapped back up into its oblong shape, to Jeremy.

“Thanks, Marion, I owe you one” he smiled.

“Oh dear, don’t worry about it, we’ve all been there.” Some of the women looked up from their projects to nod in agreement. Jeremy stared down at his lumpy skein and let out another sigh. It was his first day in this group, and he was already feeling overwhelmed. Pushing past his insecurities, he grabbed his crochet hook and started a foundation chain.

Before long, Jeremy had a few rows finished to what he eventually decided would become a scarf. He’d skipped some stitches here and there, but for his first attempt after learning the basics, he felt confident. It had been some time since anyone had spoken and the clock’s ticking sounded as if it was getting gradually louder.

“So what does everyone do for their day job?” he eventually asked. Most of the women chuckled a bit and commented that they were retired, some rolled their eyes and remained silent.

“I own an antique shop I run out of this house.” Marion chimed in with a smile. The small room was filled with various oddities like old carved candles, lace doilies, and knick-knacks lining all of the shelves. In fact, the clock that had been ticking away so loudly was an ornate cuckoo clock with three swinging pendulums.

“I keep all of the best things in here,” Marion said, noting Jeremy’s awestruck expression.

“I love antiques! My husband and I have a whole room devoted to our favorite finds as well. What’s your favorite keepsake?” he asked, eyeing a crumbling Greek statue in the corner of the room. Most of the women stopped what they were doing and stared at Marion. Even those that didn’t stop swallowed hard and shifted in their seats. A few eyes darted to the pet bed under the table.

“Oh, um…” she started, her eyes searching the room. “That statue is a recreation of the original Pygmalion. It’s gorgeous and I’ve always held it near and dear to my heart.” As she spoke, her voice quivered and she seemed nervous. “Well, it’s about that time everyone, I’ll see you next Saturday” was her next sentence.

Marion ignored Jeremy when he tried to ask if she was alright. He packed his things and left the room, unsure what to do with her sudden shift in attitude. Marion shut two wooden doors behind him as he left the crafting room. Rather than follow the group out of the main entrance, Jeremy stayed back a bit and stared at some of the antique paintings on the walls. He wanted to apologize to Marion if he’d made her uncomfortable. He sometimes lets slip that he has a husband and forgets who he’s talking to. Unsure if he should leave the group, he thought it best to ask her personally.

While the ceilings of the small house were only a foot or two above Jeremy’s head, the tall paintings and ornate vases made the home seem bigger. His nerves about joining a crafting club had apparently overtaken his mind and he hadn’t seen any of this when he’d arrived. He wandered around a bit, making sure everyone had gone before knocking on the craft room door. Before he did, however, he heard Marion speaking.

“Samuel, wake up dear. Everyone is gone. It’s time for your walk, love.” Another voice responded it was clearly a child.

“Mama, can we go to the park?”

“Of course, dear,” Marion said, a smile apparent in her voice. At this, an excited yipping and barking could be heard. Jeremy’s face grew concerned, but he knocked anyway. After a moment or two and some shuffling behind the door, it opened a few inches, Marion’s face and body pressed up against the opening.

“Oh Jeremy, is everything alright?”

“Yes ma’am, I just wanted to apologize for making you uncomfortable. You see-”

“You didn’t, I’ll see you next Saturday?” She interrupted and started closing the door. Just then, a face peeked out from between Marion’s legs.

“Who’s this, mama? Can he come to the park too?”

Jeremy couldn’t believe what he was seeing. A small child-shaped creature squatted down behind Marion’s legs. While all Jeremy could see was his face, it was very clearly the face of a dog. A snout stuck out from a furry face with bulbous eyes and a wet black nose. Short brown and white patched fur covered pointed ears and his face, a small tongue hung out of a drooling mouth. A paw reached out from behind Marion’s leg in an attempt to get closer to and meet this new stranger.

“I…” Jeremy started, taking a step backwards “I have to get back home.”

“Jeremy please don’t go. I can explain.” Marion nearly shouted, her voice breaking and anxious. Jeremy continued to step backwards with a horrified expression on his face. He turned and ran towards the main entrance, panicked and breathing heavily. From behind he could hear the large wooden doors swing open and a growling noise. Jeremy sprinted through the door, out onto the front lawn. The creature followed him on all four legs, a t-shirt, and jeans clinging to his small frame. Jeremy made it to the other side of the street, but before the thing could follow, the shock collar around its neck stopped it short. As Jeremy continued down the street, he could hear Marion and a young child screaming for him never to return.


Last Week’s Story: Suckers

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