The Knitting Needles

By
Part One: Fear

It didn’t begin with death.
Or even with knitting.

In fact, it all began in the quiet suburb of Linden Oaks.

Norma and Lawrence McCormick were a nice old couple. They kept to themselves, but that was understandable. Lawrence had his bad leg from all his years ago in the army, and seemed sufficiently sensitive about help from anyone that they were left more or less alone. After all, he at least had Norma Jean. And all Norma wanted was Larry.

What Norma had always hoped for was to find one man to give her love to, and to cook for him, clean for him, and be a good wife.
She seemed to be constantly on the verge of tears. She was a petite woman, and her small chin would always be bobbing slightly, and her mop of silvery curls quivering. She was the very person for whom the word “humble” was created. But Norma, meek as a mouse, always firmly insisted that everything was perfectly all right.

And it was; she loved him with a fierceness and power, so absent from any other aspect of her character, that radiated from her in his presence, and flashed scarlet in her eyes. She feared nothing but losing him, her big old bear of a husband, with his gravelly voice and rough manner. Norma Jean had finally found her match, and she’d fight to keep him.

And what did Lawrence fear?


Lawrence feared Death.


* * *

As Hunter Matthews drove home from another long day at work, he seemed preoccupied. He glanced across Burton Road in the manner of a man who’s seen something before too many times, and is eager to move on.

He was a good man, and he liked helping people. But, as he told his wife, he didn’t become a cop just to be stuck in that same little Pennsylvania town.

Hunter turned off Burton slowly, onto Branch. His day wasn’t over quite yet.


* * *

He is coming.

Yes, my darling.
He is early.

We are ready.
You know what to do.


Somewhere in the back woods, a cat sensed the inevitable and cowered.

* * *

Part Two: Death’s Door

Hunter pulled into the small gravel driveway of the trailer. He always came to check on Miss Norma. Two old folks living alone didn’t want help, but they couldn’t deny a caller for tea. He liked to surreptitiously check their food supplies, and leave a little package some days. He fetched Lawrence’s medicine. He said it was out of politeness. Margaret said he was just too darn nice for his own good.

He rang the ancient and cracking bell. “Evening, Miss Norma!” he called out, then went on inside.

That was odd. She was usually there to greet him and tell him all about her knitting. She was a character, that Miss Norma. A thin little voice wafted through to the living room. “Hunter? Is that you I hear?”

“Yes, Miss Norma. Do you need something?”

“Come quickly. It’s my Larry.”
Hunter, politeness forgotten, shucked his coat and hurried into the next room. Lawrence was on the floor, hands folded across his chest, mummy style. He did not look like he was breathing. “How long has he been like this, Miss Norma?” he asked calmly. She shook, cowered, tried to hide behind herself. “Two days.”

Hunter cursed himself silently. He hadn’t been here yesterday. He should have been. He calmly whipped out his cell phone, and placed a call in to Chip. “Hey, Chip, we have a situation at the McCormick place. Lawrence has been in an apparently comatose state for two days.”

“I’ll get a team down there. How is he?”

“Well, he’s lying flat, and he seems to have been kept warm”

“Great. See you in five.”
And Lawrence had been kept warm. Several small knitted blankets, knitted in many colors, neatly adorned his body like a patchwork quilt. Norma broke into tears. “It’s gonna be alright, Miss Norma,” said Hunter, and pulled her close to wait for the ambulance.

* * *

There was nothing Norma wanted better than to have a good, long cry. But she had to pull herself together. She knew Larry was counting on her. So she stood up, and excused herself. She needed to fetch Oliver.

“Heeeeeeeeeeeere keety keety keety!”

* * *

Is everything ready?

Yes.
Do you have your yarn?

Yes.
So he was finally good for something.

Wretched cat. Never liked the things.
It is time.

* * *
The small hospital room seemed so big to Norma, with Larry lying there so tiny. But he’d be back soon. Oh yes, back soon. She felt in her bag for the yarn. It looked like eyelash yarn, and was the verrigated colors of a marmalade tabby. Oh yes, she was ready.

* * *
Hunter saw the way Norma clutched Lawrence’s hand, heard the monitor beep. He knew when it happened, just as Norma cried out. “Oh Miss Norma,” he said thickly, folding her into a bear hug. “I’m so, so sorry.” Norma went through the motions of hugging him, but he could see she wasn’t all there. As she looked behind him, to a place near the door, her eyes flashed red.

* * *
Part Three: Needles

Norma insisted on taking him herself to bury him. “With his family in New York,” she said, and insisted on going alone. “I’m bringing Larry home.” So Hunter helped her with her bag, and packed her and the former Lawrence into that big old van, and said a semi-tearful goodbye. When Miss Norma made up her mind, there was nothing he could do to stop her.

* * *

In the little cabin in New York, a knife flashed. Moving quickly, bone was exposed, removed, saved.

Norma buried her Larry in the woods, where he would have wanted to be. It was a shallow grave, but it didn’t matter. No one knew about this place. She said what prayers she remembered, and smiled. She sat down on a musty stump, and began to make a new set of knitting needles.


Larry was coming home.

* * *

Hunter drove home more slowly now. It had been a long day. He needed to talk to Margaret, put the day in perspective. His day was immediately brightened, as he saw their black lab puppies, Debbie and Devon, come bouncing through the door to meet him. Hunter adored them, and called them his little girls, his babies. It’s hard to be sad when fifty pounds of puppy love is sitting on your shoes and begging for a scratch behind the ears.

Margaret followed them, laughing. “Hi, honey, how was your day?” she said, giving him a cheerful peck on the cheek. He laughed too. No need to spoil her mood.

* * *
It is time.

Yes.
Do you have everything?

I do.
Begin.

Norma Jean McCormick took out her knitting bag. This was a special project. Singing softly to herself, she began to knit.

* * *

Part Four: Awakening

Norma Jean sat on the stump for an eternity. She tucked a pair of glistening bone needles into her bag. She began the long drive home. It wouldn’t be long now. She needed Larry back.

Be careful what you wish for.

* * *

Hunter told Margaret the news. Her face fell; she seemed to deflate. “Hunt, I’m so sorry. I know you really cared about them.” Hunter gave her a wan smile. “I know he went peacefully, Maggie. I’m just worried about Miss Norma now.” Margaret nodded matter-of-factly. “I’ll make her something.” Hunter grinned. Good old Maggie. Anything can be fixed with some leftovers and cream-of-mushroom soup.

* * *

How much longer…

Soon, love.
Prepare…

Almost ready.
Move QUICKLY.

I am, my darling. I am.
Good. I long for a body again.

* * *

Rocking, rocking, rocking back and forth. Hush, hush. Soon, soon. Click clack needles flying over fur and little bones. Words, words, words coming from soul of darkness. Going to darkness to bring back my love. Weeping, weeping, tears on wet fur. So many tears. Forgotten words. Hush. A shape arises. Soon, soon. Soon. Lalala lalala la. Hmm-hmm-hmm. Humming tune to little baby made of fur. Hush, hush. Soon.

* * *

Norma Jean was in her own little world. The ecstasy! Her Larry had come home! She cradled a small form, hugging it to herself. She said the words learned long ago, whispered them to the small bundle of lifeless flesh. She said her words, and two sets of eyes flashed red.

* * *

Part Five: Together

Norma buckled her Larry into his seat. He must be weak, she thought, after being away so long. Three days. No love. Now, Larry. My Larry. Mine alone. Us, together. Us.

* * *
Is it truly you?
Yes.

I missed you, my love.
I am back now.

Yes. All better.
Need strength. Hungry from my…. journey.
I’m sure I can whip up something.

Something rode back in that car beside Norma, something dark and hungry and real.
But whether or not it was Larry, cannot be said.

* * *
Hunter was walking past Miss Norma’s house. You could say he was just passing by, but in fact the reason he was in the neighborhood at all was to check up on Miss Norma. He saw her hurrying into the house, followed by a marmalade ball of fur. Good, she was still taking care of Oliver. Perhaps that would help her grieve.

The creature turned suddenly, and looked to the trees. Hunter knew he wasn’t visible; he hadn’t wanted to disturb Miss Norma. The cat spat at him. Hunter turned away, and missed the tell-tale flash in the eyes of the un-cat.

* * *

Hush, my love. I get you food. Yes. Yes, I will. I’ll listen to you. Yes, nummy-numm. I—yes. Care. Love. Need you. Hush. Dog food? Ohhh. Dog. FOOD. Yes, hush, hush, my darling, my baby, my life. I will always care for you. I will do what you ask. Yes. And you will always be here. Right here. Yes.

* * *
As the creeping sense of what was coming spread, as the wind teased the message all over town, the older dogs, the ones who knew, started up a howl. It rose and grew, but was abruptly cut off and punctuated by the strange human curses.

On the other side of town, the creature smiled.

This was its kind of place.

Norma Jean got out her big knife and started to make lunch.

* * *





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