The Knot in the Blanket

February 24, 2011
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It was a typical night. Ethel isolated herself outside on the porch, while Walter lay on the couch inside. She rocked back and forth in her chair and knitted a blanket. The door to their farmhouse was open, and she could hear Walter’s drone of snores echoing every squeak that the old wooden chair made.

Suddenly, the snoring stopped, and Walter got up from the couch. Ethel could hear his footsteps coming closer, until he was standing right next to her. His expression was lethargic. He looked tired yet seemed to be waiting for something. Ethel continued to knit, ignoring his presence. Walter leaned against the banister of the porch, facing Ethel, and crossed his arms. The air was brisk, and it carried a chill down Walter’s spine.

“There’s a knot,” Walter said bluntly, criticizing the blanket. This did not seem to faze Ethel, for she continued to knit her blanket. “Right there.” He pointed to the flawed section. Slowly, Ethel put her hands in her lap and looked up at him.

“Nothing can be perfect, Walter,” she calmly replied.

“Why don’t you fix it?”

“It’s too late now.” Ethel went back to her knitting. Walter turned around and looked out into the night sky.

“You’re right. It is too late,” He looked over his shoulder at Ethel. “Everything’s too late to you,” he hissed.

“It’s almost done, Walter. There’s no reason to go back and fix it.”

“I’m not talking about the blanket.”

“Neither am I.”

There was a long silence in which the two of them stared at each other. Walter’s look was hard and stern, while Ethel seemed indifferent. She was surprised by his confrontation, nonetheless.

“Well,” Walter began, trying to break the silence, “if you spent as much time talking to me as you did knitting, this wouldn’t be happening.”

Ethel was thoroughly confused; Walter was never one to complain, and that was something she admired about him. He was the quiet type who walked around listlessly, not knowing what to do. He hadn’t always been like that. It developed with age. Their adventurous days were long gone, which was understandable, considering they were over ninety years old. Now, their passion was faded, and the fire that once blazed was put out.

Ethel knew it was her fault. She could barely hold her head up to look at Walter. The complete transformation of his attitude deeply affected her. They always used to feel each other’s emotions so easily. They were victims of love’s intuitiveness. Every day seemed to create a stronger pull, but they lost each other somewhere down the road.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Walter asked forcefully. “You never said anything. I didn’t even know.” His voice started to shake. All this time, Ethel thought he resented her. She thought he would never forgive her for everything she put him through. But tonight, it became clear: He blamed himself.

Walter walked over and sat next to her, grabbing her hands. “I could have helped you,” he told her. “We could have fixed it.” Tears were starting to form in his eyes, and Ethel noticed them under the porch light. She was being flooded with a tsunami of emotions, most of which haven’t surfaced in a long time. The thought of leaving Walter hurt her. She was ready to go, but she now knew that he was not ready to let go of her.

Ethel sat there, remembering all the days that she tried to cover up the symptoms. It seemed easy to go about her normal day when they barely spoke to each other as it was. Walter was never there to witness the signs that Ethel knew were there. It took about seven months for him to realize the weight falling off of her and the life being sucked from her face. He was furious that she hadn’t told him, and their relationship had gotten even worse. It was only this very night that Walter was finally comforting her and showing he cared.

Despite the laconic exchange, there was enough meaning to make Ethel show the preponderance of emotion that had been bottled up for months. She could feel the intensity of his despairing eyes on hers, and she knew that he could feel the agony that surrounded her withered face. The connection was still there.

The night was getting colder, and Ethel was starting to shiver.

“You’re cold,” Walter noticed. He looked at the ball of yarn in her lap. “Your blanket is practically finished. Why don’t you cut the string now so you can put it on?”

“A blanket with a knot and cut off too soon!” Ethel said sarcastically. Even through all the seriousness, she still had her sense of humor.

“It’s perfect,” he told her. He watched as his wife cut the yarn on the blanket and tied it together. He took her arms, helping her up, and wrapped the blanket around her. It was the first sign of support he had shown.

“Let me take care of you,” he said lovingly. And for the first time in over a year, Walter put his arms around Ethel and walked her to their bedroom, where she fell asleep with the knotted blanket and never woke up.





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