At Knit One, Purl Two, Madame Lafarge stepped back to admire the oil painting of the tricoteuse that stretched the width of her small shop. Satisfied, she sighed. It said everything she wanted it to say. She had replaced the painting purchased on impulse, Penelope Knitting—she’d wait for no man—with this. Her shop of yarn, whole now, aligned with a destiny, a fate, no longer misaligned or marred by a dropped stitch in the afghan of women’s domination. She’d not dismantle all that women had accomplished amidst the sea of eternal and unrelenting suiters. She’d had to defend herself from the breakers of men who besieged her small strip mall Bastille. The developer, the loan officer, the town safety inspector, the list of males went on ad nauseam, had plagued her. In response, she spent the past three loan payments on the painting, and now the bank threatened her assets and her title. Everything would work out. She said, “You right the world when you right the mind.” Agency felt electric, like a jolt from a Luigi Galvani experiment.
The cloistered old doyennes of the King’s Quarters Apartment Complex, her dependable army of patrons, must have slept in this morning. No one dug among the bins of skeins. Not a soul pulled needles, stitch holders, or crochet hooks from the wall displays. The shop was quiet, oh so quiet. So, she rifled beneath the cash register counter, and pulled out the large cardboard box stowed there, opened it, and drew out her masterwork. She laid it in its full glory on the countertop and worked her needles. This outdid Remedios Varo, she gloated. Those two dark figures, male, reigned their terror. They enslaved women (who looked as one to them), who wove the mantle of the world. Yarn spewed from smoking caldrons, while women bent to their control. In Varo’s painting, one had to remind one’s self that yes, this was a world created by women. Women gave birth. Women created life. Not the men who mixed ineffectual potions and misread spells from little black books. Men might tell men they dominated, they molded the future, but Madame Lafarge knew the self-deception and the lie of men. Women, and women only, work the looms. Blind men saw not what women wove with their delicate feet upon the pedals, and their liquid hands to guide the shuttle.
So, when Hephaestus Mountebank, the loan officer, opened the shop door, setting off the bell suspended by its bent metal bracket, she nearly burst through the top of her skull, torn from her reverie of this world created by women. Hephaestus Mountebank reached high in stature. Skin hung tight and lean against his frame. Give or take an effeminate gesture or two, Hephaestus Mountebank was a man who, in fact, looked as much like a knitting needle as a man could. The ambiguity in his stride set Madame Lafarge to wonder: in how much self-deception did women engage? Before she could open her mouth, she asked herself, why would a loan officer come to her place of business? For certain, he didn't look for a skein or needle. He said:
“Lafarge, we need our payments.” She shifted her gaze from the snake-like Hephaestus Mountebank up to the tricoteuse.
“Oh! Mr. Mountebank. How you unnerve me,” she said.
“If we could settle this.” Hephaestus Mountebank followed her gaze. “A monstrous assault on the senses! Hideous!” He pointed his arm: a vibrating arrow at the bull’s eye. Three matronly figures knit in front of guillotines.
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“What I understand, Madame, is you have money for that—my God, it’s loathsome—but none for National Savings and Loan.”
“Well, Mr. Mountebank, one must maintain one’s interests.”
“It’s obvious you know nothing about interest, (nor art),” he added under his breath, “since you have yet to pay a cent. You mock the sacred bond between lender and lendee.”
“No, Mr. Mountebank, it is you who knows nothing about interest or fidelity.”
“You speak nonsense. I have come here as a courtesy. I come in person to insist you pay what you owe. Plus interest! And now, one month’s advance! To be remitted at once, or National Savings and Loan will shutter this business!”
Madame Lafarge became a set of Venetian blinds closing down, closing out light, composing herself.
“As you lay out this ultimatum, Mr. Mountebank, you engage the terms of war.”