(Copyright 2016 Susabelle Kelmer. All rights reserved.)
They say the Yarn Barn over in Mossville is an enchanted place. I think it’s a rather unenchanting place, myself, but then, I work there. Enchanting is full of princesses and ponies and everyone is happy and pretty and no one ever says a bad word. But when you work at a place, even a place like the Yarn Barn, you know its ugly backside.
And the Yarn Barn’s ugly backside is one Henrietta Jackson, owner and proprietor. Henrietta is older than dirt, but looks like she’s twenty five and drives a convertible. Some say she had herself dipped in formaldehyde before she turned 30, so she’d never get any older. I just think she’s a witch whose fountain of youth is over at the ‘Do or Dye Hair Salon, where Tammy, Amy, and the girls can make anyone look like someone they’re not. I’ve never been in the ‘Do or Dye, but I’ve heard the stories. Plenty of my high school classmates went there to get their hair done up for prom, and I’ve seen those pictures. None of them looked like themselves.
Makes me wonder what Henrietta Jackson would look like if she wasn’t going over to the ‘Do or Dye twice a week to get herself done up. As it was she had dandelion-yellow hair with chunks of purple and blue highlights that I’m sure she thought looked quite natural. And that was nothing compared to the time she showed up at the Yarn Barn with a beehive about ten feet tall, in a cobalt blue with a white streak up the front that looked like a giant spark coming off her forehead. It made me wonder what color her hair really was if you took off all the yellow and purple and blue. But the weirdest thing about Henrietta Jackson was what she wore. I’ve been working at the Yarn Barn for fifteen years, and every time I see her, she’s wearing plaid. She’s got plaid skirts and shorts and skorts and pants, and plaid jackets and shirts and scarves. She even has plaid shoes. I don’t know where you buy plaid shoes, but she has them.
And if she had plaid clothes and shoes, did she have a plaid house? I’d seen her house, it was over on Maple street, painted as yellow as her dandelion-yellow hair, with a blood-red door that made the house look like it was sticking out its tongue. The outside certainly wasn’t plaid. But the inside, maybe. There might have been a plaid couch and a plaid chair and plaid placemats on the table, and the refrigerator had to be plaid if the placemats were plaid. It would look ridiculous otherwise. And the bathroom had to be plaid, too, because how could the rest of the house be plaid and not the bathroom? Did they even sell plaid bathtubs?
Maybe there’s a store where all they sell is things made of plaid. All plaids of the rainbow, organized by main color, blue on one side, yellow on the other, green in the middle, red and purple on the corners, something like that. I could picture it, like an OCD dream.
Not that I knew anything about OCD, just because I was diagnosed when I was 11 years old. Mom said I had a preoccupation with colors and having them organized just so, because the greens couldn’t touch the reds. I just thought colors looked better separated, and I like rainbows. The doctor said I had OCD, just because my mother told him that I put all my clothes away in order of color, just like the rainbow. And I like to eat my food by color too. You can’t eat carrots before you eat mashed potatoes. Everyone knows white comes before orange.
In fact, it was easiest to eat when everything was the same color. Like all white food on Mondays, and red foods on Tuesdays. Much easier that way, no thinking about what order to eat the food in. I like orange day best, because it meant I could eat one white food with my orange food, just to mix it up. That’s because I can have Orange Roughie on orange day, even though it’s not orange and it’s not rough, it’s just fish. But it’s still orange, on account of its name. And besides, I like fish.
I like working at the Yarn Barn because it is organized by colors, too. In the corner where the fake flowers are, they are sorted by color, and put in bins all in a row. When I first started working at the Yarn Barn, Henrietta Jackson put me in charge of organizing. And I looked at that row of flowers, with the yellow flowers mixed in with the purple flowers, tainting my rainbow, and almost passed out. I didn’t do anything for three hours but put those flowers where they belonged, with the purples never touching the yellows. Everyone knows yellow isn’t next to purple! When I was finished with the flowers, I did the yarn, and the fabric, and then all the trims for the fabric. The next day I did the entire row of beads, which was easy except for those big mixed bags where they put all the colors in the same bag and shake ‘em up. It hurts my eyes to look at them, so I stay out of the bead row whenever I can. It’s almost worse than looking at clowns, with their costumes that don’t match anything and big red lips and orange hair.
Up at my checkout register I have all my notes on my bulletin board put up with clear plastic thumbtacks. Clear isn’t a color, so it doesn’t hurt to look at it, and when it gets mixed up with other things, it doesn’t hurt my eyes. I like clear, except for clothes. Because there are just some things you don’t want to see, you know? And I don’t like my clear backpack, either, the one that shows all my necessaries when I come to work. But Henrietta Jackson says no one can steal anything if they have a clear bag, so I carry my plastic backpack and hope no one notices that there are tampons in there the week I’m on my period.
This week at the Yarn Barn is our Christmas in July sale. Me and Henry Oaks had to go in the back and drag out all the board games and Christmas decorations and put them up in the window. Henry Oaks never wears plaid, thank goodness. Henry’s smart, he’s going to college and likes read me poetry. Sometimes I think about what it would be like to be married to smart Henry, but then I remember he uses big words I don’t understand, and it makes me mad. He said one time that Henrietta Jackson was “flippant,” which I thought was some sort of fish, but it turns out it’s an attitude. The way he said it made me sure I don’t ever want to be called flippant, so I am careful around Henry, because I like him and I want him to like me. He likes to say “someday all these naysayers will be sorry they doubted me.” I have no idea what that means, but he says it when he’s angry after school. And one day when I was mashing boxes out back, he said “what’s the clamor,” and I told him I didn’t have any shellfish, because you don’t eat shellfish unless it’s a Friday. The priest said so. He told me he thought I was maybe the funniest person he ever met, which made me giggle but I was totally serious about the clam thing anyway.
Henry said we should play Candyland at lunch. That was after we stacked up about a hundred Candyland games on the table. I’d rather play Operation, because I like the little plastic bones that don’t look anything like real bones, so they aren’t creepy at all. I know, I’ve seen real bones. When the hawk ate the bunny in the back yard when I was a kid, it left the bones and the fur, and it was the creepiest thing I ever saw. Our dog Blackie was barking and barking on the patio, but the hawk acted like he didn’t care at all. He just kept eating that bunny.
But Henrietta Jackson sashayed out in her plaid skirt and suit jacket with plaid pumps and told Henry Oaks and I to stop piddling around and get done with the Christmas in July stuff, that the bead shelves needed to be organized again, and to bring the red and green beads up front and put them by the window. I wish she hadn’t said that. I hate that bead row. It never does look right, and it hurts my eyes to look at it.