Mrs. Timbly's Knitting Time
Maybe we create our own enemies, Karen thought, glancing through the blinds at the old woman sitting on the porch across the street. “Although I have no idea what I did to offend her,” she muttered, dropping the wooden slat back into its stringed organization.
She stepped into the kitchen, poured a cup of coffee, and sipped, unsettled by her neighbor suddenly ignoring her, and wondering why it disturbed her so much. It wasn’t as though she and Mrs. Timbly were best friends, but they had always been on speaking terms, and had shared many a glass of iced tea or coffee on the old lady’s front porch as they discussed the news - while the woman knitted or crocheted - the news of the neighborhood and the news of the world.
Karen carried her cup into the living room, glancing at the crocheted blanket in vibrant pinks, purples, and yellows thrown on the back of the couch, a Christmas present from Mrs. Timbly, and felt the oppressive confusion intensify. “What did I do?” she asked softly, walking back to the window and looking out again.
Mrs. Timbly weaved the bits of metal through the yarn, staring off at the street as the little black dog sat at her feet. The dog was old and blind, and Mrs. Timbly always declared she had no idea how old he was, and laughed, saying she was sure she had always had him. Of course, the old woman also claimed not to know her own age, but often spoke lovingly about the 1940s. She was a heavy-set woman, with a tight knot of gray hair secured tightly on the top of her head, and always favored cotton dresses over pants or shorts. She wore thick-soled leather shoes with a Velcro strap, and kept her hose rolled down just above her ankles.
Karen sighed again and dropped the blind back in place, turning to her bedroom and the unpacking that she hadn’t done since she returned from her trip the day before. She picked up the suitcase, dropping it on the bed, and zipped it open. She took the plastic bag of dirty clothes and dropped it, unopened, in the hamper, and then began removing the rest of the things, folding, hanging, and dealing with the aftermath of being a week away from home.
She reached the bottom of the case and found the bag of yarn and day glow and sparkled knitting and crochet needles she’d bought for her neighbor, and sighed deeply. Usually when she returned from a trip Mrs. Timbly called her over for food, iced tea, and a running commentary of what had happened in the neighborhood in her absence, but yesterday as she stepped from her car, waving at the old lady and saying hello, Mrs. Timbly ignored her, knitting away, and even the old dog hadn’t barked to acknowledge that even though he couldn’t see her, he was glad to hear her. And as Karen had moved her things from the car to the porch, the old woman continued to pretend she didn’t exist.
Karen sat on the side of the bed, the bag of yarn and needles in her hand, and trying not to remember washing her car earlier and the pain of her friend ignoring her. “I’ll just take them to her,” she decided, speaking under her breath. “Even if she doesn’t want to be my friend any longer, I have no use for yarn or needles, and I bought them for her.”
Her mind made, she stood up, finished the cup of coffee, and walked with purpose to the front door. She stepped onto the porch, gazing across the street to see that the woman was no longer in the rocking chair and the dog was gone as well. Did she know I was coming over, the paranoid thought flittered through her mind. She shook her head, even more determined to give Mrs. Timbly the gifts she spent time and thought picking out, and started down the stairs.
She waited as a couple cars passed; looking at the house painted in pale yellow with bright green shutters, and a faded red metal roof, and felt her heart ache to know that this would probably be the last time she stepped on the porch. Tears filled her eyes as she crossed the street, remembering Mrs. Timbly’s wry sense of humor, and forgiveness for the new aged things she didn’t quite understand. “What did I do?” Karen muttered as she stepped in the yard.
She walked up the short stairs, soothed by the familiar creak of the second one, and knocked on the door. Mrs. Timbly didn’t answer, and she knocked again, harder. “Mrs. Timbly, I got that color of yarn you couldn’t find!” she called out and waited. No one answered, and the old dog didn’t even bark. She wiped the tears from her cheeks, dropped the bag in the rocking chair, and walked back across the street. As she stepped onto the curb she heard someone calling her name, she turned and saw Connie and Ralph Andrews heading in her direction. Connie and Ralph were recently retired and spent their days in overflowing gardens around their house, walking their little dogs, and checking in on their elderly neighbors.
“We didn’t know how to get in touch with you,” Connie said breathlessly, stepping into the yard, her husband struggling to keep up. “We just came back from the service.”
“What service?” Karen asked, feeling as though she was missing something.
“Mrs. Timbly, the funeral, the fire….” She trailed off, looking across the street.
Karen turned slowly, feeling her head begin to buzz and swirl, and followed Connie’s gaze. She gasped. The house, Mrs. Timbly’s yellow, green, and red house was a burned out husk. She felt herself falling as little black dots filled her vision. “But…I saw her,” she tried to say before the day turned to night.
Karen woke with several neighbors standing over her, as Connie wiped her brow with a damp handkerchief slowly turning darker as the soot was wiped from her face. “She went quick,” the older woman soothed, using a water bottle to dampen the bit of cloth to reapplied to her face. “They say it was the old gas furnace that blew, we heard the explosion. Everyone did, but there was nothing we could do, the fire was so intense.”
Karen sat up, pushing Connie’s hands away from her face, and saw the white bag of yarn and needles set on what was left of the burned out porch. “But, I saw …”