In honor of Halloween, I give you the short story “Stitch”:
The old woman sits in her musty smelling sewing room, putting together her son’s costume for the ball. He’ll look quite dapper, she thinks as she smiles. The needle sticks a bit and she tugs gently to pull the thread through the delicate material.
The second floor room is filled with sunlight. No one can look in, therefore the drapes are open wide and the sun streams in uninterrupted. There are dust motes dancing about, as her son will undoubtedly dance tonight at the ball. She smiles as she thinks of him in the tuxedo, dancing with his favorite girl, as the music urges them to continue.
She’s almost done now. She’s been working on this for a while, almost a week. It’s nearly perfect. The final touches will have to wait until he tries it on.
“Mom? I’m home!” Thomas calls from downstairs.
Agnes doesn’t respond. Her voice no longer carries, but he knows this and will come up. The front door slams and a moment later, she hears hurried footsteps on the stairs. He comes into the sewing room, her favorite room in the house and plants a gentle kiss on her cheek.
“I can smell dinner from a mile away, mother. Thank you.”
She lifts her head and smiles to him. “Anything for you, dear.”
She indicates the costume on the large round wooden table. The table has been in the family for generations. Many costumes have been made on it. He looks down and his eyes open wide.
“Not finished yet. You’ll need to try it on.”
“How did you get the height? Randy’s shorter than I am.”
The old woman carefully gets up from the table, and gently stretches the costume out to show him everything. She uses cautious movements to make sure not to rip the fragile material. She stops at the legs and traces delicate stitching on the skin. It’s obvious it’s from two different hides.
“I had to add some extra.” She looked up at him. “We need to make sure it fits. I haven’t finished stitching it all closed.”
He reached out and touched where the two skins met. It was a close match, but one was hairier than the other. “Who did you use?”
“Vagrant, but don’t worry, I washed everything before the kill. You won’t catch anything from wearing it.”
“Who helped you?” Thomas knew she was too weak to skin someone herself.
“Your brother came up from the city. He’s having trouble finding a job and needs the meat. He has five mouths to feed.”
Thomas nodded as he looked down at the face of the costume. Randy was shorter than Thomas, but height didn’t matter. Thomas was smarter, more determined, and his mother made great costumes. Thomas knew he would win Jasmine’s affection tonight, he was sure of it. The height wasn’t that much of an issue. He could say he was wearing tall shoes. Once he won Jasmine’s affections, they could laugh about the costume. It would be their first date, their first laugh. He smiled at his mom.
“I can’t thank you enough, mom.”
“Oh, nonsense. Try it on and see how it fits.”
Grinning like a schoolboy, he stripped and sat in the chair. Agnes took a small bottle of spirit gum from her sewing basket and moved it closer to his chair. She helped him put on the skin, making sure each toe went into the right place. The heel was left open, to help the skin fit. Agnes ran her finger down the stitching on the bottom of the foot.
“I had to put the stitch here.”
He smiled in pleasure. “I like when you do. I can feel it when I walk. I like the reminder.”
“Stand up and I can help you with the rest of it.”
He did as told, and she placed her hands on either side of his left leg, carefully pulling the skin up his calf. Agnes placed little dabs of spirit gum on the costume to help it stay in place. She made sure the skin fit correctly, then moved to the right leg. He carefully took the edges of the costume between his legs and adjusted his genitals. A little spirit gum made sure the costume didn’t flap open. He wished wistfully that the costume included all of Randy’s parts. Some skin was too delicate to include.
Piece by piece, Agnes moved up his body, moving her hands lovingly over the costume, making sure it didn’t snag and didn’t bunch, adding spirit gum as needed. It fit him well. She measured him every six months, even if she wasn’t making him a costume.
Once the costume was high enough on his torso, she helped him slip into one arm, then the other. As she was adjusting the left hand, he looked at the right. Randy had a birthmark on his right hand. It was large and obvious. The red wine stain was still there, and it looked like Agnes did a fine job in hiding the extra skin on the hands.
She saw him looking and smiled. “His back has the mark too. I took some of his skin from the back and added it to the hand to help it look right.”
“This is beautiful, mom.”
She smiled and continued to adjust the skin. Once everything except the head was on, she had him turn around. She used a quick stitch to finish sewing up the back of the costume. Done, she turned him around and smiled. The head went on last.
“Will I be able to breathe in this mother?”
“There’s a mouth guard, like usual. Just fit it over your teeth.” She sighed. “You always act like it’s your first time.” She muttered under her breath. She looked in his eyes. “I thinned out his lips. They should fit over yours.”
She helped him place the head over his. With the guard in place, the lips seemed to slip over his. He had to sit down to have her help make sure the head was secure over his. Once it was, she nodded.
“All right now. Just let me close the back of the head up. Let me know if it’s too snug.”
“Yes, mom.” He adjusted the hands as if they were gloves. Randy’s birthmark stood out, but it had to look right. Thomas pictured it in his mind and made sure the skin was right before the spirit gum dried. Thomas wanted to make sure Jasmine saw the birthmark. It would prove how far he was willing to go to impress her. She liked Randy, but she would see that Thomas was the better choice after tonight.
He stood and went to the mirror. Randy was three inches shorter than he, but Thomas still looked like he was staring at Randy through a window rather than staring at himself in a mirror. The costume was stupendous. He turned to his mother. “Mom, this…this is…I don’t know what to say. You’ve outdone yourself.”
She gave a smile that he knew meant something more was coming.
He grinned, happiness making his eyes blaze. “What? What is it? You have something else?”
“Usually, there are parts that don’t make it. This time, because I know how much you like the girl, I tried very hard to keep something intact. I had to cut it off and prepare it separately, but I think I can make this work.”
As he watched she went to the table and opened up her sewing basket. She took a handkerchief and opened it up. Agnes turned to her son and showed him the prize.
He looked down at her hands and his mouth and eyes flew open. “Mother! That is without a doubt the best present so far!” He embraced her, careful not to harm the last piece of the costume. “Thank you!”
“Don’t thank me until it’s on. Still not sure it’ll work.”
Thomas nodded, backed away and waited for Agnes to sew him up.
“I’ll need to sit for this, Thomas. You know I can’t stand for very long.”
He moved closer to her chair. She placed the gift on the table, threaded a good needle and sat down. Thomas stood still as she fitted the last bit of Randy between his legs. Randy had a birthmark on that part of him as well. Thomas didn’t know if Jasmine had slept with Randy before, but this would help if she had. Agnes fussed with the skin, stitching it into place, being careful not to harm Thomas. He was a good son, though. He knew not to move while his mother was putting the final pieces of a costume together.
As the sun set, and the time of the ball grew closer, Agnes stitched the last of Randy over Thomas.