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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Sewing (02/22/07)

TITLE: I Learn Something New About Millie
By Jan Ackerson


I turn off the evening news and reach for my half-solved crossword puzzle. Opera tenor Schipa…The Saturday puzzle is notoriously difficult, but I am determined to finish it. Millie—my bride of sixty-seven years—teases me about my insistence that each puzzle be solved completely, in ink. She finds me silly, but there is something pleasing about the glide of ink on newsprint and a neatly completed black-and-white grid.

I look away from my puzzle when I hear a small noise from Millie’s chair. She pushes herself slowly upward with an oof and shuffles to her sewing room, one hand on her troublesome hip. When she returns, she is carrying her sewing basket.

I cherish these quiet evening moments. From outside there is only the sound of amorous tree frogs; inside, the house holds only echoes of memories. I return to my puzzle, with an occasional glance at Millie, whose shapely legs can still make my breath catch in my throat.

She is sewing a button on a shirt that I have not worn in a decade. Her reading glasses perch low on her nose; nevertheless, she holds the shirt close to her face and squints with each jab of the needle. Sometimes she puts the shirt down and flexes her fingers. They must ache—the evening is humid.

I find myself peeved. Why should Millie spend her time in this unnecessary pursuit? I have more shirts than I need, and I certainly have not missed this one.

Our eyes meet—she smiles—and I return to my puzzle. Sultanate in Borneo

There are only a dozen blank squares remaining when I’m distracted again by a soft grunt from Millie’s direction. She has finished the shirt and is reaching into her basket for the darning egg and a holey sock. I watch as she begins to mend the damage, and I feel my guilt and annoyance rise. I should not walk about the house in stocking feet, but surely we can afford to replace worn socks.

Medial meniscus site

When Millie sighs and massages her neck, I finally decide to speak. Chagrined, I sound like a crabby old man. “Why are you doing that?”

Millie smiles, her cheeks plump and pink. “Doing what, dear?”

I cross over to her and rummage through the basket. “Millie, there are things in here that I haven’t worn in years. And this handkerchief—you don’t need to mend this! I’ll buy you a new one! Your hands hurt, your neck hurts, you can’t see without your glasses…”

Millie puts her hand on my arm and shushes me. “I’ve been mending on Saturday evenings for over sixty years. Do you want to know why?” She closes her eyes, and I know that she is composing a little speech. I wait, certain that I’m about to be lectured for my slovenly habits.

“I was so young when we married, Jack, and then you were gone for so long, in the war…I’d join the other Army wives sometimes in the evenings, just for something to do. But you know how shy I am—I took some mending along so I’d have something to look at.”

I’m a foolish old man. I believe that’s the end of Millie’s story. I pick up the newspaper and study the last clue. But Millie’s voice interrupts me again.

“You old poop, I’m not done. Do you remember Gloria Bain?”

I nod, remembering Charlie Bain’s flame-red hair, and the medics loading his shattered body into their jeep…

“She was so mean to me, Jack! She criticized every stitch, and mocked me for mending items that she would have thrown away. I kept sewing just to spite her, and then when she lost Charlie, I kept sewing out of contrition.” Millie hesitated, her eyes glistening. “I repented years ago, but by that time, Saturday sewing was just a habit. I guess I’m too old to change, now. But—you know what? I hated it when I was young, and I still hate it today. Isn’t that ridiculous?”

I stand and take the darning egg from her hand, then kiss her wrinkled cheek. “Sweetheart, it’s time to stop. Let me put the basket away for you.”

When I return from the sewing room, I see that Millie’s expression is bemused. “But Jack—what will I do on Saturday nights?”

I take Millie’s hand and lead her to the davenport. “Sit here with me. Do you know a five-letter word for fabulist?”

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This article has been read 1684 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Roxanne Howard03/02/07
As I read your story I could see every movement and expression on Millie's and Jack's face. Beautiful story:)
Mo 03/02/07
Liked the ending!
Helen Paynter03/02/07
'Major tense shift' - I had to read it twice to find it!!
Reading it twice, of course, was a pleasure, because this is gentle, tender and beautiful. I hope my legs still stir my husband when we've been married 67 years.
Jen Davis03/02/07
Reading this story was like watching a movie. I could both see and hear the wonderful details so clearly. “She pushes herself slowly upward with an oof and shuffles…” “Her reading glasses perch low on her nose.” “…her face squints with each jab…” The line about her shapely legs was really cute, and I laughed when she called him an “old poop.” His asking her for a five-letter word was a great way to end this piece. I really enjoyed this very sweet story.
Marilee Alvey03/03/07
This was a wonderful story, very artfully done. Fresh description and a sauntering pace made me feel right there in the livingroom with them. In fact, I was sitting on that sofa! Yikes! You sent me to the dictionary, too, by the way. This is done like a Master. I congratulate you and will look for you when the prizes are handed out!
Venice Kichura03/03/07
This is soooo sweet & so masterfully done! I can feel the love this old couple has for each other. Great job in description, dialogue & creating feelings.
Pat Guy 03/04/07
I loved this tender glimpse into this loving relationship. I almost felt like an evesdropper into the privacy of their lives - sooo well written and well crafted.
Leigh MacKelvey03/05/07
The characters were very real and likeable. The puzzle touches added so much to make this story enjoyable. Bravo!
Jacquelyn Horne03/05/07
Old habits die hard, no matter why they are formed. Good story.
Betty Castleberry03/05/07
What a wonderful slice of life story. I could just see this couple. Loved the dialogue, too. Thumbs up.
Lynda Schultz 03/05/07
Comfortable, and with a neat touch of humor. Enjoyed it very much.
Sharlyn Guthrie03/05/07
So tender and believable. Nice job!
Joanne Sher 03/06/07
Just lovely - what a neat job of characterization and storytelling. I fell in love with both characters.
Rita Garcia03/06/07
Endearing characterization! You story put a smile on my face and tears in my eyes.

I always enjoy your stories and I have missed reading them!
Tiffany Secula03/06/07
Beautiful! I loved reading this!
Sandra Petersen 03/06/07
What a sweet story! I loved your characters and could feel myself in the setting. Left a good feeling with me---the thought of being together into old age and still discovering things about each other. Beautiful, as always, Jan.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/06/07
I love this wonderfully crafted story. (We print out the crossword every day from the paper so my husband has one, and I have one, too!) I delighted in how you showed their joy in each others company. It was a nice touch, too, to show that he still appreciated looking at her legs. Now that's one special husband!
Allison Egley 03/06/07
Hehe "You old poop, I'm not done." I love that line. It sounds just like an older couple interacting. You caught the emotions well. Great job.
Linda Watson Owen03/06/07
In a word, dear Jan, 'exquisite'! Absolutely exquisite! How DO you do it?!
Laurie Glass 03/07/07
Oooh, I loved this. Your words really painted pictures with this one. Awesome!
Julie Arduini03/07/07
I don't know what I could add but wanted to say this was tremendous, sweet, tender, and everything I aspire to convey when I write. Excellent!!
Joanney Uthe03/08/07
Great job showing the action and emotions of the characters. Great ending.
Sara Harricharan 03/08/07
Very fun! I love the interaction between the couple and especially the dialouge (I like that "old poop" line too.) Millie was my fave character. ^_^ Great job!
Patricia Casey03/08/07

This is a great story and you are a great writer. Your work inspires me as a new writer. The best was that he loved the looks of his wife's legs.

In Jesus' Name,

Myrna Noyes03/08/07
So very well done! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! :)
Allen Clupny03/10/07
I just love the written word. This will paint a different picture for each reader. Thank's for the nostalgia.