Turtles

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March 20, 2019 by The Citron Review

by Kaely Horton

 

They said it would be better for everyone if I stayed home. I knit turtles, mostly. Their beady eyes stare at me from windowsills, from frying pans. They cover every horizontal surface. I ran out of green yarn and then orange and then yellow, so now I use red.

I knit with a corner of the window in sight—just the top right corner, just enough to see the grey skies or the snow-flurries or the blue. I knit sitting up in bed, in the bathtub, in between cooking Brussel sprouts. I read somewhere that it’s helpful to have a hobby to keep you healthy. The tiny soft bodies multiply and I feel accomplished, as if I’m adding good to the universe.

From time to time my colleagues check on me, just to make sure I’m staying home. From time to time, I hear chaos in the square, the distant sounds of marching, but luckily I live on a side street, so I don’t have to see that sort of thing in person. I don’t follow the news. They could be marching against fingerless gloves for all I know. In any case, it is comforting to know that whatever happens out there won’t happen because of me. My only responsibility now is to the turtles.

But lately the turtles have been turning out less uniform, sometimes with missing legs or a broken pattern on their shells. I have found myself more and more often holding an angry bundle of snarled yarn. Some creatures resist creation and I fight them, scared of what it might mean if I can no longer knit the turtles.

People marched in the square before too, back when I used to leave the house. In my other life, I was important. In my other life, I made decisions that ended in blood. I remember watching the protests from a high window. I remember counting the people who fell when the peacekeepers opened fire. I remember losing count.

My colleague joined me at the window.

He said, This is all because of you. Your tiebreaking vote.

Surely not all, I said. Surely there is blame to go around.

A boy staggered across the square. It was a sporting arena from that height, or a scene on a distant TV. My colleague and I watched impassionately. One more gladiator down.

There were other marches, other votes. Dull crimson on the cobblestones. It didn’t matter what we were voting on; every choice led to the sporting arena. And over time, I came to see that my colleague was right. I was the tiebreaker. It was my fault.

So now I stay home and knit turtles, and nothing is my fault.

The red wool won’t come unsnarled. The turtles on my coffee table blush and bleed. When, one afternoon, my colleague lets himself in unannounced, he finds me slumped on the couch, struggling to untangle.

Good, he says, you’re still staying at home, and I beg him for green yarn.

 

Kaely Horton got hooked on craft classes at Oregon State University and received her MFA from the University of New Hampshire. Her work has appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Stonecoast Review, Isthmus, Fourth River, Flash Fiction Online, and others. She divides her time between the mountains of Salt Lake and the fog of the Oregon Coast.

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Snow on brush in desert

IMAGE CREDIT: Jill Katherine Chmelko. Protest Road, Winter. 2019.

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