Paranormal Fiction: Shirt of Many Colors
Written By: Laurance Pearsongreer
Red, gold , and brown leaves danced madly in a dusty twist of wind. The swirling mass of pollens caught Jackie right in the nose. She had tried to dodge it, her sensitive nose couldn’t take all that irritation. Her sinuses had always been bad, but now-a-days especially so.
’My nose got all messed-up behind that cocaine. I’m glad, glad, glad I’m in re-hab!’ Jackie was on the recovery from a bad drug problem. On shaky, spindly legs she fought the fall winds and relished the sense of power it gave her. She would have been unable to resist these winds a few months ago. ’Back when I was sick I couldn’t have stood a cat farting near me, without falling over—ha-ha! Now look at me, I am downright aerobic!’
Despite her optimism about her vigorous health, Jackie pulled the ends of her broken-zipper cloth coat tighter around her bones. She tightened the knot in the attached cloth belt, and prepared to push her shopping cart over a section of broken pavement. At the last minute she decided to merely push the cart out into the street and back onto the sidewalk further down. ’I don’t want to risk breaking my groceries up. Auntie Mable gave me her last few pennies to get some food for the baby and me, I can’t afford to be messing this up.’
Jackie turned her cart right at the next corner and she was back on 98th street. She was on unbroken sidewalk and only a few doors from Mable’s storefront shop. ’Boy! She’s going to be happy to see what I found back in that alley!’
Jackie reached between the grocery bags and rubbed her fingers across a black plastic package beneath them. She had struggled mightily to get the huge package into her cart, then placed her groceries atop the black package to discourage nosey neighbors. The bag had contained a large piece of colorful, smooth cloth. Jackie noticed just a bit of the cloth poking itself out from under a pile of cardboard. When she poked the bag and saw it was full of the uncut cloth she squealed with delight. Here was a gift she could bring to her Aunt Mable the seamstress. ’Maybe she can sew up something she can sell and put some money back in her empty purse. Lord knows I’ve cost her a lot of money already.’
Jackie’s trek was coming to a close. She was sure of that because she spied the storefront of ’Madame Desiree, the Astrologer and Card Reader.’
"Good day to ya’, Jacqueline. How your search for a job comin’?" Madame’s shouting voice cut through the rough winds’ howl with a sassy Jamaican patois. Small wonder, she was a tall woman with a massive girth and a laugh to match it.
Jackie nodded courteously and pulled her cart swiftly around to the back door of Mable’s place. She didn’t want the Madame asking too many questions about her lucky find. The Madame owned both her own storefront and ’Mable’s Fine Sewing’ which was right next to it. Being the landlady, Madame Desiree kept a close watch over who was living in the apartment behind the ’Fine Sewing’ store. She was not happy that Jackie and baby ’Lady-Di’ had taken up a roost on her property--especially since they were not paying the extra for rent. But she was a charitable soul and always gave Mable the few extra days she needed to get her rent together.
Mable needed the time. She was not as fast a sewer as she once was. She had an arthritic ache in her hands that left her in tears at least twice a day. Even with an excellent sewing machine (which she did not have) doing enough sewing to pay the bills was still an all-day, everyday, proposition.
Then there was the matter of Randolph and Tia, her adolescent twins. They were change-of-life babies for Mable. She married their father when she was thirty-six years old and saw him die in a car accident before she was forty. The twins were his final gift to Mable (or so she always told them).
Randolph was near to being a "C" student--if he could remember a little more of his class lessons. He never talked much. As skinny and uncoordinated as he was, he loved to carve wood and watch sports on TV. Since he wasn’t in a gang, Mable counted her blessings.
Tia was good in classes but she, too, was a loner. All she cared about was music, especially old-dead music from several centuries and a continent away. Amazingly, Tia taught herself the piano on a Christmas toy, when she was five. But nothing came of it. The family could hardly afford to buy a piano.
Over the years Tia improved her style by stealing a few minutes at the keys of any piano she would encounter. She went so far as playing the church accompanist at the ’Church of Mount Bethany Garden’ storefront, two doors over. She did it to help out but also loved to get to touch those piano keys once a week. The Reverend Lionel ’Bob’ Granville appreciated her efforts. He had the church door left unlocked whenever he was in his office, so that Tia could slip in some extra practice.
Jackie could hear the tinkle of ’Fur Elise’ drifting out of the church between wind gusts.
She slammed the backdoor shut. "Auntie! Aun-tie, where are you?"
"Where would I be girl? I’m chained to this raggedy-machine, like I always am."
Jackie quickly unloaded her groceries, and then wheeled the cart up the long hall to Mable’s sewing room. The clack-clack racket of the shopping cart announced her approach to anyone still at home. "Guess what I found on the way back from the store?"
"It better not be no liquor, and it sure better not be no drugs, girl!"
"Well, heh-heh-heh. You don’t really think I’m going to backslide with you watching over me? You old hawk."
"That’s right, girl. Even with these old crippled-up hands, I can still beat your butt, good!"
"Those hands look like hawk claws too! Well, Miss Hawk, I got something you can use to feather your nest." Jackie hauled the bag, weighing half as much as she did, out of the cart and dropped it in the middle of the floor.
"Oh, dear lord! What in the--"
The bag landed and the plastic cover split wide open. Out spilled a rainbow-colored accordion of shiny, silky cloth. The neatly folded sections were half an inch thick and twenty-four by twenty-four inches square.
"I’ve never seen any cloth packaged like that."
"That’s the way I found it, Auntie."
Mable got up from the dress she was hemming and stooping low to see the material she cautiously approached the bag. "Where did you find so much cloth?"
"It was in the discard pile, back behind that storage bin place. You know the one that had the water damage when the pipes rusted out last week?"
"It comes in bolts from the textile brokers. This stuff was doubled over and tri-folded before it was folded into these neat squares. That’s not a standard loom run-off either. This cloth is not dyed in these colors either, the colors are woven into the fabric look at the back here!"
"That’s funny it looks so slick and shiny you’d expect it to be cool to the touch, but it’s making my skin tingle. You know, like wool with a static charge building up on it."
"Oh my child--the colors--look at all those colors!"
"Yeah, it’s like looking at a fruit salad, with a rainbow mixed in--"
"The colors are so rich! These are pure colors in the center here, not made up from just mixing dyes!"
"Primary colors, Auntie. I learned about that when I took my classes in ’Hair Coloration’. I was head of the class in coloration, once."
"Oh, I know you were a real good student at Beauty School--till you got sick from that poison. I think you could still do hair now, you’re cured of them devilish drugs!"
"I-I don’t know about that, I really don’t. That’s a lot of big responsibility, I mean. Renting a storefront and leasing equipment...that’s something for somebody who’s got their life together, not like me."
"Oh, come on girl. Stop blaming yourself for something you already repented."
"Am I repented? Huh? Then how come God won’t forgive my baby? How come my baby shakes and screams for no reason--even after all these months?"
"Honey, it’s a lot better now than when you first came to stay with me. The baby’s been quiet all morning. I can remember when that kind of peace wouldn’t last an hour, I--"
Just then a high pleading cry echoed down the hall.
"--That quiet didn’t last too long, did it Auntie?"
"Oh, dear lord. I’ll take care--"
"No, no, no. You already got a job, un-like-me! Heh-heh, I’ll take care of my own baby. Maybe you ought to see if you can salvage any of that cloth. Make something nice you can sell for a lot of money!"
"Anything that nice would need hand-stitching. These old claws of mine ain’t up to it I’m afraid. I’ll figure out something--take care of your baby. Kiss her for Auntie, okay?"
"I’m already there!" Her voice distanced itself swiftly as she hurried down the long hall.
’Dear Jesus, when will her sufferin’ end? I pray it’s soon , Lord.’ Mable slowly crouched on all fours to examine the hypnotic swirl of colors in the pattern. The visual effect was stunning and yet soothing all at once. Whimsically, she swept a long section of the exposed cloth up and around her shoulders. Staring at her drawn aged features in a dressing mirror, she was amazed at how vital her face looked. "Oh, this fabric goes real well with a ’Fall’ color person like myself. It makes me look younger. Oo-oo-oo! And this light fabric makes me feel so warm! I can feel my blood surgin’ all the way through me. Even my hands feel, relaxed--real relaxed! Oo! Glory Hallelujah! Why do I feel so...good?"
Jackie spent about an hour and a half with Lady ’Di’. She changed the baby’s soiled clothes and gave her a warm sponge bath. All the while Jackie was crooning an old country song about ’...Lil’ Green Apples...’, and listened for the sound of Auntie’s noisy sewing machine.
For the first half hour the machine seemed to be running constantly, but since then there was only silence.
The baby was exhausted now. The warm bottle of special formula was finished and Lady ’Di’ was dreaming of heaven, for all Jackie knew. She decided that she would check on her Aunt. ’Maybe Auntie’s thought of some ideas by now. She can be so clever with a piece of cloth and some thread.’
When Jackie rounded the doorjamb into the sewing room, Auntie was sitting in her old rocker with a bundle of cloth on her lap. Her hands were moving swiftly, but steadily, doing long practiced strokes with her bright orange thimble as it met every stab of her needle. She was wearing a new dress--a shift. Cut like an old ’MooMoo’ it flowed gently outward from her ample bosom and down across her knees. "Where in the heck did you--Hey, that’s made out of that fabric, ain’t it?"
"But how did you make that so--"
"--So quick? Well, I sort of remembered something from my old owner’s manual..."
"You know! Stuff about how to fix that slipping and stalling problem? Come to find out, all I needed was the replacement belt stored under the machine. Once I got the machine to working, I sewed up this pretty shift, just for me!"
"But why are you sewing without the machine? I thought hand stitching hurt you something awful?"
"Don’t know, honey. Maybe all that praying I did over to the church, finally got an answer. All I know is, that as soon as I touched that fabric my hands stopped hurting. Then thirty minutes later, they were shaking and shivering with energy. I stopped using the machine because it was too slow and clumsy for this delicate little piece here!" Mable held up a doll-sized dressing gown. It had the name ’DI’ embroidered on it in bright yellow letters.
"Oh, Auntie! It’s way more pretty then I can pay for!"
"Then don’t pay for it. I figure this beautiful cloth is a gift from the Al-mighty. He’s answered my prayers for relief from my pain and poverty. I can work again! And just having all this pretty fabric fills my head with all kinds of fancy ideas!"
"You think that praying over to Reverend Granville’s got you this kind of a blessing? I don’t know Auntie. When I think of the stuff that passes for a Church service over there--God’s blessing is the last thing I would expect from those folks. They spend too much time screaming and talking gibberish to suit me. I won’t even take ’DI’ over there--not after they brought in those ’Snake Handlers’ last month!"
"When it comes to other folks’ religion, you’re suppose to be more tolerant!"
"I am tolerant Auntie. I won’t bother you about where you go to see God--I just won’t come along."
"Well I am too old and too poor to go to one of those fancy churches uptown. ’Mount Bethany Garden’ is the only service within a mile. With my arthritis a walk in the cold and damp for a mile would leave me laid-up sick for a week. Here girl. This gown is done. Next time the baby wakes, try it on for size. I’ll fix it if it’s too big."
Jackie took the gown and kissed Mable firmly on the mouth. "I really love you, you know!"
"Oh, I’m sure of that. I just wish you loved yourself and God more."
"I’m learning to do both more each day. But God is a lot easier to like!" Jackie smiled sadly and disappeared back down the hallway.
’Oh, Lord. Please help that child. She needs a whole lot of strength to pull herself back up. Help her to find it.’ Mable busied herself with several more projects that day. All of her newfound energy and the joy of having flexible fingers kept her working well into the night.
Jackie cooked for the twins when they got home.
"Wow! You made supper? Mama must be real busy if she let you cook!"
"And what do you mean by that Randy? There ain’t nothing wrong with my cooking--seen you gobble down plenty of it tonight!"
"He means, mama usually has a lot of pain and has to quit working by late afternoon. So she has time to do the cooking. Besides you are always minding Lady Di this time of the day. She’s usually screaming her head off when we come in."
"Thank you Miss Tia for the latest ’HEADLINE NEWS’! Well, I’ve got some news for you--Lady Di hasn’t cried all the live long day!" Jackie beamed a smile of pure joy and exhaled for emphasis.
Tia didn’t comment she had abruptly dashed to answer a knock at the back door.
"Hm-mm...seems to me that’s the first day that ever happened. I thought ’Crack Babies’ had the ’screaming willies’ all the time!"
"Dammit, Randy! My Di ain’t no Crack Baby! I was never on crack--I snorted a little too much coke is all!"
"--And there is no such thing as any Crack Baby either, Randolph!" Madame Desiree had waltzed into the room and the conversation, on Tia’s heels. She had been the interruption at the door. "Those babies get crazy not from the drugs, but from the druggies!"
"Oops, spoke too soon. I’ve got to change Di." Jackie was up from the table and out of the kitchen in a flash.
"JACKIE KNOWS I’M RIGHT!" Making sure Jackie heard every word, Madame Desiree moved close to the bedroom door. "Any child born into a life of all night drug parties and sleeping wherever the junky mother passes out--is gonna be a little, uh, maladjusted no?"
"Think about it son, for some poor soul eager to come into this world... they gotta wait around heaven for a chance at life. There’s lots of souls already ahead of them in the line. Finally--one day--they get a break. The Angels drop them out of heaven--into some junky’s belly! Then how do they get treated? You really think they’re happy about nine months of pregnancy with more coke going in the baby then calcium?"
"Well, I guess—"
"Then, after the baby is born, its got to eat off whatever money the junky mama don’t spend on the drugs? Heh! That don’t leave much for the baby to be happy about! That’s why they scream so much, darlin’! They’re totally pissed at their mamas, at life, even at God himself!"
"Even when I was drugging, I always took care of my baby first!" Jackie and little Di had entered the room. "She wasn’t dirty, she was just lonely, weren’t you snookums?"
"Sure, Di needs love and kindness. All the babies do. But the angry babies need to eat and be changed on a regular schedule before they will stop being scared. They need regularity to feel safe, and they need attention before they stop being mad at their mothers. That means the mother got to stop running away scared of her own baby, too."
"Well, I may have been gone a lot when she was first born--but I’m making up for it now! I’ve been trying to make her feel truly loved for weeks. Today is the first day she seemed... happy, all day! It’s like her new outfit cheered her up! Does that sound like a wacky idea?"
"Oh, no Jacqueline! Besides, I agree. That is one very pretty ensemble there. Lady Di looks so beautiful in all those happy colors! What an unusual pattern that material has..." Desiree had run her hands along the baby’s dress. She felt a tingling sensation travel up from her fingertips and shot to the top of her head. "Whoa! Wow! What energy! This dress has got some kind of positive energy to it! It’s like touching an outlet! What is this stuff? Where’d you get this dress?"
"From me!’ Mable had finally joined everyone in the kitchen. She was carrying several items draped over her arm. "Hi Desiree! I heard your preaching all the way down the hall. Still up on your soap box about ’made-up’ diseases?"
"Sure I am! ’Crack Baby’ is not a disease! ’Shaken Syndrome’--that sounds more like a cocktail then a disorder. I think those doctors make up new names for things just so they can charge you more to fix them. I read the papers and every one of those cases described with the new name was described with a perfectly good old name for years before--"
"--I’ve got a gift for you Desiree!"
"I’ve got gifts for you all...except Di. She’s already got hers."
"And she’s real happy with it too, Auntie! She’s been laughing and sleeping and cooing all afternoon!"
"Yeah! Ya’ know -- I sort of figured that was happening. Ever since she got her new dress, right?"
"Uh, yeah! She actually holds onto the hem and stares at the colors and coos. I call it her ’Rainbow-Happy’ dress."
"Good! That’s what I expected. So, I figured why should Di be the only one to get happy? I made myself a dress, see?" Mable pranced and trotted around like a model to show off her new shift.
"Maybelle, you look so very scrumptious girl! How you get all this work done with your hands aching so?"
"The dress, Desiree. The fabric has a... gentle healing power!
"--And I found it!"
"That’s right, Jackie. It’s like a gift from God to me, and I’m sharing it. Now hold on everybody, I made a little something for each of you from my ’Rainbow-Happy’ cloth."
"Us too, mama?"
"Sure! I wouldn’t forget my babies, would I? I’ve got a vest for Randy, and for Tia a nice dress..."
"Ma! it’s too long!"
"No it’s not girl--not if you don’t want your little butt to freeze off! You got plenty more years to show off your legs girl--when you got the money to buy your own pantyhose, that is. Now I made this robe for you, Desiree."
"Oh, my-my-my..." The robe was so long that Mable could barely keep its hem from brushing the ground. It had teardrop sleeves and a vestment that slipped over Desiree’s head. The vestment had deep pockets for cold hands or tarot cards, whichever suited the Astrologer. "It is so very beautiful and dignified! I am without words--"
"--That’s a first!"
"Maybe you are right, Jacqueline...why don’t you help me try it on?"
"Sure! But what about me Auntie? Do I get something too?"
"Take this with you. While Desiree gets dressed, so can you." Mable handed over a neat, pleated, split fabric "A" line dress. The bodice was royal blue and the skirt was Rainbow-Happy. On the hanger was also a plain blue felt hat with a band to match the dress.
"Oh-h-h-h! God! It looks so good! Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
"Just try it on tonight, then hang it up. It’s only for going to the job interviews, now!"
"Oh, I sure will Auntie! Come on Desiree! I want to see how this fits."
"No more than I do, girl. Lead the way!"
"Mama? Can I wear this dress to school tomorrow?"
"H-mm. I guess I can trust you not to climb trees in it--can’t I Tia?"
"Oh yes! I mean--no! I won’t climb trees or get it dirty or nothin’.... "
"Well, I guess--"
"--Me too, Mama? Me too?"
"Yes, you both can, but Mr. Randy had better pay more attention in his classes or I’ll take that vest away! I don’t make nice clothes for boys who don’t mind their lessons, you know."
"Oh wow, uh-don’t worry Mama. I’ll pay real close attention."
"ALL RIGHT! EVERYBODY LOOK THIS WAY. HERE SHE IS, THE SOPHISTICATED JACQUELINE!" Desiree stepped aside from the doorway. She had been blocking the view down the hallway.
Jackie waltzed in from behind her, smiling a smile as bright as the sun.
"Oh, my lord! Don’t you look like Audrey Hepburn or something."
"Audrey who? I don’t know nothin’ about Audrey, Auntie. She must be from way back, olden times. Who’s she?"
"She was like Julia Roberts, Jackie--only with class!"
"Oh-h-h girl--look at me! I look like that ’Judge Judy’ on TV!"
"--Yeah! On ’Acid’!"
"Oo-oo, you’re a bad one, Jacqueline!"
"You really look wise and high-powered, Desiree. Despite Jackie’s bad jokes. Once the word gets out how wise you look, I imagine folks will be lining up around the block to ask you for advice."
"Oh, thank you Maybelle! I’m gonna get over to the shop right now--I forgot I got somebody coming. But thanks all over again. I won’t forget this." Desiree gave Mable a hearty hug, topped off with one kiss to each cheek. Then she dashed out the backdoor as fast as she could.
"It seems to me I gave you the cloth to make some money, Auntie. Making free clothes for the family--well it’s not gonna help with the bills!"
"Oh, but it is Jackie. Once everybody sees how good you all look--they’ll come running to me to sew for them. That’s free advertising, and I could use some of that.
"But, I don’t think seeing us will get too many folks to stop by. We don’t get around all that much."
"I got more ideas to help that. Now that my hands don’t ache anymore, I can sew good enough to ’beat the band’. And I’ve got enough of the fabric and scraps left to make some display shirts and such for the window. Folks will come in right off the street to make orders, when they see my pretty ’Rainbow-Happy’ outfits out front."
"Wow! So it seems like things are looking up for us, huh? I mean that fabric, it was a real blessing...?" "A little bit, Jackie--and sometimes a little bit of a blessing is all you need."
A kitchen sponge thickness of snow clings to every surface. Yellow and pink strokes of light paint the rooftops. Madame Desiree’s store overhangs wear tassels of crystal bright ice. The manhole covers seen from behind the protection of her picture window look steaming hot as hazy trails of warm vapor escape skyward. More than a month has passed.
Desiree counts her receipts for the weeks business, and she is pleased. She was forced to admit that her good fortune had been rising every day since she put the robe on. ’...Well, maybe that’s because I have been doing my job better too. I’m sharper, more in touch with my clients now. I have been helping them better so out of gratitude they bring me new clients, nothing mystical in that.’
But, in all honesty, Desiree had to also admit that there was something special working here. Whenever she gave the robe back to Mable for cleaning--her accuracy as an advisor became normal, and very lackluster. The robe was doing something for her. The contradiction annoyed her. So every night for weeks, she had been looking on her old computer--searching the Internet for anything that could explain the magic. She had sent an e-mail only the night before which might give her the answer.
"Mable! I was just thinking about you, girl. How are those children of yours doing these days? I don’t see them around on the street much, since the snow fell."
"Well, to tell you the truth, neither do I. Tia joined the school band, so she’s never around afternoons. And Randy, God bless him, once he got his grades up he qualified to be in the school TV club. He’s learning how to run one of them cameras!"
"Oh that is such a pleasure to hear, Mable! What about Jacqueline and her little one--how are they?"
"Desiree, my cup runneth over with joy--praise Jesus! Jackie’s hairdressing job offered to let her rent the apartment right upstairs over the storefront!"
YOU’VE GOT MAIL!
"Oh! My computer, I must have some mail. Keep talking, darling. I can still hear you."
"Did you miss the part about Jackie moving?"
"No! Is she doing that well? Apartments over that way are expensive."
"Well, ever since I made her a working smock from the Rainbow-Happy cloth, she has to beat the customers off her with a stick! She earns enough to pay me for baby-sitting Lady ’Di’, too!"
"Oh, well praise heaven for that. She owes you a lot from before." Desiree raced over to her computer printer in the corner. She hit the PRINT control, and a sheet of paper slid out of the slot. She quickly read half the e-mail and frowned.
"I’m not worried about before. I’m just glad to see her life on a roll again. Is that some bad news?"
Desiree was silent. Her brow furrowed as if under the weight of some grave decision. She quickly read the remainder of the message--then she smiled. "The news seemed bad at first, but I’ve adjusted to it. So, you still have enough of that blessed cloth to make a jacket for Jacqueline? I thought that was all gone now."
"Oh, no--the cloth is all gone, all right. But I re-worked Jackie’s lucky interview dress into a smock-jacket. Now that she’s got a job, she’ll need a little confidence to keep it. So, she won’t need the magic to find another job."
"---I know, Desiree! You’ve told me again and again, the miracle is within us! But, I feel that sometimes we need a little magical boost to be reminded of it. That cloth was just the help we need to bring our own miracles out."
"Come have a cup’pa with me? I’ve got fresh ground? The coffee came from my Jamaica family today. I want to make a toast to personal miracles."
"Oh, you’ve got a deal there! Let’s go!"
Desiree had discarded the printed message on the table where she read her Tarot cards. The message was short but meaningful:
Ms. Desiree Montcalme:
Thank you for your inquiry about our ’Aura-Enhance’ Color pattern process. The cloth that re-shapes the human bio-electrical field (our Aura) and creates a positive emotional environment around anyone who wears it.
As you know from our website, all of our cloth has been treated with special light magnifying colors to concentrate your bodies inner (energy) light into a well of concentration that boosts your emotional focus and self-control dramatically.
Our patent is registered in the USA, England, Russia, Australia, and Hong Kong. We are recognized as pioneers in a new kind of environmental technology.
But our founder, the scientist who discovered this unique process, reminds us that his unique discovery came to him in a dream--after he prayed for a way to help his fellow men.
Orders can be made by fax, Internet.......
’All things are ultimately related to each other. All progress is, in the end, inspired from a higher source--even progress in technology.’
Desiree would never argue that point with her dear friend Mable again.
Click Here To Read More By Laurance Pearsongreer